Meeting 13th November 2018

Talk by Eric Jenkins

“Harwell through the Camera Lens”

The Atomic Energy Research Establishment (A.E.R.E.), which was developed on its present site on former Air Ministry land on the Downs above Harwell starting in 1946, was the main centre for atomic energy research and development in the United Kingdom from the late 1940s to the 1990s.  

Under its first Director, Sir John Cockcroft (formerly Director of the Anglo-French-Canadian atomic laboratory in Montreal), A.E.R.E. Harwell was to cover the whole nuclear fuel cycle from prospecting instruments for uranium through the production of uranium hexafluoride and metal to the handling of spent reactor fuel, and to isotopes for industry and medicine. Fifty per cent of the effort was to be basic research, and fifty per cent was to support power production research.  

The whole complex came under the control of the Atomic Energy Authority in 1956.

By 1959 the United Kingdom nuclear power programme was slowed down and going forward engineering effort was wanted, rather than more basic science. 

An act of Parliament allowed A.E.R.E. to diversify into some non-nuclear research, but further Government cuts in 1970 made A.E.R.E. attempt to get more work from commercial firms. The then Director, Walter Marshall (later Chairman of the C.E.G.B.) set about this and by 1974 achieved the goal of selling science for hard cash. Manpower on the site was stabilised at over 4,000 and rose back to 4,500 by 1980. Major contracts secured have ranged from robot inspection of the country’s natural gas pipelines to the radiographic inspection of jet engines, and from the automatic sensing of defects on railway track to desalination in Hong Kong.

The decommissioning and partial recommissioning of the site has been undertaken with high regard for the landscape and natural surroundings of the areas involved.

Eric Jenkins' talk on the history of the development. decommissioning and partial re-commissioning of Harwell was illustrated with Eric’s own photographs of the buildings, people and processes involved in the research and development work undertaken at and under the auspices of the various agencies housed at Harwell over the past 60+ years.

Venue : SC Village Hall

Date/Time : Tuesday 13th November 2018  7.30 pm

About the Speaker

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Eric Jenkins has spent over 53 years working as a professional photographer within a Scientific Research Environment. Throughout his career, he has been involved with many aspects of specialist scientific imaging techniques and a wide spectrum of general photographic disciplines. He is currently working as a consultant for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. He is an Honorary Fellow of the British Institute of Professional Photographers.

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