AuthorAndres Kabel

Something new on North Korea

I thought I had North Korea sussed (I won’t spoil my pleasure by telling you now what I think about it in my book’s context) but a new data source is revelatory. Not only is Van Jackson’s “On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War” brilliant in bringing my understanding up to date over the 2010s, the author chronicled his writing task over six months, in a blog series titled “Nuke. . .

Looking back isn’t straightforward

I constantly need to exhort myself to try to see things as they were seen back then. Reminders about this requirement from historians or others are always welcome. One of my most useful memoirs/autobiographies/histories is that of John Simpson, who held senior roles in Westinghouse’s nuclear business for decades. Summing up the construction and launch of the seminal Shippingport nuclear power. . .

Not easy to photograph something underground

I’ve been busy with another type of book recently but am now back with the reactor pioneers in the 50s. In May 1956, Lewis Strauss, controversial in history as a most aggressive chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, took his British civil service counterpart on a tour of the construction site of Shippingport, also controversial at the time because of its great expense. What interested. . .

60 Minutes says Australia should adopt nuclear

Tom Steinfort, 60 Minutes reporter, dominated the October 21 show with a segment titled “Going Nuclear: The Champion.” He visits Fukushima and dons protectives to go in as far as the spent fuel pool, full of accident rubble, of the melted-down Number 3 reactor. He visits the Darlington power station in Canada. He tells an Adelaide householder with large power bills (she clearly. . .

Exploring future reactors . . . David Schumacher’s The New Fire . . . get it and watch it

Filmmaker David Schumacher just released a doco on all the work being done on new reactor design, focused, I gather, on the young people involved. This is an enormously important topic for me and one that carries echoes all the way back to the 1940s. The purpose of this post is not to comment on the movie itself – I won’t do that because I’ll address it in the book and I. . .

The reckless days?

The New Yorker, one of my favorite magazines, has published several long articles on my subject over the last three quarters of a century. Mostly I’ve found them readable, as ever, but of not much practical use to me. Such is the case with Daniel Lang’s 1959 article “A most valuable accident” (which I had trouble sourcing and is hard to read in my files). That said, it. . .

Rust

In 1974, around the time the Atomic Energy Commission was disbanded, to be replaced by other bureaucracies, two of its longest standing managers, wrote a quirky summary of their organization. I didn’t find it terribly useful but it has a few pithy lines such as this marvellous one pointing out that corrosion is just a fancy word for rusting: Believe it or not, we’ve had a lot easier time. . .

Water behaving like an acid?

When you think of water, do you picture it sizzling through metals. I didn’t. One of my most valuable reference finds, a retrospective by a key nuclear engineer, enlightened me: Strange as it may seem, pure water under high temperature and pressure is a most corrosive liquid, as corrosive as some acids. We set up an extensive program to develop the alloys needed for the components –. . .

Safer costs more?

The International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy held in Geneva in 1955 had a profound effect on technology history. America’s nuclear trade journal Nucleonics reported just after the event. An oddity on its editorial summary of a huge program is this: The U.S. AEC spends about $100/yr/man on radiation protection. This is about 1% of the total operating expenses. To. . .

Concorde: Part of the same tale?

The 2017 BBC documentary “Concorde: Designing the Dream” at last reaches Australia, screening on SBS. The only reason I’m drawn to it is that I caught a Concorde flight in the early 90s, but as soon as I begin watching, I realize aspects of it fit into my book. The British push the button for a supersonic commercial plane in 1956, around the time they take the lead in. . .

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