UNDER THE CLOUD: The Decades of Nuclear Testing by Richard L. Miller

UNDER THE CLOUD: The Decades of Nuclear Testing

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A chilling documentary history of America's above-ground nuclear tests conducted during the 1950's and early 1960's. Miller takes on the same subject as in the recent Justice Downwind by Howard Ball (p. 98) and universalizes it, at the same time giving it the flavor of a Dos Passos novel. Like Bob Dylan's ""A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall,"" a hard rain already has fallen, bringing with it nuclear debris across the continental United States. Miller begins with the familiar history of atomic development, from the earliest physicists to the beginnings of the Atomic Energy Commission and its selection of a 1,360 square-mile section of the Nevada desert for weapons testing. After this prelude, he then goes into a test-by-test history, monotonous in general, but starkly terrifying in the particular. To take one of those, in 1954 RKO was shooting The Conqueror only 12 miles from St. George, Utah, a prime downwind site. Within 25 years, the main stars--Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, and John Wayne--as well as director Dick Powell--were all dead of cancer. In fact, of a cast and crew of 220, fully 91 had developed carcinomas; this is triple the expected rate for any group. There were times, in fact, that scientists estimated that had a thunderstorm visited St. George after a particular test, at least half of the population would have died of radiation exposure. An appendix details the trajectory of radioactive clouds after each test. Miller lists each town over which the clouds blew. Doubtless, each reader will be able to locate their own hometown or one nearby in this lengthy list. Scary stuff.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
ISBN: 1881043053
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan