Nuclear Implosions: The Rise and Fall of the Washington Public Power Supply System

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Nuclear Implosions tells the story of a state government agency's failed attempt in the 1970s to build five large nuclear power stations in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Facing huge cost overruns and long construction delays, the agency completed only one plant and found itself unable to repay a $2.25 billion of municipal bonds. These projects reflect the tangled relationships between American nuclear power and nuclear weaponry, the emerging era of limits, and the nation's troubled attempts to resolve conflicts through complex legal cases.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Nuclear Implosions is a major achievement. The rise and fall of the Washington Public Power Supply System sheds valuable perspective on the United States of the 1970s and 1980s. Yet the technological, economic, bureaucratic, and administrative dimensions of the story are truly complex. Daniel Pope has mastered those angles splendidly in Nuclear Implosions. He clarifies, and makes intriguing, some very intricate material. More than that, he connects financial, administrative, and legal details to major currents in recent U.S. history. He draws upon the thinking of economists and organizational theorists and political scientists, all the while telling a sophisticated and lucid history. He routinely comes up with the telling anecdote, the ideal case study, and the brief biographical sketch in order to illuminate his broader themes and advance the narrative. In sum, Nuclear Implosions is very artfully written, skillfully researched, and thoughtfully conceptualized. It makes good sense out of a formidable yet crucial topic."
-John M. Findlay,University of Washington, Seattle

"This masterful and beautifully written book integrates many different stories: of the disastrous nationwide mistake during the 1960s in overestimating the future demand for electricity; of the 'Greed Decade' of the 1980s; of the extreme difficulty of building consensus on public projects among diverse constituencies—business, labor, and governments at all levels; and, above all, of the perils of nuclear power plants. Daniel Pope's triumph is to fuse all of these topics—each daunting in itself—into a dramatic narrative that turns what appears to be a local story of the Pacific Northwest into a parable of universal significance. As the desperate worldwide quest for 'clean' energy moves policymakers once more toward nuclear power, Pope's meticulously researched account (he leaves no stone unturned) becomes a cautionary tale of both national and international significance."
-Tom McCraw, Straus Professor of Business History Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history

"Professor Pope's superb book tells the important story of how an entire region was seduced by the promise of cheap, abundant electricity from nuclear power plants, only to watch the promise steadily unravel into a morass of mismanagement, bad decisions, and billions of dollars of public debt. The history of the nuclear gamble in the Pacific Northwest is an important story for that region, where electricity ratepayers continue to pay off bonds that were sold for plants that were never built. But it is even more important for the rest of the country. Over the next half century, nuclear energy will be offered up as a seductive path away from the nation's dependence on the fossil fuel energy system. Prof. Pope's book is a warning as to how dangerous that path may be if we fail to heed the mistakes of the past."
-John Shurts, General Counsel, Northwest Power and Conservation Council

"Pope informs his narrative with well-documented references..." -Julie Cohn, H-Energy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521179744
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/4/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Pope (b. 1946, Ph.D. Columbia University, 1973) is an American historian teaching at the University of Oregon since
1975. Pope is the author of The Making of Modern Advertising (1983), the editor of American Radicalism (2001) and many articles and reviews on the history of advertising, marketing, and consumer culture. Pope was the Harvard-Newcomen Postdoctoral Fellow in Business History at Harvard Business School (1980-1981), held two Fulbright Senior Lecturer positions (University of Rome, 1996, Copenhagen Business School, 2004) and received the University of Oregon's Burlington-Northern Distinguished Teaching Award in 1989.

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Table of Contents

1. Background to fiasco; 2. WPPSS steps forward; 3. The next wave; 4. The construction morass; 5. Collapse; 6. Endgame; 7. Running toward an uncertain future.

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