On a golden age of modern technology with roots in the 1950s
Historian launches book on Belgian atomic era
Belgium is a prominent player on the world nuclear stage. But how did it achieve that starring role? That's what readers will discover in Towards a sustainable future. This brand new book tells the history of the Belgian nuclear era and the nuclear research centre SCK CEN in particular. Author Geert Vanpaemel presents this history against a backdrop of political and social change. A look at the past that offered us a future.
The first commercial nuclear power plants entered the Belgian energy landscape in the 1970s, yet the seeds of this technological revolution had been sown decades earlier. Towards a sustainable future brings this history to life. "Professor Geert Vanpaemel, the author of this book, takes the reader through a fascinating historical tale. Over 240 pages, it tells how a discovery of a rich uranium seam in the Belgian Congo brought together physicists and engineers from all over the world to discover the potential of the atom. Today, nuclear technology provides us with energy and treats cancer patients, among other things," says Michèle Coeck, Director of the SCK CEN Academy.
The world owes this golden age of technology in part to Belgium and the nuclear research centre SCK CEN in particular. "After the war, Belgium acquired nuclear expertise in peaceful applications. Pierre Ryckmans, Governor-General of the Belgian Congo, urged that all nuclear research initiatives be housed in one knowledge centre. With combined forces, Belgium was able to make progress more rapidly, at the service of society," explains historian and author Geert Vanpaemel. This knowledge centre was created in 1952, and that was when the present SCK CEN saw the light of day.
"SCK CEN was at the forefront of nuclear energy in Belgium and therefore of technological innovation. In the decades that followed, we continued to set the course for continuous improvement and innovation – but in a wide range of areas. Today, the atom is proving its usefulness in sustainable electricity production, further space exploration, and the global fight against cancer," clarifies Michèle Coeck.
To mark 70 years of SCK CEN
To mark '70 years of SCK CEN', author Geert Vanpaemel, publisher Acco Learn, and SCK CEN are launching the book Toward a sustainable future. "I'm proud to have been able to immortalise the birth of the research centre, its societal impact and its whirlwind evolution in a book," the author said. Towards a sustainable future reads like a journey through time – spurred on by a constant drive for technological innovation. The author places that pioneering spirit in a broader political context and against the backdrop of changing public opinion. The book is always available in three languages. It is available from the publisher Acco Learn or online webshops, such as that of De Standaard Boekhandel.
Why did Belgium gain access to this unique nuclear expertise? Belgium enjoyed a privileged position in the world because of its uranium mine in the Belgian Congo. This mine was discovered on 10 April 1915, when British geologist Robert Rich Sharp accidentally hacked his heel into the rich uranium seam. The site was named Shinkolobwe. The find was not considered significant until the Second World War, when nuclear weapons programmes took off – requiring rare uranium ore. Shinkolobwe came under the radar of the United States of America. At the end of the war, the United States and the United Kingdom were given pre-emption rights to all Congolese uranium ore. In return, Belgium gained access to non-military nuclear expertise.
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