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Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters: From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  882 Ratings  ·  109 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
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Hardcover, 460 pages
Published February 15th 2014 by Pegasus Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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(showing 1-30)
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Nick Black
marvelous! each year brings a new body of pop-nuke printed material, most of it rehashed and a good deal of it wrong. the discerning criticality fetishist is lucky to find a single good book among the dreck. last year's was Schlosser's Command and Control. this year we get Atomic Accidents. too much alliteration.

i knew the basic facts about most of the events in this book (though the history of arranged train collisions was news to me, and delightful), but only because i'm a freak who's familiar
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Peter Mcloughlin
I am a very liberal person. My views are probably far to the left of anyone who has been in the White House. One point of disharmony between myself and my political compatriots is on Nuclear Power. I think the promise of nuclear power is great and I think its critics concerns about safety are overblown. This book is a detailed exploration of the dangers of nuclear power and the ways things can go wrong with it. The public is fearful of radiation contamination and indeed radiation is harmful. Th ...more
Kazen
Oct 05, 2014 Kazen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long time since I've read non-fiction that kept drawing me back to see "what happens next" but Atomic is totally that book.

The subject matter helps - nearly every recorded radiological mishap and disaster, both famous and little-known. There are caves of death in the Ozark Mountains circa 1880, radium paint that killed dozens, World War II, Three Mile Island, and of course Fukushima Daiichi. Mahaffey leads us through each, carefully explaining isotopes and reactions in ways that neit
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The Haunted Reading Room 2017 - Year of Lovecraft
I totally loved this book, which sounds odd considering the topic; but it is so educational, diligently researched, and well-written that it is actually entertaining. As a child of the Korean Conflict and Cold War, anything atomic has always been a hot topic of intrigue for me. The author's research has been exceptionally wide-ranging, and I feel as if I've just finished a year's university course in the topic; that's how much I've learned.
Edward
Apr 12, 2014 Edward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book was fascinating, thorough, and a keeper. Read this with "Command and Control" if you want a complete look at accidents involving nuclear technology on both civilian and military sides. The recounting of early work and experiments with radioactivity was compelling in a gruesome, morbid way.
Atila Iamarino
O livro abre anunciando que é uma versão moderna da colisão de trens, aquele acidente que desperta um misto de curiosidade mórbida e admiração pelo tamanho da desgraça. E entrega bem.

Passa pela descoberta de alguns tipos de radiação, dos testes que o Tesla fez, das operárias que molhavam pincéis com rádio na boca, até o desenvolvimento da tecnologia de fissão. Tanto para guerra quanto para a produção de energia.

Foi um livro que me fez ficar contando as histórias para a esposa, de tão curiosas. A
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Hiawatha Bray
Mar 08, 2014 Hiawatha Bray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At once highly technical and highly entertaining, this history of nuclear accidents comes from a guy who, like me, is a fan of nuclear power. But he's not blind to its flaws or to the inevitable failings of the humans who operate nuke plants. Fans of technology history books will love this one.
Teejay
Oct 09, 2014 Teejay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rarely can consider a non-fiction book as five stars (though many get to 4.5, GR does not allow that classification so I round-down).

This is a five-star book. With sincerely-hefty credentials and a vast bibliography of reference material, Mahaffey lays down an absolute page-turner for anyone interested in atomic accidents, failure mode analysis, design analysis, cold-war psychology, and the human proclivity to "Foxtrot Unicorn". His command of radiological chemistry is impeccable, and he write
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Ralph
May 25, 2016 Ralph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, kindle
5.0 out of 5 - Well researched and captivating. A must read for physics aficionados.

If you have an interest in atomic energy, you will probably have a hard time putting this book down. Filled with numerous detailed accounts of the development of atomic technology, accidents involving nuclear energy, and beginning with staged train wrecks (yes, non-atomic train wrecks), Dr. Mahaffey has done an outstanding job weaving a narrative for the non-technical person filled with lots and lots of technica
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Rebecca
Apr 13, 2014 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, atomic
I greatly enjoyed this book. This book covers accidents and incidents involving nuclear power in the US and other countries. It covers major events, like the SL-1 explosion, as well as other events that are generally unknown. The author is witty and sarcastic. I really enjoyed his comments in the numerous footnotes. You will be shocked at how little regard was given to the safe disposal of reactors and radioactive debris in the early days. This book is important and informative and reveals just ...more
Greg Williams
Jun 08, 2014 Greg Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me, this was an interesting book. It can be a bit technical and repetitive. But that was kind of the point. It is amazing how reckless we have been when researching nuclear fission. And this book shows that we often have made the same mistakes over and over again when trying to perfect nuclear reactors. It turns out that there have been a lot more accidents than Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. And that's what made it the most interesting to me.

BTW if you are dealing with nuclear reactive ma
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Jon Josserand
Jul 06, 2014 Jon Josserand rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing compendium of accidents and mishaps involving nuclear energy in the laboratories, nuclear fuel mining and fabrication, civil nuclear power plants, and the stewardship of nuclear weapons by the military. I previously I knew of a few of these, and assumed I knew of most of them. I was wrong by a wide mark. This is a straightforward book, which starts with the dangers inherit in the steam industry, and proceeds forward into the early scientific research of nuclear power, then into the mi ...more
Jani-Petri
Mar 11, 2014 Jani-Petri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative book by an engineer who knows his stuff. Goes through all major (and some minor) screw-ups in painful detail. I consider myself to be fairly well informed on these things, but this book taught me a lot.
Andrea
May 27, 2014 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyable and informative, though still a challenge that only complicates my understanding and opinions about nuclear energy. The footnotes were often the best part.
Paul
Aug 21, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up on Monday, it was listed on BookBub as being available from Amazon for my Kindle, for $1.99! It is easily worth the regular price of $13.99. The author breaks down most known accidents, mishaps,, and mishandling of of nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants, and nuclear technology. What makes this book different is that the author is a pro advocate of. The nuclear power, but breaks down what went wrong, how it went wrong, what should or could have been done differently,, and ...more
Kyle Bunkers
I was very impressed with both the writing, writing style, and information present in this book. It presents a good story about a good sample of the atomic accidents throughout the past ~150 years. The author gives a good discussion of what went wrong, defining things as need be, without getting overly technical, and making sure to keep the story interesting with the "human" element to the story. I would definitely recommend this, as while the author is "pro-nuclear", he gives an even-headed unb ...more
Victor Goodman
May 19, 2014 Victor Goodman rated it it was amazing
Who knew ? Well everyone in 1905-20. Radium was the thing. Mineral water was great because it contained radon; they didn't know that but it sure felt good. "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger". The author doesn't believe this but many Americans do--it is the basis of homeopathic medicine. The author is a great storyteller. There are at least a hundred scary stories in this book. I really like his use of slang and vivid descriptions of desperate actions as operators try to outthink the ...more
Elaine Bennington
Oct 14, 2014 Elaine Bennington rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wondered--now I see.

"atomic accidents" was a book I picked up on kindle almost as a Halloween story fest and I wish to be forgiven by the author. even though it is complicated reading, I could not put it down. Well written and even humorous in spots (like gallows humor), the book is a history of atomic fission, both bombs and reactors. it is a must-read for those of us who have worried about this issue and who yet know we must do away with coal plants. excellent writing from a real insider fr
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Dean Orfield
Feb 15, 2015 Dean Orfield rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, accessible, objective and informational. I started the book cautiously--somewhat ignorantly--supportive of nuclear power, then midway thru thought we (continue to be) way out of our depth. By the end...I'd say there's room for discussion and progress if approached in a more open and rational way. This is the kind of work that can give fans and opponents alike information to rethink their position. Nuclear energy seems to be broadly thought of as a single technology, but reality is m ...more
Pam Thomas
Apr 09, 2014 Pam Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: atomic-accidents
Its about radiation and how mistakes, accidents , disasters together with scientific explorations and in depth analysis of each incident. What happened and why, this book is on the final frontier of discovering what the future holds for radiation that holds so much promise. Its an intense book and I learnt a lot about atomic accidents and why they happen, too often because scientist analyse past meltdowns wrongly.
Luis Brudna
Sep 20, 2014 Luis Brudna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
A excessiva quantidade de detalhes sobre a engenharia das usinas nucleares que apresentaram problemas deixaram o livro arrastado.
Acho que histórias sobre acidentes precisam ter uma boa velocidade da narração dos eventos para simular o nível de stress da situação real. Os detalhes do que aconteceu poderiam aparecer depois da descrição do acidente.
Também senti falta do acidente em Goiânia.
(ouvi a versão em inglês)
Sarah
Phenomenal book. One of the best this year. And unlike some of the other related books I've read, this one is written by someone who understands all the physics (he's worked in the field for decades). Although he is fairly detailed about the physics, it's _so_ well written. My only "gripe" is that this book is so information dense that I'm going to HAVE to reread this one. Oh darn!

Update: and now I have! It was just as good the second time.
Chris
Jun 10, 2014 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is just so incredibly good. Mahaffey covers the entire history of atomic accidents in explicit detail about the causes. He often dives into numerically detailing what the reactor was doing and radioactivity released, not to mention much more detail about the isotopes being created than other accounts I've read.

A must-read for the pro- and anti-nuclear people interested in the subject.
Carolyn
Sep 03, 2014 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This is an interesting and well written book. This is a highly entertaining and interesting book about the history of nuclear accidents both in the military and private sector.

Don't miss the footnotes which are as informative and entertaining as the rest of the book.

I will be reading this one again.
Heather Anderson
Precisely what went wrong during every nuclear accident in history. Like a textbook. I loved reading this. What was the first accident in a civilian nuclear reactor? Santa Susanna (turn to page 193). The best part is at the end where the author shows how different forms of nuclear reactors than are currently in use can be safer and more efficient.
Joseph
Jul 30, 2014 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well-written, interesting and even entertaining which is a difficult task for such a serious subject. It provided a very decent education on nuclear power itself as well as numerous accidents. I mark this down as one that I will read again.
Larry
Aug 05, 2014 Larry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If this subject was not so seriously important. I would list this as a comedy. You can see the train wreck coming and just wonder what were they thinking.
Stephen Powell
Apr 06, 2014 Stephen Powell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this. Thought he did a good job explaining some of the complicated science in a simple fashion.
Drew Lackovic
Dec 11, 2015 Drew Lackovic rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a super interesting book. I really enjoyed every second of it.
Elizabeth
Mar 26, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable, fascinating book with extremely lucid descriptions of both the chemical processes and operating environments of nuclear reactors.
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Dr. James Mahaffey was senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute and has worked at the Defense Nuclear Agency, the National Ground Intelligence Center, and the Air Force Air Logistics Center, focusing on nuclear power, nano-technology, and cold fusion.
(Bio from publisher)
More about James Mahaffey...

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“As long as nuclear engineering can strive for new innovations and learn from its history of accidents and mistakes, the benefits that nuclear power can yield for our economy, society, and yes, environment, will come.” 1 likes
“Every unmeasured system is assumed to be critical. It is the same as finding a pistol sitting on a table. Assume that it is cocked and loaded.” 1 likes
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