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Greater knowledge can only be obtained by building and operating a full scale fast reactor. It was thought, however, that it would be undesirable to make the reactor as large as was originally proposed, and it is now prepared that it should have a gross rating of 60 MW. 5in An Atomic Empire b1572-ch03 An Atomic Empire two or three years of its life it will be operating experimentally at low power and it is doubtful whether the addition of a plant for the generation of useful power could be justified on a strict economic basis; but valuable experience would be gained by the addition of this plant, which should produce 10 MW of useful power in favourable circumstances.

A first charge of 850 kg [sic] of medium enriched U235 will be required, and this can be produced at Capenhurst without setting back the date when highly enriched uranium for weapons is first manufactured. Manufacture of replacement fuel can also be carried out during this period. It was at first thought that the fast breeder reactor would be built at Windscale. Further study showed that this would not be safe and the Calder site has now been used for the Pippa plants . . All the possible sites have been examined, though of these by far the most suitable is the disused airfield at Dounreay, eight miles west of Thurso.

Whilst at Cambridge, Cockcroft also began to show his talents as an administrator, both as Junior Bursar in St John’s College and in the construction of the Mond Laboratory. At the outset of war, he moved into work on radar, as did so many other British scientists at the time, but was also a member of the military application of uranium detonation (MAUD) committee, which met to consider Peierls and Frisch’s memorandum on atomic explosions. In 1944, he took over the atomic energy programme in Canada, and was responsible for the building of the NRX heavy water reactor at Chalk River, but came back to Britain in 1945 to head the new atomic establishment to be built in Britain.

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