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This is a political history of nuclear weapons from the discovery of fission in 1938 to the nuclear train wreck that seems to loom in our future. It is an account of where those weapons came from, how the technology surprisingly and covertly spread, and who is likely to acquire those weapons next and most importantly why.
The authors’ examination of post Cold War national and geopolitical issues regarding nuclear proliferation and the effects of Chinese sponsorship of the Pakistani program is eye opening. The reckless “nuclear weapons programs for sale” exporting of technology by Pakistan is truly chilling, as is the on-again off-again North Korean nuclear weapons program.
Reed (former secretary of the air force) has joined with veteran Los Alamos physicist Stillman to write a complement to his earlier At the Abyss: An Insider's History of the Cold War. This book illustrates how nuclear technology and scientific knowledge was developed and distributed according to decisions made within fluctuating global geopolitical contexts. Even "peaceful" research and energy programs can be easily co-opted for military uses. While radical Islamic fundamentalism is clearly a dangerous threat to a weakened America, the authors emphasize how an ambitious and rising China has been quick to aid proliferation in its bid to become the world's leading power. Most important is the human element-who decides to use the weapons and why-and this is not always predictable or preventable. It is all very alarming, no doubt what the authors intended. Suitable for academic and public libraries. (Index not seen.)
Younger's book follows logically from his earlier Endangered Species: How We Can Avoid Mass Destruction and Build a Lasting Peace. Younger certainly knows the high-level policy issues, having been a former director of the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency. He wants to dispel dangerous myths and inform the debate about the role of nuclear weapons. So while he adds some interesting details to the standard nuclear history of the world, the key chapters are about defense against attack, maintaining our forces, and what the future might bring; these chapters could have been even longer at the expense of the history chapters. Younger believes that nuclear weapons will always be with us, certainly as a deterrent to other countries, and that we should modernizeour forces to make them safer and less vulnerable. According to the author, there is no bibliography or reference notes in the interest of fairness and security. Suitable for academic and public libraries. (Index not seen.)
Tucker, a former nuclear engineer aboard the submarine U.S.S. Alabama, gives us two stories. The first is about the explosion of army nuclear reactor SL-1, probably caused by poor design, maintenance, performance, and procedures, that killed three men in Idaho on January 3, 1961. More importantly, he describes the development of nuclear power from experimental reactors to practical applications for military purposes, with small and powerful designs. There are interesting details about fantastically expensive (and dangerous) proposals for nuclear-powered bombers and an extensive mobile missile system under the Arctic ice, but the centerpiece of the book is a project tightly managed by Adm. Hyman Rickover that led to nuclear submarines and surface ships, now the core of the U.S. Navy. The Cold War was just the bitter context; desperate bureaucratic infighting and program survival at times seemed more important to the Pentagon brass. This is interesting scientific and administrative military history, though the SL-1 event is covered more extensively in William McKeown's Idaho Falls: The Untold Story of America's First Nuclear Accident. Suitable for academic and large public libraries. (Index not seen.) All three books convey the message that we must maintain constant vigilance, though Reed and Stillman deliver the best work.