Career energy-reporter Maize scours decades of American nuclear policy and finds enough harebrained schemes to fill up an entire field of defunct missile silos.
In 1945, the terrible power of the atom was unleashed, evidenced by the charred, twisted bodies that littered the ruins of Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even so, some of Uncle Sam’s finest scientific minds couldn’t help but wonder what other miracles the mighty atom might next achieve. Among the many ideas pursued by these scientists—and supported by their political patrons—were attempts to strap nuclear reactors onto the wings of airplanes, resurfacing the face of the Earth with atomic blasts and shooting astronauts into deep space via atomic-powered flatulence. In fact, according to the author, the boys from the lab grew so cocky after the success of the A-bomb that they seemed to have more in common with fictional boy-genius Tom Swift than any rational flesh-and-blood adult charged with making important policy decisions. Maize recounts the dizzying heights of this group’s collective hubris in dense but sobering detail. Not much of the United States’ more than 60 years of atomic history appears to escape his scrutiny or expertise, whether scientific or political. Sadly, this book may not find a large audience among general readers because much of the material is accessible to only the most informed energy specialists. However, the author’s catalogue of the wrongheaded notions involved in formulating U.S. energy policy to date is crucial knowledge for those tasked with forming American energy policy in the future. As the author poignantly demonstrates, U.S. scientists and policymakers still don’t know what to do with the mounds of nuclear waste piling up around the nation’s remaining nuclear power stations. Despite all this, he warns, the love affair with the atom persists.
An expert’s comprehensive, sobering investigation.