A penetrating discussion of 35 years' worth of mishaps associated with the nuclear power industry. As background, the author describes the principles of atomic fission, the way nuclear fuel is produced, and some nuclear power plant designs. Blow-by-blow accounts of the accidents at Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl follow; each occurred because of interrelated tangles of design flaws, mechanical failures and failures of judgment, and safety violations. Helgerson proposes remedial measures, including not only more rigorous training and plant inspection but more effective disaster planning--and mentions some of the many other accidents that either released radioactive material into the environment or involved a nuclear facility (e.g., the U.S.S. Thresher): neither the US military nor the Soviets are particularly forthcoming about such incidents, so details are often sketchy. Helgerson's summaries of antinuclear arguments and alternate sources of energy are also sketchy; a more complete discussion of these topics can be found in Goode's Nuclear Energy Controversy (1980), but the reader should be aware that Goode argues that nuclear energy is no more dangerous or expensive than other fuels. A valuable introduction to a timely subject. Footnotes, index, list of sources, brief bibliography.