Not so Green Janet - portable nuclear powerplants.
Back in the Fifties when destruction of cities by nuclear weapons was a distinct possibility, the authorities looked at what was required to rebuild these cities. While shelter and food could be supplied from unaffected area of the country, power was a different matter. The authorities expected the infrastructure to have been devastated, with powerplants being top of the list on any target list. Added to this would be the need to transport the necessary fuel for the generating plant. As well as this requirement, there was a need to supply power to remote military bases around the world and as modern warfare, with its radars etc., required a lot of power, a nuclear reactor seemed the obvious choice.
So, in the early 1950s a requirement was issued for a portable nuclear powerplant capable of generating 2.5MW of electrical power. This project went under the somewhat ironic title "Green Janet". Around this time de Havilland were becoming interested in diversifying into high technology fields, with guided weapons and nuclear power (the hi-tech of the fifties) figuring large in this diversification.
Ultimately two requirements were issued: a 2MW reactor for use in military bases. This model was to be air portable. A 5MW unit to replace civil power systems or use in theatres with little or no industrial development. This model was to be capable of being landed on beaches and put together in beachhead areas.
De Havilland became major player in the UK nuclear industry becoming involved in the development of nuclear powerplants to provide the UK with cheap electricity (too cheap to meter, was the slogan of the 60s) as well as provide plutonium for the UK's growing bomb programme.
The DH Gazette published details of a portable nuclear powerplant intended for remote areas such as the Australian outback. This involved mounting the reactor and its cooling system on a railway truck, with the generating equipment on a second truck. Surrounding the reactor car with large water tanks provided shielding. When the reactor needed refueling, another reactor car was trundled in to replace the first, which was shunted off to the refueling depot.
That, of course, was the problem. Moving a contaminated reactor around would be unheard of today and even in the 50s this practice would not be particularly feasible. In short the problems of decommissioning such a plant would be as serious as they are today.
It seems that the name Green Janet was dropped and Blue Bishop adopted just before the entire project was dropped in the late 1950s. In the late 1950s the power output of gas turbines was tapped for power generation and a BristolProteus-based generator capable of 3MW was put into service. This was enough to see off the portable nuclear plant for all but marine and space applications.
Thanks to Richard Moore for the information for this page.
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