Roy Gibson: the nuclear safety helpline

Roy Gibson discusses nuclear safety hoaxes at the Atomic Energy Authority in the 1950s.

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They became very – very sensitive to public opinion, to reassure them, because if it had got out of hand then the building of the commercial power station would have been very much put in jeopardy. We used to get literally hundreds of telephone calls from people. You would get people ringing you, saying, ‘There is radiation at the bottom of my garden,’ and this kind of thing. And you had to make a judgement whether to turn out the guard or … I remember a policeman ringing up one night, ‘I am Sergeant So and So, and I have in my left hand a steel bullet like thing that has a label on it, “radioactive.”’ ‘Oh yes. Where did you find it?’ ‘Erm, one of my beat men picked it up on the street.’ ‘Oh I see. Is there anything else on the label?’ ‘Wait a minute. Yes, it has the word Curie on it.’ ‘Oh yes. Does it have any number on it?’ ‘Yes, Curie 150000, and then Curie with an “s” on the end. What should I do?’ I said, ‘Well at a rough guess, either it’s a hoax or you’ve been dead for the last two hours. Put it away and I’ll send somebody tomorrow morning.’ And of course inside was a little note saying, ‘Ha ha ha.’ But if he’d put thirty Curies instead of 150,000 then we would have to have turned out the Fire Brigade. 

  • Interviewee Roy Gibson
  • Duration 00:01:43
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 5/22/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/19

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