Category Archives: POWER

LISE MEITNER: A REFUGEE SCIENTIST

Bom in Vienna, Austria, on November 17, 1878, Elise Meitner was the third of eight children in a prosperous Jewish family living in the Leopoldstadt suburb of Vienna. Slight of figure, shy, and a formidable scientist, she was the second woman to earn a Ph. D. in physics at the University of Vienna. For reasons unknown, Elise shortened her first […]

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Acknowledgments

I wish to thank Dr. Don S. Harmer, retired Professor Emeritus from the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Physics, an old friend from the Old School who not only taught me much of what I know in the field of nuclear physics but also did a thorough and constructive technical edit of the manuscript. Thanks also to Dr. Douglas […]

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THE FIRST NUCLEAR REACTOR

An unused football stadium, Stagg Field, with abandoned squash courts underneath the west stands at the University of Chicago was the perfect setting for a large, secret experiment. It was not a place anyone would look for world-changing science. Although preliminary studies of a graphite­moderated fission reaction had been studied at Columbia and Princeton,

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America Goes Nuclear

In 1953, Lewis L. Strauss (1896-1974), a retired rear admiral in the U. S. Navy, was named head of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). It was an optimistic time, with the world experiencing peace, stability, and ris­ing prosperity, and there was hope and expectation that the secretive technology that had been developed during the atomic bomb project would be put […]

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THE RACE IS ON

The fission effect in uranium was confirmed in laboratories from England to Japan, and its profound implications were well understood by all engaged in nuclear physics. In 1939, nuclear fission was seen as having two possible uses.

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Introduction

The discovery and application of nuclear power were among the most profound scientific accomplishments of the 20th century, beginning with tentative explorations of the structure of matter, expanding into a rapid succession of unexpected discoveries, and finally settling into a seamless transition from theoretical science to applied engineering. In that century everything changed, as follows:

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THE MANHATTAN PROJECT BEGINS

On September 13, 1942, an important meeting of the Project S-1 Executive Committee was held. The United States was now fully engaged in the war, and it was time to move the atomic bomb project from a cautious and ten­tative rate of progress to full speed forward. Present at the meeting were Arthur Compton (1892-1962), director of S-1; Lyman Briggs […]

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THE DiSCOVERY OF THE ATOMiC NUCLEUS

By 1906, Rutherford was still at McGill University in Montreal puzzling over Philipp Lenard’s conjecture from 1903 concerning the void between atoms, and he was studying his newly discovered alpha particles. He was measuring the degree of deflection he could obtain using a strong mag­netic field with alpha particles streaming through it. They were moving fast and were heavy, and […]

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THE FIRST CIVILIAN POWER REACTORS

At the end of World War II, the U. S. government upgraded the existing, hastily constructed nuclear laboratories at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and built several more across the country. Major labs were built in Brookhaven, New York, Livermore, California, Idaho Falls, Idaho, Aiken, South Carolina, and at Simi Hills, California.

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