John Large’s working life was split into two halves, the first spent designing civil and military nuclear reactors and the second trying to make sure the industry was kept safe from accidents, nuclear waste and security threats. In this later role as a consulting engineer John was a dangerous opponent for the secretive nuclear establishment because his inside knowledge gave him the ability to ask difficult questions and expose weaknesses. He was never afraid to speak truth to power, although it took courage to take on such a powerful industry. Despite his chosen role as an outsider, John’s abilities meant he had an astonishing list of clients ranging from the Russian Federation, the British government, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Greenpeace International. He was invited by the IAEA to China, North Korea and Iran, and by others to the US and Japan, to give advice on their nuclear programmes and the risks they posed. John was still the leading independent analyst of safety and security in the nuclear industry at the time of his death, aged 75, from a heart attack. He was working on a report pressing for the permanent closure of Hunterston B nuclear plant in north Ayrshire, currently offline while cracks in the graphite bricks are investigated. He insisted on accuracy. As a result journalists who were faced with a secretive industry frequently turned to him to see if a possible story was credible, and for background information. Once I asked him how he knew about a serious problem with refuelling Britain’s fleet of advanced gas-cooled reactors, including Hunterston B, and he replied it was because he had helped design them.
Guardian 14th Nov 2018 read more »