Industry: water, steel & energy

Camsey, Granville (5 of 16). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2013-04-18, 2013-05-02, 2013-09-26, 2013-10-22, 2013-12-10, 2014-01-14, 2014-01-28, 2014-03-17, 2014-04-15

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Buckinghamshire

  • Interviewees

    Camsey, Granville, 1936- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: Remarks: on end of apprenticeship; clarification of path through night school, to 5 year higher national diploma split between Salford technical College and work placements at CEGB, Richard and Westgarth's and Brown, Boveri & Cie; GC path through post graduate diploma course in thermodynamics; 1960s interest in nuclear power, leading to studying Masters in Nuclear Physics with help of Professor Bannister and Clayton Scholarship from Institution of Mechanical Engineers [IMechE]; CEGB finding GC wife a job in Bournville; [03:55] anecdote about awful interview at CEGB Central Electricity Laboratories [CERL]; GC becoming junior reactor physicist at Trawsfynydd nuclear power station; Dr Ken Wallis arranging for GC extra training at Berkeley nuclear power station. [05:40] Remarks on: starting at Berkeley, anecdote about accommodation above stables on Rodborough Common near Slad, where 'Cider With Rosie' was based; GC move to nearby Bradwell nuclear power station, managed by Bod Peddie. [08:00] Remarks on Bob Peddie: career path of nuclear power station managers through training at UKAEA Seascale; archetypal rebel; career path through CEGB and Southern Electric; early advocate of multi-tariffing; mentor to GC throughout career. [10:08] Remarks on GC education at Berkeley and Bradwell: Berkeley first operational CEGB nuclear station; learning process for CEGB; difficult industrial consortium setup, much alerted by Government later; reactor physicists controlling operational staff; importance of constant monitoring to safety of nuclear power; details of GC duties, collecting readings and information; reflections on difference between deterministic nature of engineering and explanatory nature of physics based on models; highly controlled nature of working in nuclear power station, anecdote about contrast with later posting as manager of Rugeley coal power station. [16:00] Remarks on Trawsfynydd: posting as a junior reactor physicist, developing processes to guide reactor going critical for first time; applying for promotion to assistant shift charge engineer, under later Nuclear Electric CEO Ray Hall and Vic Brown, later CEGB and Nuclear Electric personnel director. [18:20] Description of shift arrangements: GC joining EPEA; EPEA and CEGB local negotiations over shift patterns; GC appointment to the spare sixth shift of reserve staff; GC duties running turbine hall; anecdote about Vic Brown teaching GC a lesson on electrical safety; pattern of 12 hour shifts; shift handover arrangements. [24:20] Remarks on nuclear fuel handling equipment: GC specialising in area: serious problems with Fairey / Atomic Power Corporation fuel handling equipment; remote handling of hazardous reactor fuel; reprocessing of fuel for military plutonium at Seascale; shift staff arrangements for commissioning and running equipment. [26:55] Remarks on Welsh language and nationalism around Trawsfynydd: campaign for Welsh language at time; anecdote about living next door to Megan Lloyd George in Criccieth, after whom they named their daughter; antipathy to incoming English nuclear workers; GC moving to Rhôs-on-Sea to ensure children would be taught in English; split of English engineers and Welsh operating staff inside power station. [31:00] Description of Trawsfynydd: located in picturesque surroundings; anecdote about station manager Hugh Jones's need to preserve fishing in lake. [33:12] Comments on replacement of deficient fuel handling equipment: shutdown of station within a few years; continuous refuelling of station; Fairey's over-engineering of equipment, partly caused by CEGB unreasonable demands of contractors; GC getting post as Fuel Handling Engineer; GC objections to arrangements; GC superiors, deputy station manager Mike Kelly, and director of Generation Bob Peddie; decision to design replacements for unreliable handling equipment at Berkeley Nuclear Laboratory; meetings with Fairey managing director John Gregson, GC reputation for speaking out of turn, Fairey's replacement by GEC; GC, designer Maxwell, control engineer Pat Langlay redesigning equipment, placing contracts around UK; [39:10] extensive processes before manufacturing. [39:50] Remarks on executive development education: attending Manchester Business School course during meetings with contractors; later attending Manchester Business School for 3 months. [41:00] Description of loading nuclear reactor using fuel handling equipment: safety; storage of spent fuel rods in water ponds before transport to Windscale; [45:00] control mechanisms, remote control from control room. [47:30] Remarks on zone control, safe radiation doses, and safety clothing in nuclear power stations. [49:50] Anecdote about discovering a loose fuel rod on the pile cap after refuelling. [50:53] Remarks on feelings about nuclear power in 1960s: GC pride at being nuclear engineer; later Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents; CEGB training GC and others to talk favourably about nuclear power in public; anecdote about GC later debating nuclear power with Arthur Scargill at a Working Men's club in Yorkshire, GC impressed at Working Men's club; [55:20] White Heat of Technology period; challenging nature of work; good salary. [56:28] Remarks on contractors: anecdote about GC later discovering that China Light and Power were paying far less than CEGB for the same equipment; GC and team freedom of action in rectifying refuelling equipment problems, visits to Arrol, Babcock, Fairey; anecdote about difficult meeting with John Gregson at Fairey at Stockport; anecdote about visit to William Arrol about faulty crane; GC concern over accepting corporate hospitality; [1:02:13] all-powerful nature of CEGB, extensive research and design capability and exacting contracting requirements making it difficult for contractors to satisfy their requirements; GC later view on how CEGB exacting requirements contributed to Fairey's failure; anecdote about immense size of contract for 1980s on Westburton B power station, CEGB attempt to get best equipment by exactly specifying requirements; anecdote about GC later limiting size of contracts at National Power by focusing on outline requirements rather than detailed engineering; [1:06:00] anecdote about Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's later disregard for Britain’s industrial capability compared to financial industry. [1:07:30] Further remarks on Trawsfynydd: managers Phil Holbrook, later manager of Wylfa; manager Huw Jones's preparing several of his staff for senior careers in industry; deputy manager Mike Kelly, from UKAEA; GC promotion to Operations Superintendent at Olbury Power Station [refers to photo of Oldbury power station]; GC enjoying return to Gloucestershire after living in Wales. [1:11:45] Comments on problems at Trawsfynydd: fuel handling equipment eventually regarded as a failure, shut-down to refuel reactor; story about lengthy resolution of a jammed fuel chute, extraction of chute, manufacturing of special equipment to fix problem; anecdote about Bob Peddie sending GC to Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell to investigate optic fibres. [1:18:25] Remarks on handling of spent fuel: use of manual controls at a distance; story about GC contracting Jim McBurney to build a new spent fuel tank urgently, which was later problematic to empty. [1:22:28] Remarks on working in nuclear power station: very clean environment at; possibility of GC inhaling blue asbestos during lagging of Trawsfynydd leading to chest problem; noisy environment in turbine hall; beautiful countryside in North Wales. [1:26:20] Comments on GC asbestos: GC three lung collapses; GC earlier athleticism; stable nature of GC asbestosis; probably cause from helping laggers at Whitebirk power station during apprenticeship. [1:29:00] Comments on moving to Oldbury Power Station in 1971: importance of being station manager by 40 to career; station well run by Mike Kelly; trade union issues; arrangement for obtaining cooling water from River Severn's tide, leading to silting of lagoon; GC interaction with Hydraulic Research Station at Wallingford, and solving of silting problem by dredging. [1:33:00] Story about GC help with fuel handling issues: Strachan and Henshaws alternative design supported by Mike Kelly; maintenance engineer Jack Lucas getting on top of problems; gradual improvements. [1:34:40] Remarks on working at Oldbury: experienced charge engineers; inefficiencies due to poor communications; GC learning importance from Mike Kelly of keeping team informed and interacting; description of management structure in power station, structures negotiated between CEGB and unions; GC later view that negotiated structures had become cumbersome, and that organisation need radical change after a few decades; [1:41:00] structures allowing staff to move easily between sites; description of GC typical day working at Oldbury; anecdote about water filtering screens catching salmon from river, illicitly sold to local fishmongers and fed as poached salmon to training unionists at lunches; long working hours; [1:45:40] annual rehearsals for nuclear emergency. [1:47:13] Story about fuel element jamming half in half out of fuel chute at Trawsfynydd, damaging fuel element.

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