Borrowing their title from Orwell's ""newspeak,"" the authors want to show that the dangers of nuclear energy--in a reactor...


NUKESPEAK: Nuclear Language, Visions, and Mindset

Borrowing their title from Orwell's ""newspeak,"" the authors want to show that the dangers of nuclear energy--in a reactor or a bomb--have been obliterated by a vacuous jargon that labels the Three Mile Island accident an ""event"" or an ""incident,"" and sanitizes nuclear war with concepts like ""throw weight"" and ""vertical proliferation."" To also show the real danger behind the words, they combine a narrative account of nuclear developments with a discussion of controversies--letting the ""nukespeak"" speak for itself by italicizing pertinent words and concepts. Even if well and systematically done, that procedure could be trying. This, however is a sampling of nukespeak fallout: need-to-know, atomic battlefield, critical mass, random measurement errors, energy production, clean bombs, spent fuel rods, nuclear-powered rockets, hydrogen bomb, no evidence. These phrases have nothing in common beyond their italicization: critical mass is a technical term; the atomic battlefield is somewhere between a euphemism and an oxymoron; and a nuclear-powered rocket is a descriptive term for a nuclear-powered rocket. As examples of obfuscation and deception, they're duds. And the authors have not done well by the issues, either. From the discovery of X-rays to the development of atomic energy, they argue, technical achievements have been hailed as life-enhancing breakthroughs--but there is no real connection between Roentgen's discovery and Atoms for Peace in either scale or substance--the first atomic detonation ushered in the nuclear age and its attendant questions, regardless of the prior existence of radiation. The direct relationship between nukespeak and nuclear technology is consigned to sections on the secrecy measures adopted by the government, with its requisite ""classification priesthood,"" and the public relations activities of the nuclear industry. But what is established in this regard is what we already know: government and industry manipulate the data; the danger is greater, and the costs are higher, than acknowledged. Throughout, there is considerable shifting back and forth from nuclear testing and weapons to nuclear plants and wastes--but though data on the former is utilized to rouse fears about the latter, far less attention is paid to the nuclear arms race than to nuclear energy promotion. Narrow premise, unconvincing treatment.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Sierra Club--dist. by Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1982

Close Quickview