World’s First Fully Commercial Nuclear Power Plant Opened
The confidence that politicians and scientists had in nuclear power is demonstrated by the rapidity with which Calder Hall nuclear power plant was constructed, though it was built well away from Westminster : work only began in 1953, and by late summer 1956 the plant was already feeding power to the National Grid. This being Britain, however, the site had to be opened officially, in this case by the Queen on October 17 1956.
Rather nearer Moscow than Calder Hall is to London the USSR opened a far smaller scale experimental plant in 1954, but Calder Hall was the world’s first fully commercial plant, its four Magnox reactors each producing up to 50 MW (the Soviet plant at most produced just 5 MW).
Far more was made at the opening ceremony of the peaceful side of the plant; but it had an equally important role militarily, making plutonium for Britain’s nuclear deterrent, a role continued until as late as 1995. Indeed in the first 10 years of its life this was its primary function. Calder Hall closed in 2003. In its lifetime the nuclear power debate has seen enthusiasm; fear linked to various accidents including at nearby Windscale ; concern over nuclear waste; and now renewed interest given predicted scarcity of fossil fuels.
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