north to Risley in Lancashire for his recruitment interview, he spent the previous night in a hotel in Warrington and enjoyed a convivial evening with other guests only to discover the following morning that he was facing them as his interview panel!
In 1954 the Department of Atomic Energy became the UKAEA, comprising three groups—The Weapons Group based at Aldermaston, Buckinghamshire; the Research Group based at Harwell, Oxfordshire; and the Industrial Group based at Risley, Lancashire. Sir John quickly made his mark and when the manufacturing activities were split off to form the Production Group he progressed up the hierarchy to become managing director. Then on appointment to the Main Board of the UKAEA as member for production, he became chairman of the group with all the fuel-cycle facilities under his wing—that is, uranium purification from yellow cake and manufacture of fuel elements, both uranium metal and uranium oxide at Springfields, Lancashire; enrichment of uranium hexafluoride for both defense and civilian use at Capenhurst, Cheshire; reprocessing of spent fuel and production of plutonium at Windscale (subsequently renamed Sellafield), Cumbria, and the Magnox reactors at Calder Hall, Cumbria, and Chapel Cross, Dumfriesshire. The latter, although built primarily for production of plutonium, produced the first commercially sold electricity from nuclear power in the world.
The cutback in defense requirements in the United Kingdom for both enriched uranium and plutonium in the early 1960s created difficulties for the Production Group. Highly enriched uranium production in the diffusion plant at Capenhurst and short-term irradiation of fuel in the Calder Hall and Chapel Cross reactors for production of plutonium were curtailed. The group recognized the need to become more commercial in its civilian activities, and Sir John and colleagues set about the task of changing the culture of the group and getting away from its civil service past and enforced secrecy. They created a cadre of sales personnel from within the company who were both technically competent and flexible. Sir John had earlier already launched himself into commercial and sales activities