Elaine Nelson's Reviews > Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock That Shaped the World

Uranium by Tom Zoellner
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Jun 08, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: environmentalism, history, non-fiction, politics, science, technology
Read in June, 2009

Excellent wide-ranging history of uranium. Less about the science -- and C notes that some of the science is over-simplified -- than about its meaning historically, particularly over the last 100 years.

Sort of chronologically organized, but often jumps from the historical moment in question (Manhattan Project, 70s, etc.) to the present day, or loops back to earlier sections. I didn't get lost very often, though, so I'd consider the technique successful.

Lots of weird anecdotes, which is exactly the sort of thing I like: the word "dollar" originated with the name of the town where uranium was first discovered (discovered probably not being quite the right word, but a useful simplification); 2/3 of the uranium for the first bomb came from a single mine in the Congo; when it was built, the Oak Ridge facility was the largest building on earth; a uranium enrichment facility was almost built in a town called Homer, etc., etc. Plus a rich cast of characters, particularly the nutty miners of the postwar period.

Ends on something of an up note for uranium-based power production, which is surprising to American ears, or at least mine...although after reading Science of Fear I'm maybe a bit less surprised. The science of assessing the hazards of nuclear power is probably a lot more complex than most people think.
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Reading Progress

06/03/2009 page 226
64.2% "Nice debunking of the Saddam-Niger yellowcake story. Already knew it was fake, but great detail. (France owns all of Niger's uranium, btw.)"

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