CategoryGeneral

Postwar mistrust

After World War II, defeated nation Germany held high hopes for plentiful use of the new means of generating electricity, namely nuclear reactors. There were myriad reasons for this, with political and psychological reasons ranking highly. Not until 1955 was West Germany granted independence of occupation and not until 1960 was national atomic legislation, so the German aspirations unfurled only. . .

Rivalries

In September 1957, Leonard Owen, the new head of the Risley organization that built reactors, enrichment plants, etc., was chairing a meeting of his executive, when he spoke of an upcoming tour of Britain’s nuclear facilities by America’s powerful Joint Committee for Atomic Energy (JCAE), a small group of elected politicians with oversight of the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington. . .

A wedding in Chester

Geeky is as geeky does. On August 28, 1957, three days before Christopher Hinton left the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority after thirteen years during which he fueled his nation’s atomic bombs and launched its nuclear energy master plan, he wrote to the Superintendent of the Chester City Constabulary about his daughter’s upcoming wedding. His letter closes thus: The bride will. . .

Het Atoom

In the summer of 1957, Amsterdam’s officials and the local Chamber of Commerce put on an exhibit at Schiphol Airport. It was called “Het Atoom,” the atom. As Dutch historian Dick van Lente discovered, the exhibition talked up the new technology. And Panorama magazine (one I know nothing about) featured an article about the show. Van Lente’s description includes the. . .

British atoms for war?

Toward the end of 1957, the new British prime minister, Harold Macmillan (less than a year in the job after his predecessor Anthony Eden was ignominiously outed followed the Suez Crisis fiasco) met President Eisenhower in Washington (that’s them front and left below) and hammered out an agreement that he thought very favorable to the United Kingdom. Engineer and longtime Harwell worker Fred. . .

Human fission

Something of a sideshow to the U.S. technical and political nuclear drama in the 1950s was a personality clash between two of the commissioners on the Atomic Energy Commision, the regulator and promoter of nuclear energy. The faceoff was between chairman Lewis Strauss (you’ll know him from Robert Downey Jr.’s riveting portrayal in Oppenheimer, the movie), a die-hard Republican, and. . .

Deranged

In early 1957, just before he left the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Association for the electricity sector, Christopher Hinton traveled to the Savoy Hotel in London and gave a rather lengthy speech (some eight pages) at the annual luncheon of the British Electrical and Allied Industries Research Association. Not so fascinating, you might well say. But I like his great ease on his feet, his. . .

We all hope

The forgotten reactor pioneer is Walter Zinn, who had an early crucial hand in most of the world’s dominant designs. In his early fifties, he left the national laboratory he had built and set up as private designer/researcher, along with the cream of the lab’s scientists. Despite a coruscating private contempt for politicians, and lack of smooth charm, he knew everyone in the industry. . .

This old country

A Scottish journo Fyfe Robertson (pictured below), wrote a four-part series major articles about British nuclear matters in the first half of 1957. They came out in Picture Post, a “photojournalistic magazine” that lasted for twenty years before folding in 1957. I can’t get hold of Robertson’s articles but historian Dick van Lente devotes a page of The Nuclear Age in. . .

Busting a gut to compete

At the beginning of 1957, Christopher Hinton was deep within a national experiment to centrally kick-start a British reactor manufacturing industry. Four electrical firms had been encouraged and bullied into teaming up with boilermakers to form consortia that could bid for contracts to build British (and potentially overseas) reactors. The monopoly electricity supplier, the Central Electricity. . .

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