Once again we have to thank Bugle readers for their marvellous response over the past few years to our constant search for what we call ‘Dudley Dowells’ — items made in the Black Country that have been found all over the world. Please keep sending us details of any sightings you make over the coming months and hopefully we will be able to publish your pictures at a later date.
A recent response by Ray Wood from Newport in Shropshire to a letter that was published in Bugle 1024 has not only kept the theme going, but also introduced us to our first radioactive Dudley Dowell, and Ray explains why: "Reading about John Thompson Ltd in a letter by Brenda Price from Shrewsbury, brought back many memories of the late ‘50s. I joined John Thompson (Water Tube Boilers) Ltd. of Spring Road, Ettingshall, in 1955 as a model maker in the model department, and our remit was to build 3-dimensional models of the various projects being carried out within the John Thompson Group at the time. The tracings and detailed drawings Brenda referred to may have been used in the model department in order to produce a model of the internal pipe-work of the Dounreay Fast Reactor.” (Bill Pace mentioned the Dounreay connection in his article ‘Working at John Thompson Ltd’ which appeared in Bugle 1010).
Intricate Ray continues: "The model was constructed to prove the design of the layout, and I have photographs that show how intricate the pipework was. The unmistakable dome of the Dounreay reactor is 139 feet in diameter and when it was being built, assembling the cooling pipes within its shell proved very difficult, in particular having only one small circular door to access the interior. Our department had the unenviable task of providing an erection schedule to enable those on site to assemble the pipe work correctly inside. This took a total of 24 months to produce, a painstaking effort, but everything about the building of the Dounreay Reactor had to be perfect, even down to stowing the last fitting to be fixed inside the dome first. This schedule created a massive book of drawings and was always referred to by the builders on site as the ‘bible’.
“The model department produced many different models over the years, either prototypes in the case of Dounreay, or purely displays for exhibitions, and in my time it also had a workroom attached to the Water Tube drawing office.
“The departmental manager was a chap called Bill Hickman, and besides myself it was staffed by Gerald Sadler, Ray Edwards and Milton Holland. Now I've concluded my own reminiscences I wonder whether any other Bugle readers remember those days at John Thompson's?" The experimental fast breeder reactor at Dounreay in Scotland paved the way for British research and development of nuclear energy during the 1950s and 1960s. Housed inside a steel sphere, it was built between 1955 and 1958 to test the concept and in 1961 became the first fast reactor in the world to provide electricity to a national grid. It closed down in 1977 and following its closure the reactor was de-fuelled, the liquid metal removed from the secondary circuit, and some of the breeder material taken out. In 2005 the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority became the owner of the site.
But such is the legacy of nuclear power, the site will not be considered a safe ‘brownfield’ until the year 2336.