Few elements could warrant the claim of this subtitle, but uranium is indeed "the rock that shaped the world"; in fact, it's the only naturally occurring mineral that has the potential to end all life on our planet. From the climax of World War II to the present day, global power has been seized by those who have mastered the secrets of uranium and nuclear energy. Tom Zoellner's book serves as a biography of the most potent tool on earth. It begins with a minute mystery: the unexplained disappearance of a uranium deposit from an abandoned pit in Africa. Where it goes from there should concern you….
[Zoellner] lively prose carries the reader through physics and history lessons alike, never failing to remind us what's at stake when it comes to uranium…policymakers and citizens alike need to read Uranium.
The Washington Post
In this fine piece of journalism, Zoellnerdoes for uranium what he did for diamonds in The Heartless Stone-he delves into the complex science, politics and history of this radioactive mineral, which presents "the best and worst of mankind: the capacity for scientific progress and political genius; the capacity for nihilism, exploitation, and terror." Because Zoellner covers so much ground, from the discovery of radioactivity, through the development of the atomic bomb, he doesn't go into great depth on any one topic. Nonetheless, he superbly paints vivid pictures of uranium's impact, including forced labor in Soviet mines and lucky prospectors who struck it rich in harsh environments, the spread of uranium smuggling, as well as an explanation of why it was absurd to claim that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase significant quantities of uranium from Niger. The only shortcoming is Zoellner's omission of the issue of radioactive wastes generated by nuclear power-a significant problem given the possibility of a growing reliance on nuclear power. (Mar. 9)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Journalist and Men's Health contributing editor Zoellner follows up on his award-winning The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire with an equally intriguing investigation of the history of uranium development. He details the people, places, events, and science behind the pursuit of uranium for the first atomic bomb and the resulting arms races. Learn more about U-235, the Manhattan Project, Israeli scientist Ernst David Bergmann, African town and mine Shinkolobwe, plutonium, American explorer Charlie Steen, and pioneering journalist William L. Laurence. Writing for a general audience, the author weaves tales of espionage, science, and politics. Readers will be engaged by this story of the most powerful source of energy the earth can yield. Uranium is thought to be a friend to terrorists, a possible savior against global warming, and an element that has made millionaires while destroying the lives of millions. Complete with exhaustive notes for academic and general readers, this is recommended for every library.
Ian D. Gordon