The Atom:
A Love (Hate?) Affair

New U.K. documentary questions our relationship with atomic energy

By Byron Toben

We are all children of the atomic age. The recent U.K. documentary film The Atom: A Love Affair has been released in Europe to great success. Thanks to Ontario Clean Air Alliance’s director, Angela Bischoff, it streamed in Canada – its North American premiere.

I watched it and the panel discussion at the end, which included Canada’s leading expert, Gordon Edwards of Montreal. It cleverly blends the historic record of how we fell in love with the atom with brief clips of ads or movies. It is still available on the Internet through Sunday, July 11 (a $10 donation required).

My own backdrop

Hiroshima ruins

Hiroshima Dome in ruins – Image: Shigeo Hayashi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Albert Einstein announced that E=mc² in 1905.


In 1913, G. Bernard Shaw predicted that militarists were “seeking to unleash the hidden molecular energies” of the universe.

In 1941, both Nazi Germany and the USA sought to build an atomic bomb.

In 1945, the USA exploded the first atomic bomb in New Mexico on July 16, following with the use of it on Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9.

In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded its first nuclear bomb in Kazakhstan. Others joined: the United Kingdom in 1952, France in 1960, China in 1964, India in 1974, Pakistan in 1998 and North Korea in 2011.

A nuclear confrontation between the USA and the Soviet Union came close in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis.


In 1963, U.S. President Eisenhower declared an “Atoms For Peace” program. Nuclear reactors were built domestically, many shipped worldwide, leading to a love affair with the atom, the main subject of this article.

In the meantime, man-made or natural disasters to peaceful installations caused discomfort:

1979 – Three Mile Island meltdown in Pennsylvania, USA

1986 – Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine, USSR

2011 – Fukushima earthquake and tsunami in Japan

Ongoing – Safe disposal of nuclear waste – No solution yet

Portraits of deceased Chernobyl liquidators

Portraits of deceased Chernobyl liquidators – Image:MHM55, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The film

For updates on other nuclear developments, see Ms. Bischoff’s related No Nukes Report.

To see the film, visit

Feature image: Berlin anti-nuclear protest (2011), by Chrischerf, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia CommonsBouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

More articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

Clearly has launched Reincarnate, Frames made from Recycled Plastic.

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  1. Irwin Rapoport

    The whole “duck and cover” was before my time, but it’s hard to believe that people took it seriously. Albert Einstein deeply regretted his letter to FDR that spawned the Manhattan Project.

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