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Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters: From the…
de James Mahaffey
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Not a great overall narrative, but his writing is funny and the individual stories are all well told, with enough engineering and science to keep it informative. ( )
From the hubris of engineers to the foolishness of operators, this book is an easy-to-read and understand the history of the successes, failures and near misses of nuclear power generation, nuclear war-fighting, and the people involved.
Highly engaging, well written, and completely understandable by the average reader, Mr Mahaffey has done an admirable job of bringing the nuclear industry's mistakes to the regular reader.
Pretty disheartening to hear stories where the theme was a lack of understanding of how to prevent criticality was the cause. The desire to minimize training in order to reduce costs ended up costing everything; lives and entire power plants. All said, I'm still a fan and advocate of nuclear power. I just feel even more strongly about employee training now.
You know those old crotchety engineers who are really offensive but still keep the secrets of the universe? That's James Mahaffey.
In a literal technicality sense, this book is well-researched. The author very obviously has a long and well-informed history with nuclear reactors, and his love is clearly for the chemical oddities and phenomena that caused radiation and supercriticality events.
I also liked the footnotes that had useful things, like links to videos of some of the experiments or things he was talking about (way easier to follow than trying to verbally describe a reactor layout, which is what he usually did). So there: more diagrams, please.
Another technical detail: pick a unit and stick with it. I know that some of this stuff is in living memory for you, but when I'm trying to remember the difference between Pu-239 and Pu-240, and whether the reactors yield or take U-235 or U-238, I can't also keep track of the historical difference between rems, sieverts, and curies. He's not using direct quotes, so he can do the calculations for us.
On a human scale, Mahaffey fucking sucks.
The author has absolutely no sense of empathy for anybody who isn't an American nuclear scientist. He obviously has a hate-on for the Japanese. First he expects the fishermen on the Lucky Dragon to know how to recognize and clear up a nuclear fallout event. Mahaffey's anti-gay hangups appear in a footnote on the Japanese version of a Bodhisattva (whose main characteristics seem to not have anything to do with his sexuality). Finally, he continuously compares the Fukushima I reactor to an American reactor built 30 years later (meaning new safeguards), when there are dozens of working Japanese reactors built at similar times with similar constraints that didn't suffer the same catastrophic failure.
He mentions an African pilot being African and being arrested in a footnote. Why?
He has clear and open disdain for Indian nuclear engineering ("Be afraid," he says).
He complains about the civilian population of a city being distressed about a nuclear test facility nearby, then casually mentions the test failures that did bring the possibility of danger to said civilians.
His chapter on British nuclear development is full of bizarre British stereotypes. I cannot fathom why. Did you know that British people all drink Guinness and tea? Did you know that a Bath accent is considered a drawl? This certainly hasn't been the case for any British person I've worked with!
Oh, and his hate-on for Jimmy Carter. You can look up Jimmy Carter's biography and it mentions that he does not prefer to go by his full name. Mahaffey is so full of righteous disdain that he makes sure to only call him "James Earl Carter" whenever mentioned, for the sole reason that he deprived 300 people of a job at a nuclear reprocessing plant (never mind subsequent presidents that failed to revive it, as they had the option to).
If this book was published thirty years ago, I would have given it more leeway in the xenophobia department. But I see a publication date of 2014, so all I can say is I cannot wait for these old racist shitheads to die off and get the hell out of engineering.
Interesting, but not as interesting as I hoped it would be. The stories about the different nuclear reactors/power plants tended to smudge together after a while. Rather technical.
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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.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)363.17 — Social sciences Social problems and services; associations Other social problems and services Public safety programs Hazardous materials
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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