1,000 Big Year: The boulder that halted me

You’re drafting a history and come across a seminal moment, in this case the first real electricity-producing power reactor. it’s a tale told and retold and retold and retold, and you possess copious notes and alternative story versions, so you can just rattle out your own version, right? Wrong.

Before and after a big vacation, I had come to a screaming halt in writing up Shippingport, the “first” power reactor in 1957. I couldn’t understand why the words refused to flow. It took a long time – too long a time, no doubt – to realise much of my Shippingport material is a crafted myth. I’m not saying this myth is a lie, just that much of the “real data” is hidden and the storytelling is opaque and designed for effect.

One cold sunny day, the reality hit me: Andres, go back and find out what original historical documents underpin all the Shippingport stories. Dig. Break all the events apart. Figure out what really happened and why. In three words: restart from scratch.

Now all that is behind me. Today I’m writing up Shippingport. My story might not prove to be all that different from its predecessors but it will vary in ways important to me. Call me a happy chappy!


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