A Nuclear Family Vacation: Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry [NOOK Book]


In A Nuclear Family Vacation, husband-and-wife journalists Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger hit the road to explore the secretive world of nuclear weaponry. Weaving together first-class travel writing and crack investigative journalism, the pair pursues both adventures and answers: Why are nuclear weapons still on hair-trigger alert? Is there really such a thing as a suitcase nuke? And which nuclear power plants are most likely to be covers for weapons programs? Their itinerary takes them from the Semipalatinsk...

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A Nuclear Family Vacation: Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry

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In A Nuclear Family Vacation, husband-and-wife journalists Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger hit the road to explore the secretive world of nuclear weaponry. Weaving together first-class travel writing and crack investigative journalism, the pair pursues both adventures and answers: Why are nuclear weapons still on hair-trigger alert? Is there really such a thing as a suitcase nuke? And which nuclear power plants are most likely to be covers for weapons programs? Their itinerary takes them from the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan to the U.S.'s own top-secret "Site R," opening a unique perspective on the world's vast nuclear infrastructure and the international politics at play behind it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

With the end of the Cold War, a drastically downsized nuclear weapons establishment has suffered an antiapocalypse—missile silos abandoned and crumbling, shell-shocked industry survivors bereft of a reason to go on. In this adventure in "nuclear tourism," the husband-and-wife authors, both defense journalists, poke through the rubble for signs of life. Their itinerary includes deserted test sites in Nevada and Kazakhstan; a West Virginia hotel whose basement conceals a blast-proof bunker once intended to house Congress; an Iranian uranium-processing facility; and an active missile-launch site in Wyoming. They interview weapon scientists and generals to understand why aging nuclear arsenals are retained and revamped without a rival superpower, and uncover a gamut of rationales: national paranoia in Russia, at the Pentagon mystifying world-is-flat globalization theory. Framing this inquiry as a travelogue is a bit gimmicky: nuclear installations are functional, drab and unevocative, so for color the authors often fall back on Borat-esque culture-clash comedy or the absurdist security rigmaroles they endure. But they do convey an acute sense of the incoherence of latter-day nuclear strategizing. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
An unlikely itinerary for WarGames addicts, with bonuses for geopolitics buffs as well. Wired contributor Weinberger (Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld, 2006) and Jane's Defence Weekly contributor Hodge haven't exactly hit on a new idea with this tour of nuclear facilities of the Cold War and the present; fellow journalists Tad Bartimus and Scott McCartney scooped them in 1991 with Trinity's Children: Living Along America's Nuclear Highway. The older book remains readable and oddly entertaining, as is the newcomer, which has many virtues of its own. Not least, and perhaps most newsworthy, is the authors' "nuclear junketeering" trip to Iran, a nation whose nuclear history, they smartly observe, "was not always that of a pariah state." Indeed, back when the shah was in power-all the way back to Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace initiative-America was glad to see Iran develop nuclear facilities, even supplying a research reactor that went online in 1967. By 1976, the authors add, Iran was projected to have 20 nuclear plants, a development stymied by unrest and revolution that, perhaps ironically, delayed the country's nuclear growth for decades. That was then; now Condoleezza Rice huffs that "Iran needs no civil nuclear power." These are weird times indeed, and this travelogue takes readers into some of the weirder corners, including Wyoming missile silos and the nation's premier nuclear museum, in which one exhibit boasts two seemingly contradictory messages: one that nukes aren't scary, "while also demonstrating that nuclear weapons weren't terrifying enough to make anyone think twice about using them." Weirdest, perhaps, is the authors' venture toSiberia, where plenty of old-school hard-liners are still eager to lob a few ICBMs our way. The authors write with intelligence and good humor, though they end on a disquieting note: The last president to spend much time thinking about nuclear weapons was Reagan. Meanwhile, we're sitting atop "a nuclear arsenal that serves many purposes, but no particular end."A vacation for some, a nightmare for others. Either way, well worth reading. Agent: Michelle Tessler/Tessler Literary Agency
From the Publisher
“The perfect book for armchair travel…More important than the Cold War nostalgia are the authors' insights into current nuclear policy… Hodge and Weinberger's guided tour of the atomic world reminds us of the important questions that aren't being asked.”—Santa Fe New Mexican

“For offbeat vacations, however, it would be hard to master the husband and wife team of Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger who plotted a family trip around sites in the United States related to our country's Cold War history and current nuclear-weapons facilities.”—Washington Times

“[Hodge and Weinberger] succeed admirably in reminding us that nuclear weapons have "never really gone away" and in calling attention to the crucial public debates that are not taking place. The questions they pose are significant and overdue; the answers they receive unsettling…They remind us that the purpose and future of our nuclear arsenal are too important to be left to those whose jobs remain dependent upon its perpetuation.”—Chicago Tribune

A Nuclear Family Vacation is an eye-opening read for anyone who thinks that nuclear weapons are a thing of the past.”—Nerve

“How are you spending your next holiday? Tired of the same old thing? You might want to pick a different destination from A Nuclear Family Vacation, a new book and travel guide by veteran defence reporters Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger. This husband-and-wife team take the reader on a rapid, darkly comic tour of nuclear weapons sites across the world. A rare achievement in a nuclear policy book, their narrative demystifies an intimidating topic for a broad audience without sacrificing substance. Instead of pontificating on thermonuclear war, Hodge and Weinberger give us an eye-level view, often through their car window…the book sparkles with anecdotes and insights. It is well worth the trip.”—Nature

“Some people trek to Machu Picchu, some dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Those of us interested in nuclear issues visit the monuments and precincts of the Bomb. Such are husband-and-wife journalists Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger.”—New Scientist

“In A Nuclear Family Vacation, a husband-and-wife duo of Washington, DC-based defense reporters takes a journey deep into the nation's nuclear weapons complex. But wait—this turns out to be a surprisingly fun road trip.”—Mother Jones

“In this off-the-uncontaminated-path adventure, Sharon Weinberger and Nathan Hodge make nuclear vacationing seem fun, in a weirdly exhilarating way. They are the slightly obsessed tour guides holding the microphones at the front of the security-cleared bus. Together, the experts lead us across a neglected, mismanaged, and forgotten past, pointing out the history of doomsday weaponry along the way. A Nuclear Family Vacation is a shocking reminder that the Cold War isn’t over; it’s just transformed into something else that we don’t have a name for yet.”—Robert Sullivan, author of Cross Country and Rats

“A vacation for some, a nightmare for others. Either way, well worth reading.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Exhibiting dark humor, defense journalists Hodge and Weinberger take a tour of America’s nuclear-weapons infrastructure, visiting labs, plants, bunkers, missile silos, and ground zeros of nuclear explosions.”—Booklist

“In this adventure in ‘nuclear tourism,’ the husband-and-wife authors…convey an acute sense of the incoherence of latter-day nuclear strategizing.”—Publishers Weekly

“Nuclear tourism is an effective and interesting way of canvassing issues we face today. Reading A Nuclear Family Vacation is a good way to learn more about the history of nuclear weapons and become conversant with our current situation. Hodge and Weinberger have done the legwork to back up their common-sense conclusions.”—Defense Technology International

“Underlying their journey into our nuclear past is an earnest and thoughtful discussion of our nuclear present—and future…They identify a troubling lack of a cohesive national nuclear policy and remark that “much of the infrastructure supporting nuclear weapons continues to exist merely because no one has come up with a compelling reason to shut it down.” One can imagine an updated version of A Nuclear Family Vacation in which the two visit sites in Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, Israel, Russia, France, Great Britain, and heaven knows where else. The itinerary is not as finite as one would like; in fact, it seems to be growing. But there would be some comfort in having these sober and subtle observers as our guides.”—Bookforum

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608196692
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 2/15/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Nathan Hodge is a Washington DC-based writer for Jane's Defence Weekly. A frequent contributor to Slate, he has reported extensively from Afghanistan, Iraq and the former Soviet Union. His work has appeared in the Financial Times, Foreign Policy and Details, as well as many other newspapers and magazines.

Sharon Weinberger is a contributing writer for Wired's national security blog, DANGER ROOM. She is the author of Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld and her writing on national security and science has appeared in the Washington Post Magazine, Slate, Nature and Discover.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: How to Be an Armageddon Tourist 1

1 Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: A Visit to the Nevada Test Site 13

2 When Knowledge Is an Endangered Thing: Travels Through New Mexico's Nuclear Landscape 30

3 Wicked Things: Exploring the Future of Nuclear Weapons at Sandia and Livermore 48

4 Home Brew: Uncovering the Secrets of Uranium Production in Tennessee 67

5 Where's the Big Board?: Searching for Strategery in Nebraska 86

6 A Cow Runs Through It: Visiting Missile Silos in the Great Plains 106

7 How We Learned to Stop Worrying About the Bomb in Pennsylvania: The Rebirth of Site R, the Government's Secret Nuclear Bunker 131

8 Rocket City, USA: Huntsville's Space Odyssey 157

9 Fantasy Island: Vacationing in the Marshall Islands 178

10 Take Me to Your One-Eyed Baby: Promoting Nuclear Tourism in Kazakhstan 203

11 Barbarians at the Gate: In Search of Russia's Secret Nuclear Cities 226

12 Got Nukes?: Nuclear Junketeering in Iran 249

Epilogue: Next Year in North Korea 275

Notes 287

Select Bibliography 301

Appendix A Beginner's Guide to Nuclear Tourism 305

Acknowledgments 309

Index 311

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 3, 2011

    A critical review mixed with great story telling. A must read!

    Hodge and Weinberger cast a weather eye across the landscape of the post cold war nuclear complex. Their observations and insight humanize the keepers of the nuclear kingdom. Great story telling mixes the history of the cold war with the realities of modern politics. This is a must read for the arm chair nuclear tourist who wants a glimps behind the curtain without dusting off their passport.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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