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About the Author

James Mahaffey was a senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute where he worked under contract for the Defense Nuclear Agency, the National Ground Intelligence Center, the Air Force Air Logistics Center, and Georgia Power Company. He is the author of Atomic Awakening and show more Atomic Accidents and lives in Atlanta. show less

Includes the names: Jim Mahaffey, James A. Mahaffey


Works by James Mahaffey


Common Knowledge




Well-written and approachable, with a depth of exploration of the topic of accidents involving nuclear technology that goes well beyond the typical Chernobyl/TMI/Fukushima trope. Makes some compelling arguments regarding the assumptions surrounding viability of various reactor designs, though perhaps somewhat limited in his presentation of some of the challenges with alternate designs.
eaharms1 | 11 other reviews | Jul 5, 2024 |
This book was hard to get through. The topic is fascinating but the author is of the mindset that you should explain things using as many words as humanly possible so you can dazzle your audience.

I don't know much about the author but got the impression not long after starting the book that this is the kind of guy who talks at you, and doesn't shut up about his obsessions: trains, airplanes, computers, every part number of every gadget he's ever seen. I'm not a huge fan of people like that.

The narrative suffers as a result. The author will go into the most minute detail about every atomic accident, including part numbers of each component. How about I don't really care what part number it is, or how it was welded? That's distracting from the main point. His arguments are completely lost in the minutiae of obsessive facts. The only interesting part of this book, where I didn't want to put it down out of annoyance and boredom, was the short section on Chernobyl.

The book itself has endless footnotes, but a short bibliography and no actual citations on information that the author presents. This guy likes to be thorough, remember, so that means that he coughs up tons of information without references. I mean, I'd like to believe he wouldn't make anything up, but how would I know, without citations?

Also, the book has no section breaks inside of each chapter. So while I frequently felt like taking a break (because this book was just so damn boring), it was hard to find good stopping points. The lack of section breaks also made it hard to tell, at times, when the author was done talking about one thing and on to the next. (The rambling prose also did not help.)

Another nit to pick -- the author, who prides himself on his encyclopedic knowledge of all topics, in the introductory chapter, goes to great effort to state that a hydroelectric dam issue was being ignored in the press because Michael Jackson had just died, in October. Really? He also at one point refers to the "University of Boston," which doesn't exist. There is, however, a school called Boston University. I found it particularly jarring because BU is my alma mater. How hard would it have been to look up BU's name and MJ's death date? Neither is an obscure fact.

The one quote in this book that aptly sums it up is when the author states that he is: "[a]lways one to assert superior knowledge when possible." YES, I NOTICED.
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lemontwist | 11 other reviews | Jun 19, 2024 |
Exciting and fluid historical perspective on the nuclear military and civilian sector from the perspective of someone in the business.

Soft on the contemporary technological developments in the field and the ethical balancing act that is at the core of this powerful tool.
yates9 | 1 other review | Feb 28, 2024 |
Largely little-known stories centered around atomic technologies, entertainingly told with amusing style. What's not to like?
Treebeard_404 | 3 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |


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