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Thirty-six Years at the Atomic
2010-10-18 - Radioecology

[ by John Sandalls ]

A historical book by John Sandalls, retired from the former Harwell Laboratory (and was IUR member also), reporting on his own experience all along a career of almost 40 years in accompanying the development of atomic energy in the United Kingdom.

  • Thirty Six Years at the Atomic - My Time at AERE Harwell
    1958-1994. 
    Perfect Image Press. 2004, ASIN: B001PCZJP8
    by John Sandalls

John Sandalls joined the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (known locally as ‘The Atomic') at Harwell in 1958 when he was 21 years of age and stayed there until 1994. He counts the day when he spotted a vacancy notice seeking a young research chemist for Harwell as one of the luckiest of his life - for he was the successful applicant.

The story reflects the pride and enjoyment John derived from working with such talented, interesting and sometimes eccentric people during the halcyon years of atomic energy research at Britain's biggest ever research laboratory.

Although the story focuses essentially on his own experiences, he also writes about milestones in the history of atomic energy from the splitting of the atom in 1932, to the exploitation of nuclear fission for both military and civil purposes, how Britain was isolated in the arms race in the late 1940s, and for much of the 1950s, but still managed to develop its own nuclear deterrent and become a world leader in the development of systems for generating nuclear power.

John's interest in nuclear history and his ear for an anecdote show through in his accounts of his own experiences, the Cold War spies, and the behaviour of some Harwell employees.

The lack of vision of the energy policy makers is clearly a source of irritation for the author and a strong case for a return to nuclear power is presented.

Fifty years on, the once massive nuclear program has been completed and the site of the old Harwell Laboratory is now home to a multitude of private businesses including AEA Technology, a non-nuclear private company formed from parts of the UKAEA.

Thousands of ex-Harwell employees can bask in the satisfaction of a job well done and in the knowledge that before long, the energy policy makers must inevitably return to the power of the atom.

 

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