One of the aspects of British reactor pioneer Christopher Hinton that endears him to me is his ethical rigor. Here he is in 1955 writing to Harry Railing, joint managing director of General Electric Corporation (the UK version, unrelated to the American firm), one of the four companies selected to build a big nuclear power reactor push: Thank you for your letter of December 16th. I know exactly. . .
Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Edgworth Morgan was controller for atomic energy during Britain’s crucial period of 1951 to 1953. In a private letter to his successor in mid-1955, we find out what Christopher Hinton thought of him: It is on the question of salaries that I seriously disagree. All of our worst troubles when we were in the Civil Service arose from their unwillingness to. . .
The Atomic Energy Authority in Great Britain briefed its directors in 1955, just before the grand International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva, on its “collaboration” with “third countries” (you can see that UK saw itself as number two globally, a conceit that in that period was probably justified). At the end, we find this summary of. . .
Walter Zinn writes to his brilliant metallurgist, Frank Foote, in May 1955. To be honest, I’m not sure what his memorandum means, other than in generalities. What strikes me is the third sentence: “If the normal construction of the fuel element is used the thickness of the meat, which is feasible to make, becomes large.” What is the MEAT? I can only guess that in a reactor with. . .
We don’t get too many international conferences these days with the expectations borne by the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, held in Geneva in August 1955. (Climate conferences are a modern comparable.) Jerome Lunz, the forthright editor of industry journal Nucleonics, expressed some of the bated breath in an editorial four months prior: The place to make an. . .
Christopher Hinton writes to two of his most senior managers in early 1955 that he has “read the report of the enquiry into the failure of the primary traps at Capenhurst and feel that much of the evidence is unsatisfactory.” I’m not sure what “primary traps” are, perhaps steam traps, and I don’t really need the detail, but this long, blistering memo reinforces to me. . .
Little Fooler contest
Nearly six months before the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, to be held in August 1955, Walter Zinn writes to his Division Directors – Scientific “to place in your hands all the information I have to this moment concerning the International Conference.” He sets out how he reckoned AEC’s conference paper selection would proceed. “The. . .
On February 10, 1955, John Cockcroft received a diplomatic letter attaching a translated Soviet article about that nation’s first “peaceful” (though it wasn’t) reactor at Obninsk (that location only got clarified later). Cockcroft handwrote to his technical guru, John Dunworth: “Do Reactor Physics have any views on this?” Dunworth’s handwritten response is hard to. . .
Battle to build
Anyone who has worked in the corporate world knows all too well how organizations jostle to control anything exciting. At the beginning of 1955, Great Britain was embarking on a build of what became Calder Hall, part military plutonium producer, part reactor supplying the electricity for the nation’s near-monopoly, British Electricity Authority. Something completely airbrushed out of. . .
I’ve blogged about this subject a few times, so forgive me, but the complex relationship between John Cockcroft, the Nobel-Prize-winning physicist who created Harwell and oversaw an incredible period of reactor design (from a scientific perspective), and Christopher Hinton, driven, brilliant engineer who built England’s nuclear-weapons-related factories and early power reactors, never. . .