One of the pleasures of researching the early years of nuclear power’s history has been observing the idealism of the pioneers. Not that they express it as such, often you have to read between the lines to realize this is a passion. To put it simply: this new technology was seen as a way of improving the world. In today’s spin world, idealism is another social media attribute. . .
In researching how Eisenhower got to his December 8, 1953 “Atoms for Peace” speech, I paid a little bit of heed to the five days he spent in Bermuda from the 5th, just prior to his United Nations address. Various historians or writers recount how the U.S. president pitched his upcoming speech to Winston Churchill and the French Prime Minister (very much a bit player). You can see the three of. . .
On impulse, I’ve booked to attend an all-day Sydney conference (I’m staying quite inner city) on nuclear. It’s the 13th annual conference of the Australian Nuclear Association. I’ve had little interest in the history of my home country vis a vis nuclear, primarily because it’s the only global continent without even a single power reactor. But something about. . .
I’ve invested an enormous amount of time and energy into trying to understand the character of Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. president from 1953 to the start of 1961. He was the one who opened up the world to nuclear energy. Historians and biographers and others provide hugely contrasting viewpoints, to the extent that sometimes you wonder if there were multiple Eisenhowers. One historian who seems. . .
Busy, busy, busy, hence the lack of posting. On the side I’ve worked through a fascinating detailed history, “The Nuclear Spies: America’s Atomic Intelligence Operation against Hitler and Stalin,” by Vince Houghton, curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington. I’ve never been to that museum, and espionage plays only a small part in my history over the first. . .
I’m redrafting early chapters at present, so no “can’t fit it into the book” content of interest is emerging, hence the low frequency of posting. That will change shortly but in the meantime, a separate reading project has reminded me of something close to my heart. Writing the history of power reactors is tough from one angle: nearly everyone I talk to has firm ideas about the subject, but his. . .
I’ve been watching chaotic reports of a Russian “nuclear” accident of some sort. The ABC (article “Russian military orders village evacuation”) has what seems like a good up-to-today summary of what little is available. And I’m not moved to spend much time on it, for purely selfish reasons. This clearly has nothing to do with nuclear power reactors in electricity-producing plants, which is my. . .
A recurring bit player in the UK reactor story after the war is one W. G. Marley, a physicist. He crops up regularly but, in the nature of things, I wasn’t intending to mention him in the book. But in a narrative strand about the Windscale fire, he crops up so prominently that I just have to include him as “physicist W. G. Marley.” But wait – doesn’t “W. G. . .
Obsessing over something like nuclear power or atomic energy as it was initially occurred, over time you become blasé. Over the last half decade, a group of friends and I have worked through the epic 3,600-page six-book My Struggle series of novels by Norway’s Karl Ove Knausgaard. In the final book, listen: To split the atom is no minor matter. It is to exceed a boundary never before. . .
Navigating the line between the peaceful atom, which is the province of my book, and military nuclear weapons, was always going to be tricksy. On the one hand, I am of course interested in what nexus there is between reactors and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, I don’t want to get caught up in nuclear weapons history itself; the topic is just too big to be. . .