Atomic Awakening: A New Look at the History and Future of Nuclear Power

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Overview

“Persuasive and based on deep research. Atomic Awakening taught me a great deal."—Nature
The American public's introduction to nuclear technology was manifested in destruction and death. With Hiroshima and the Cold War still ringing in our ears, our perception of all things nuclear is seen through the lens of weapons development. Nuclear power is full of mind-bending theories, deep secrets, and the misdirection of public consciousness, some deliberate, some accidental. The result of this fixation on bombs and ...
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Atomic Awakening: A New Look at the History and Future of Nuclear Power

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Overview

“Persuasive and based on deep research. Atomic Awakening taught me a great deal."—Nature
The American public's introduction to nuclear technology was manifested in destruction and death. With Hiroshima and the Cold War still ringing in our ears, our perception of all things nuclear is seen through the lens of weapons development. Nuclear power is full of mind-bending theories, deep secrets, and the misdirection of public consciousness, some deliberate, some accidental. The result of this fixation on bombs and fallout is that the development of a non-polluting, renewable energy source stands frozen in time.
Outlining nuclear energy's discovery and applications throughout history, Mahaffey's brilliant and accessible book is essential to understanding the astounding phenomenon of nuclear power in an age where renewable energy and climate change have become the defining concerns of the twenty-first century.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For many people, the idea of nuclear power died with the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, but for the curious and open-minded, this book offers a timely look at nuclear technology that, the author argues, could provide plenty of cheap, renewable energy, if only we can get past our oversized dread of it. Mahaffey's history lesson begins along a familiar path, from 17th-century chemist Robert Boyle to the great 20th-century physicists. Nazism and WWII sent hundreds of scientists—and their cutting-edge work—to the U.S. But the war also sent that research underground in the ultra-secret Manhattan Project. Researchers also dreamed of “peaceful atoms” to generate electricity and run submarines, planes and rockets. The specters of Hiroshima and a few horrifying nuclear accidents displaced that peaceful vision. With a wealth of anecdotes, Mahaffey, a senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, offers hope leavened with pragmatism that, while nuclear technology may “be experimental forever,” it can still be useful and safe. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
A surprisingly entertaining history of nuclear power. Georgia Tech Research Institute senior scientist Mahaffey begins with the discovery of radiation in the 1890s but concentrates on the period after World War II, when the great powers took time out from building bombs to explore peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The narrative's hero is U.S. Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover, the "Father of the Nuclear Navy," whose reactor design for the nuclear submarine emphasized safety and sturdiness over cost. Aside from nations that wanted to build cheaply, such as the Soviet Union, Rickover's design became the standard. Ending around 1963, the "Age of Wild Experimentation" included failed attempts to dig canals, drive spaceships (a good idea, according to the author) and propel jet bombers (a horrifying radiation-drenched Air Force project narrated by Mahaffey with laugh-out-loud irony). The author emphasizes that, in the absence of a breakthrough in solar, wind or fusion technology, nuclear power remains the sole practical source of clean energy. While France generates 87.5 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, the United States reached 20 percent in the late '70s and stalled-money, not fear of radiation, was largely responsible. Despite enthusiastic claims after WWII, generating electricity from the atom is no bargain, and once the U.S. government stopped subsidizing nuclear plants, utilities companies remembered that American coal is the world's cheapest source of power. Global warming and rising hydrocarbon costs took their toll, and in 2007, after a 30-year absence, U.S. regulators received the first of a stream of applications to build a nuclear plant. Mahaffey writes delightfully wittyprose, delivers clear explanations of technical problems and takes no prisoners in his description of clueless politicians, technology-challenged military leaders, madcap engineers and self-righteous antinuclear activists. Agent: Jodie Rhodes/Jodie Rhodes Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605981277
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 10/15/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

James Mahaffey was a senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute where he worked under contract forthe Defense Nuclear Agency, the National Ground
Intelligence Center,the Air Force Air Logistics Center, and Georgia
Power Company,focusing on reactor safety systems, non-linear analysis,
anddigital systems design. He is the author of Atomic Awakening andlives in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Atomic Awakening

    Atomic Awakening
    I learned that nuclear powerplants are way safer than I thought possible. I enjoyed the auther, James Mahaffey's easy-flow writing style. Perhaps my background as a high school physics teacher infuenced my interest in this book, but I also loved the parts where he tied in Google Earth images to places he described in his book. Beware the Lat/Long in footnote No. 234 Page 332 has the first two numbers of the latitude reversed for the location of the "Lethal Fence" north of Atlanta, Georgia. You really can see the outline 60 years later in the forest! - from Goodreads.com

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    WITTY, COMPELLING, TIMELY

    Anyone interested in the energy crisis -- our increasing need for energy vs dependence on foreign oil and environmental concerns -- should read this book. I learned that most of what I thought I knew about nuclear power is based on a lack of understanding of the facts, or even a lack of exposure to them. This is a brilliant summary of a complex topic. Any intelligent reader can follow this fascinating history and the author's conclusions. Whether you agree or disagree, you will learn a great deal.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

    Very good overall

    Very interesting series of stories covering weapons development and early reactor design. Less material on modern design efforts and safety features than I hoped for.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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