Part of our crazy nuclear heritage and history

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
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Richard Hull
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Real name: Richard Hull

Part of our crazy nuclear heritage and history

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Nov 10, 2020 6:26 am

We must remember all aspects of our nuclear history. Many are forgotten nuances now, remembered by only a few. I refuse to take on a role of apologist but as a mere historical scribe here. It is part of our history now and part of all human history.

Fusion came before fission. Fusion in 1934 and fission in 1938. However, since there was honest-to-God stored energy in uranium fission, fission won out in the immediate end. Fission required only bringing two subcritical masses together to release all the nuclear energy in an instant or by placing a moderated critical mass in a reactor and slowly extracting and controlling the moderated reaction to get electrical energy generation at any desired rate. Fission had electrical power pouring out of wall outlets in 16 years following the knowledge of its mere existence. Fusion languishes in the doldrums nearly 90 years now, following its discovery, yet, with many grand and glorious promises.

Fission suffered a relatively short and rather inglorious beginning. First, killing a few hundred-thousand humans and ending a bloody war. Then, a "toying period" ensued with making and testing even bigger and better fission weapons between 1945 and 1955. Weapon wise, fusion was a very quick study, creating the ultimate weapon in 1952 that would leave the original winner, fission, to assume the role of poor step child. Fission was left to public service creating electricity in large public amounts after 1957, continuing to today. Very small fission bombs were relegated to Hydrogen fusion bomb triggers.

Fission's warrior role would be short lived as "fusion fever" would be the siren's song to the Cold-Warriors mind and by the early 1950's Project Sherwood would be the serious forbearer of fusion power to the people. Alas, fission would win this public electrical power battle for many decades to come. Fusion, it is found, makes far better engines of destruction than as a useful source of controlled, power generational energy for the public good.

This post is about a story that was published in a magazine article back in that fission toying period. The story is humorous and sad, though originally was meant to be informative to a public eager for information in the proclaimed "atomic age".

All nuclear explosions generate fall out. If you survived the blast you had to worry about ongoing radiation from fallout. If you survived the intense radiation from the short lived nasty daughters in fallout, what were the long term issues associated with the exposure and issues with the food chain? The AEC, (Atomic Energy Commission), was placed in charge of all radiation issues across the U.S., from controlling nuclear materials, researching radiation effects, setting guidelines related to exposure in the work environment of nuclear industry workers, licensing, etc.

Part of their mission was to study post nuclear explosion fallout effects on the food chain. As such, the AEC maintained and operated a full herd of cattle near the testing ground in the U.S. The idea was to wait until the lethal short lived daughters from an explosion died out, ( a few months), and then drive the herd into the blast area to forage on grasses and vegetation among the longer lived fallout for a week or two. They were then driven back out of the blast contaminated area to their normal grazing areas. After a few more weeks one or two or more would be sacrificed for dissection and tested for internal organ radiation effects. Not being greedy or wishing the meat to go to waste, the AEC directed that much of it be given to the local Indians who were glad to get it.

Naturally, the herd needed drovers 3 or 4 would do, but a head ramrod was needed of some experience. A retired cowboy and ex-sheriff was chosen as ramrod. He was a classic rough and tumble, ruddy-faced westerner, a chain smoking "Marlboro man". His job was to "Mov'em out and headem up" to and from the blast areas as instructed by the AEC medicos. I attach two classic images from this great last roundup, AEC cowpoke, nuclear based, irradiated cattle drive.

First, and my favorite, I have added a little humorous notation at the top. Our ramrod looks into the camera as if a calf is about to receive the herd owners special red-hot branding iron applied to it rump.

The second image shows the heard on the move to munch on highly radioactive grass. I would imagine the cowpokes might have drawn straws on who would ride "drag" on the herd, suffering the inhalation of fallout from the herd's dust cloud as they approached the hot grazing area.


Richard Hull
AEC cowpoke Anno.jpg
AEC herd.jpg
AEC herd.jpg (72.85 KiB) Viewed 1055 times
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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