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Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock That Shaped the World
Synopses & Reviews
The fascinating story of the most powerful source of energy the earth can yield
Uranium is a common element in the earth's crust and the only naturally occurring mineral with the power to end all life on the planet. After World War II, it reshaped the global order-whoever could master uranium could master the world.
Marie Curie gave us hope that uranium would be a miracle panacea, but the Manhattan Project gave us reason to believe that civilization would end with apocalypse. Slave labor camps in Africa and Eastern Europe were built around mine shafts and America would knowingly send more than six hundred uranium miners to their graves in the name of national security.
Fortunes have been made from this yellow dirt; massive energy grids have been run from it. Fear of it panicked the American people into supporting a questionable war with Iraq and its specter threatens to create another conflict in Iran. Now, some are hoping it can help avoid a global warming catastrophe.
In Uranium, Tom Zoellner takes readers around the globe in this intriguing look at the mineral that can sustain life or destroy it.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Journeying to such far-flung sites as Congo's Shinkolobwe uranium mine and a smuggling route along the Russian-Georgian border, Tom Zoellner examines how uranium has helped shape our recent history and could determine our future. His 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 — "a heroic war ender,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) a prophet of utopia that never arrived, a polluter, a slow killer, a waster of money, an enabler of failed states, a friend to terrorists, the possible bringer of Armageddon, an excuse for war with Iraq, an incitement for possible war in Iran, and now, too, a possible savior against global warming." Zoellner vividly conveys both the potential benefits and harm that uranium holds for human civilization. Although he dwells only briefly on the recent debate over whether to launch a renewed push for nuclear power — a negligence that is the book's biggest fault — policymakers and citizens alike need to read "Uranium." Juliet Eilperin is the national environmental reporter for The Washington Post. Reviewed by Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
The fascinating story of the substance that can sustain life--or destroy it--"Uranium" illustrates how the use of this mineral has shaped the modern world order.
The astonishing biography of a mineral that can sustain our world- or destroy it
Uranium occurs naturally in the earth's crust-yet holds the power to end all life on the planet. This is its fundamental paradox, and its story is a fascinating window into the valor, greed, genius, and folly of humanity. A problem for miners in the Middle Ages, an inspiration to novelists and a boon to medicine, a devastat­ing weapon at the end of World War II, and eventually a polluter, killer, excuse for war with Iraq, potential deliverer of Armageddon and a possible last defense against global warming-Uranium is the riveting story of the most powerful element on earth, and one which will shape our future, for better or worse.
About the Author
Tom Zoellner is a contributing editor at Men's Health magazine and has worked as a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, The Salt Lake Tribune, and The Arizona Republic. He is the 2002 recipient of the Knight Fellowship in specialized reporting.
Table of Contents
1. Scalding Fruit
3. The Bargain
5. Two Rushes
6. The Rainbow Serpent
Notes on Sources
What Our Readers Are Saying
History and Social Science » Military » Weapons » General