JUSTICE DOWNWIND: The Story of America's Atomic Testing Program at the Nevada Test Site by Howard Ball
Kirkus Star

JUSTICE DOWNWIND: The Story of America's Atomic Testing Program at the Nevada Test Site

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A riveting essay on the aftershock of almost 12 years of above-ground atomic-bomb tests in the Nevada desert. Ball tells the story of how these detonations affected a group of people known as ""the downwinders""--they resided downwind of the blasts. The Atomic Energy Commission had sanctioned the tests only on days that the wind blew east so as not to run the risk of sending radioactive clouds toward Las Vegas or California. Consequently, fallout from these tests would affect ""only"" some 100,000 people in small towns in Nevada and Utah. Ball (political science/Utah) was able to take advantage of many studies done on the populace of these areas. The problem had been noticed first soon after testing ceased when farmers began complaining of their sheep mysteriously dying. As time went on, a dramatic increase in human cancer and leukemia deaths signalled a major development. The military and AEC did all they could to obscure the issue, disparage the populace, and cast aspersions upon the medical studies being done. But the troth was self-evident--the eerie pink clouds of radioactivity floating over these areas was spreading plague. The story hinges on a grand irony--that these staunch, mostly Mormon, farmers, intensely patriotic and fervently anti-communist, would have cooperated with the Pentagon and the AEC to almost any extent in the 1950's. Indeed, in the very beginning, they welcomed the testing in their area as a great privilege. There was no need for the AEC to be less than candid with them. Had they been so, though, much future suffering might have been avoided. Unfortunately, Ball's tale of perfidy unpunished has the character of an unfinished saga: the court case eventually brought by the downwinders, though won by them, is still in the midst of appeal by the government, and is likely to reach the Supreme Court in several years. Ball's is the sort of book, though, which could create enough of a cause cÉlÉbre to preserve the decision for these oppressed citizens.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1986
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press