Synopses & Reviews
From the moment radiation was discovered in the late nineteenth century, nuclear science has had a rich history of innovative scientific exploration and discovery, coupled with mistakes, accidents, and downright disasters.
Mahaffey, a long-time advocate of continued nuclear research and nuclear energy, looks at each incident in turn and analyzes what happened and why, often discovering where scientists went wrong when analyzing past meltdowns.
Every incident has lead to new facets in understanding about the mighty atom—and Mahaffey puts forth what the future should be for this final frontier of science that still holds so much promise.
"Mahaffey (Atomic Awakening), a former senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, employs his extensive knowledge of nuclear engineering to produce a volume that is by turns alarming, thought-provoking, humorous, and always fascinating. He begins his mostly chronological work in the era before nuclear power was even imagined, when the engineering community's greatest fear was steam engine boiler explosions a fear that has carried through to the design of nuclear power plants to this day. Between his accounts of early boiler explosions and the big three nuclear disasters of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, Mahaffey covers an array of mishaps and blunders, nearly all attributable to human error. This history reminds us that the first two people 'to die accidentally of acute radiation poisoning,' Haroutune Daghlian and Louis Slotin, both died conducting criticality experiments by hand on the same sphere of plutonium. More pointedly, despite the anxiety generated by disasters and media hype, fossil fuel power generation can be directly linked to 4,000 times more deaths than nuclear power, and contributes heavily to global climate change. Mahaffey's goal is not to alarm or titillate but to underscore that there is a steep learning curve in understanding these disasters and that they are a natural consequence of increasing our knowledge of nuclear engineering." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Past praise for James Mahaffey
Persuasive and based on deep research, Atomic Awakening taught me a great deal." Nature
"Atomic Awakening provides the most complete history of nuclear power, nuclear weapons and nuclear energy development I have ever read in a single book." Nuclear Street
"The book aids in the understanding of how atomic science is far from the spawn of a wicked weapons program and how nuclear power will shape the twenty-first century." Nuclear News
"Mahaffey writes with delightful witty prose. A surprisingly entertaining history of nuclear power." Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
" More pointedly, despite the anxiety generated by disasters and media hype, fossil fuel power generation can be directly linked to 4,000 times more deaths than nuclear power, and contributes heavily to global climate change. " Publishers Weekly
"Mahaffey guides us through more than a century of atomic research, including misadventures with radioactive elixirs and long-forgotten accidents along with show-stoppers such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Mahaffey quickly identifies each accident's turning points, and argues for a return to smaller reactors, reasoning that accidents are inevitable, so they had best be small. He extols the virtues of safe designs such as the thorium molten-salt reactor. " Nature
"Part detective story, part documentary, part diabolical murder mystery, James Mahaffey's latest non-fiction thriller, details the mistakes associated with all sorts of atomic devices, designs and decisions gone awry. is essential reading for anyone curious about the inherent intricacies involved with unstable atomic reactors, how they got that way and what should be done about them. Travel back through time and relive the history of the nuclear timeline with the inimitable Dr. Mahaffey as your competent guide. " Nuclear Street
"It's weird and fun, a rather technical compendium of nuclear mishaps that appears to have been tweaked by Ziggy Stardust for maximum weirdness: clueless hunters wandering into caves teeming with radon-222, fervid dreams of nuclear jets, reactors bucking like steeds unused to human contact. ... Mahaffey, a nuclear engineer, keeps things appropriately dramatic. ... Truly valuable." Newsweek
A gripping narrative of nuclear mishaps and meltdowns around the globe, all of which have proven pivotal to the advancement of nuclear science.
About the Author
James Mahaffey was a senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute where he worked under contract for