AuthorAndres Kabel

Defection

“The proposition that there were leaks in the Australian Department of External Affairs from the end of the war, dramatically revealed by the defection of Vladimir Petrov in April, 1954, has commanded great attention and has come to be generally accepted,” is stated (p. 92) by Wayne Reynolds in his 2000 book Australia’s Bid for the Atomic Bomb at the start of a chapter called. . .

Silliness

The history of nuclear energy is littered with rumors and feints. At the tail end of 1957, the industry’s American trade journal offered up this snippet: The Argentine government is studying an offer to build an $80-million, 280-Mw nuclear power station for the city of Buenos Aires, Nucleonics has learned; Burns & Roe of New York would do the engineering on the project in cooperation. . .

Unwanted attention

At the 1955 Geneva conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, one of the busiest luminaries was John Cockcroft. The British head of Harwell was collared by the Argentinean delegation, headed by a naval officer. The Argentineans had previously sought help via diplomatic channels but there was nothing in it for the United Kingdom, whose Cold War remit did not typically extend to South. . .

Argentina in 1950

Those were the interesting days. Another Nucleonics article, in July 1950, says this about the other South American powerhouse: Argentina’s president Juan D. Peron, in a decree published last month, created a national atomic energy commission. The decree places the commission in charge of nuclear research in Argentina, with powers to supervise all public and private research. The commission also. . .

Brazil in 1951

The October 1951 issue of Nucleonics contained a near-invisible snippet: Brazil has taken steps toward installing a pilot atomic power plant. Announcement of this development was made last month by Alberto da Motta, president of Brazil’s National Research Council and member of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission since 1946. To be erected in Minas Gerais State, the plant, Admiral da Motta. . .

Mystery American firm

In Richard J. Samuels’s invaluable 1987 book, The Business of the Japanese State: Energy Markets in Comparative and Historical Perspective (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York), he provides a table of the overseas firms that established linkages with Japanese heavy manufacturing companies, beginning in 1955 and 1956. What could be more useful for me, teasing out how Japan entered the. . .

80 MW accident

In writing up the 1952 Canadian NRX nuclear accident, I naturally specify that the out-of-control reactor spikes to a huge power level. I assumed the Canadians somehow measured this spike during the accident. But in another of James Mahaffey’s intriguing footnotes (see my previous post), he clarifies: …analysis of the accident found that the reactor power had peaked at 80 megawatts, far. . .

Was polymer a codename?

James Mahaffey, in Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters from the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima, one of his evocative trio of books published from 2009 to 2017, covers the 1952 Canadian NRX nuclear reactor accident. In a footnote, he raises a question (p. 151): …the superintendent said “Dump the polymer!” I would have thought it correct to say “dump the deuterium oxide” or. . .

Turf wars

One of the features of early British atomic history was an almighty battle between the scientists and the engineers. Mostly they worked well together but John Cockcroft and Christopher Hinton, the mighty titans who presided over a remarkable nuclear expansion, were so different in temperament that their organizations reflected them and, frankly, often went to war. In 1951 Hinton, sick of what he. . .

Transnational criticism

In late 1951 Ben Lewis, the core physicist leading Canada’s reactor efforts, proposed the nation build its first power producing prototype. It would take another decade for what would be called NPD (Nuclear Power Demonstration) to start working, but in the meantime, Lewis went calling on his mother country, the United Kingdom, hoping to obtain assistance. None was ever forthcoming and one. . .

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