Windscale, Cumbria

Windscale (since renamed Sellafield) is the site of the UK's main nuclear reprocessing plant. About 1950, Eugene Wigner (1902-1995) showed that irradiated graphite can suddenly self-anneal and release a large amount of energy in a potentially hazardous situation. Despite being informed of this 'Wigner effect', the UK failed to take account of it, leading to the Windscale fire in 1957 (and the consequent change of name!). [Tucker]

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An extract from The Mathematical Gazetteer of the British Isles created by David Singmaster

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