On this day: 17th October 1956

The 17th of October marks the anniversary of the first industrial nuclear power station opening. Calder hall in Cumberland was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1956 (exactly 60 years earlier from the day this issue was published) and this date represents a revolutionary turn in electricity production. International scientists and political figures from 40 different countries travelled from afar to attend the ceremony.

Known as a gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor, Calder Hall used the nuclear reaction in uranium rods to generate power. This remarkable technology led to Workington, located 15 miles from Calder Hall, becoming the first town in the world to receive light, heat and power from nuclear energy and within four hours, the first nuclear-powered electricity was even reaching London.

However, despite its success, the power plant is now undergoing decommissioning after ceasing power generation in 2003. The Queen at the time made a powerful comment stating how “This new power, which has proved itself to be such a terrifying weapon of destruction, is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community.” Therefore, although nuclear power has remained controversial by many governments, this shows how Calder Hall represented how something positive could come out of the political nuclear tensions of the Cold War.

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