Our Atomic World (1963, 1964)

21Mar11

I recently discovered a copy of Our Atomic World in my library.

Our Atomic World was authored by C. (Claude) Jackson Craven for the Atomic Energy Commission (1963, 1964, revised). The publication is an optimistic look at the atom featuring an historical overview of atomic research and development, with an appeal for nuclear energy “needed for the future” (p.25). Created under the Eisenhower Atoms for Peace program, Westinghouse’s Shippingport Atomic Power Station in western PA is discussed as the “world’s first full-scale atomic-electric generation station exclusively for civilian needs.”

As an aside, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, chairman of the Naval Reactors branch, Atomic Energy Commission, and a driving force behind Shippingport, reconsidered his position on nuclear power later in his life;  the atomic history of Shippingport also includes Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass and his students, who discovered “striking cancer rises in the towns using the Ohio River” around Shippingport. Sternglass and students also found:

It was the airborne gaseous activity and the run-off into the rivers serving as drinking-water supplies that had apparently carried the more damaging short-lived beta-ray-emitting chemicals rapidly into the critical organs of the people, in addition to the other pathways via the milk, the vegetables, the fruits, the fish, and the meat that were most important for the long-lived strontium 90 and cesium 137. And although adults were more resistant to the biological damage than the developing fetus, they received the doses steadily over many years rather than just for a few months, by continuously drinking the water, inhaling the gases, and eating the food that was contaminated first by the fallout from the bomb tests, and then by the secret gaseous releases from the peaceful nuclear reactors along the rivers of the nation.

Shippingport was decommissioned in 1982. Our atomic world indeed.

Further watching & reading

Cowan, R. (1990). Nuclear power reactors: A study in technological lock-in. The Journal of Economic History, 50 (3), 541-567. http://dimetic.dime-eu.org/dimetic_files/cowan1990.pdf

Internet Archive. Atomic power at Shippingport, Part 1 & Part 2.

Rickover, H. G. (1957, May 14). Energy resources and our future. Speech to the Annual Scientific Assembly of the Minnesota State Medical Association. http://www.archive.org/details/rickover0557 (Note the Admiral comments on the problem of nuclear waste from reactors – in 1957!).

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