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The Neutron's ChildrenNuclear Engineers and the Shaping of Identity$
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Sean F. Johnston

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199692118

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692118.001.0001

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The atomic nursery

The atomic nursery

(p.75) 4 The atomic nursery
The Neutron's Children

Sean F. Johnston

Oxford University Press

If the war gestated atomic energy specialists, then the decade after it saw their birth and early development in special environments. They did not thrive unaided: the new experts were nurtured with copious resources, cosseted in secure environments, and isolated from contaminants. This period of incubation shaped their development and mature identity. National laboratories grew from the American and Canadian wartime projects, and were created anew in Britain to serve post-war goals. Each embodied a distinct complement of engineering and scientific competences, industrial support, and national aims. And each served to segregate the growing knowledge in a regime of high security. Secrecy both helped and hindered the new specialists, providing freedom to explore atomic energy but sublimating their working and professional identities.

Keywords:   national laboratories, US Atomic Energy Commission, Harwell, Oak Ridge, Argonne, nuclear history, secrecy, national security, classification, Atomic Energy Act

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