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"Blue Danube: the first British Atomic Bomb. An insider's story of its development and testing"

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In this talk Colin Hughes shares his experience as a nuclear weapon designer at Fort Halstead in Kent and Aldermaston, Berkshire from 1949 to 1956, concentrating on the first British atomic weapon, codenamed Blue Danube. Colin joined William Penney’s team at Fort Halstead in early 1949, at the age of twenty. Two years later, as a chartered engineer, he became part of the design team working on the core of Blue Danube, and although he did not attend the first trial of the weapon at Monte Bello, off the coast of Western Australia in 1952, he was closely associated with the arrangements for transporting the plutonium to the Islands and for handling it on site. One year later, at Operation Totem in the South Australian desert, he was part of a three-man assembly team loading plutonium into two weapons shortly before firing. During this period he was also studying physics part time at Birkbeck College under Professor J D Bernal and, in some of the quiet moments in the Australian desert, Sir William Penney (as he had then become), advised him on the finer points of taking examinations in thermodynamics.

Colin will also describe a return to the bomb site 50 years later to see how it had changed, and will also touch briefly on his move away from nuclear weapons to civil nuclear power applications.

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