John was an internationally recognised professional consulting engineer. He was a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Graduate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Learned Member of the Nuclear Institute and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
From the late 1960s through to the late 1980s, John undertook research as a tenured, full-time member of the Academic Staff at Brunel University in the role of Senior Research Fellow for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) on several aspects of advanced reactor and other nuclear systems. He continued with the post of Academic Tutor on the full-time teaching staff at Brunel University until 1994 and he retained strong links with academia, presenting specialist topic lectures at Bath, London South Bank, Oxford and Brighton Universities. In the late1980s he started the Consulting Engineers Large & Associates that specialised in the nuclear field.
More recently, he published on the safety of nuclear plants and processes, irradiated fuel and nuclear weapons transport, insurance, risks and risk management, on decommissioning of large-scale nuclear facilities, radioactive emissions and discharges, and the safety of nuclear reactor propulsion units at sea. Building on his research interests in the AGR nuclear power plants, John published a number of reports and assessments of the ageing AGR nuclear power station design. On the subject of the Fukushima Daiichi incident he prepared and presented an intervention to the European Parliament, an issues paper at the UK House of Commons, and a number of specific topic papers and reports for international clients.
You can read a detailed summary of his work.
Below are a few of the many tributes to John following his sudden death of a heart attack on 3rd November 2018.
“Dr John Large, who has died aged 75, was a British independent nuclear scientist who was called in to lead a nuclear safety committee consulting on the raising of the Kursk, the Russian nuclear submarine which went down in the Barents Sea on August 12 2000 with the loss of all 118 officers and crew.
“Large was awarded a medal by the Russians for helping to raise the submarine. In Britain, however, his criticism of the government over its nuclear waste policy led some elements of Whitehall to regard him as an infernal nuisance.”— The Telegraph
“John was a highly knowledgeable and independent nuclear engineer who gave valuable help to UK environmental groups especially in the 1980s and 1990s, and international groups more recently.
“John was instrumental in providing the technical backing to environmental groups who successfully campaigned for the closure of the San Onofre nuclear power station in California US, in 2013, for safety reasons, following the failure of its replacement steam generators.”— Ian Fairlie, CND News
“A nuclear specialist who kept bees, enjoyed a pint of beer and in 2001 helped to raise the Kursk, a stricken Russian nuclear submarine.
“The sinking of the Kursk, a Russian nuclear submarine, on August 12, 2000, with the loss of all hands in the icy waters north of Murmansk, came close to being a disaster of international magnitude. For John Large, who as a teenager had been expelled from Dulwich College for blowing up a chemistry laboratory, evaluating the nuclear risks of raising it was the most challenging job of his adult life.”— The Times
“John’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.
“As well as his work, he applied his skills to restoring the 18th-century Robert Adam home he shared with his partner, Jenny Sherrell (known to everyone, including John, as AP, because she was from Alexandra Palace). This was in Ha-Ha Road overlooking the military barracks in Woolwich, an address that delighted him. There he kept bees and over 40 years took a leading role in the running of Oxleas Wood Apiary, located at Shooters Hill, a remnant of old London countryside. For many years he taught with great enthusiasm a 10-week summer course for aspiring beekeepers.
“He is survived by Jenny, his daughter Joanna, from an earlier relationship, and his brother, Bob.”— Paul Brown, The Guardian
• John Henry Large, consulting engineer, born 4 May 1943; died 3 November 2018