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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

story:Smashing the atom

scene:Smashing the atom

By the 1950s, a series of breakthroughs in nuclear research had led many to herald nuclear power as the ultimate energy source. It was expected to free mankind from the harsh labour of coal mining and the pollution produced by burning coal, and to provide electricity ‘too cheap to meter’. It was estimated that one tonne of nuclear fuel would produce the energy equivalent of 2–3 million tonnes of coal, and ‘breeder’ reactors were expected to produce more fuel than they consumed.


Windscale Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR). Operational by 1962, it was the prototype for fourteen similar reactors built in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s. picture zoom © AEA/Science & Society Picture Library

Yet, despite these ambitious plans, nuclear power seems to have lost its way. Here we will consider why this has happened, and whether nuclear power still has a role to play in a sustainable economy.

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Windscale Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR). Operational by 1962, it was the prototype for fourteen similar reactors built in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s.
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