AuthorAndres Kabel

“I don’t say no”

Another intriguing moment. John Cockcroft was a lynchpin of the British reactor efforts from wartime until the early 60s. Ben Lewis ditto for the Canadian reactor efforts (although his influence waned by the 60s). I spotted a handwritten letter from the latter to the former that suggests to me that Cockcroft was fishing for a successor (something his biographers make plain) and that Lewis. . .

Very little damage

When we look back at early American reactor development, we wonder why the Atomic Energy Commission set up a huge reactor testing station in remote Idaho. Surely that’s overkill? Well, here’s Walter Zinn’s trusty lieutenant reporting in early 1954 about unloading fuel rods (a 5-week job) from the triumphant EBR-I breeder in Idaho: The rod cutting business was continually plagued. . .

Ash samples

My book will cover the famous incident whereby a Japanese fishing vessel, the Lucky Dragon, became engulfed in fallout from the Castle Bravo thermonuclear tests at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. That incident reverberated for years, resulting in, among other things, the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty nearly a decade later. What struck me recently, when doing a kind-of-stocktake of references. . .

Mysterious paperweight

On March 23, 1954, Walter Zinn held a farewell lunch at his laboratory for Alfonso Tammaro, who had been Zinn’s local Atomic Energy Commission manager in Chicago. My impression is that there had many tussles been Zinn, the scientist, and Tammaro, an engineer, but that there was also plenty of respect and amity. I found this letter to Alfonso: Dear Al, I have made just a few of these paper. . .

Cold slug effects

In the Idaho desert in early March, 1954, Hyman Rickover’s STR Mark I, a land-based prototype for a submarine nuclear power reactor, is being tested by engineers from Argonne. Rickover hates Argonne (and Argonne’s Zinn hates Rickover; Zinn’s name isn’t even on the distribution list below, although his trusted lieutenant John West is) and will soon expel those engineers. . .

Ham-fisted

Lewis Strauss, American nuclear kingpin in the mid-1950s, was devious and smart, but also often notably clumsy. Here a couple of reporters describe how he extemporized, to terrible effect, after a March 1954 thermonuclear test went badly: President Eisenhower and AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss held a joint press conference in an attempt to put the March 1 blast into proper perspective. … A REPORTER:. . .

Dustbin

In the 1950s, a Harwell scientist, Brian Jay, wrote a few books describing English nuclear efforts. They were a mix of propaganda and technical elucidation, but remain useful. Here he is describing a feature of future breeder reactors that he, and the other pioneers, marveled at: We remarked earlier that the small size of a fast reactor core means that the heat flux (that is, the rate at which. . .

Bettis Laboratory

It’s been three months since I’ve posted. The gap has been simple: I’m drafting new words at the moment, putting chapters down, and during this phase, no discards or leftovers pop up. Everything I deal with, I need, so nothing for this blog… Well, now I’m sorting out data and items of interest do reveal themselves. Take this book, Nuclear Power from Underseas to. . .

Smoke

Stories indeed … oral histories of thirty folks who were there during the founding and expansion of Sellafield. Sellafield wasn’t called Sellafield until the core of Windscale Pile No. 1 began burning in October 1957. Courage and good luck averted a huge catastrophe, and afterwards, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority decided to change names to avoid bad publicity. Listen to. . .

Windscale reactor fire log book

One of the pleasures of archival research is discovering stuff that is charged with atmosphere. At the National Archives in Kew, London, right next to Kew Gardens, I frantically grabbed and copied all that I could about the near-catastrophic reactor fire at Windscale, next to Sellafield, the big semi-military atomic reservation on the northwest coast. It’s all arcane measurements and. . .

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