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Atomic Accidents by James Mahaffey
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Atomic Accidents (edition 2015)

by James Mahaffey (Author)

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2811296,196 (4.03)8
Science. Nonfiction. HTML:

A "delightfully astute" and "entertaining" history of the mishaps and meltdowns that have marked the path of scientific progress (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
Radiation: What could go wrong? In short, plenty. From Marie Curie carrying around a vial of radium salt because she liked the pretty blue glow to the large-scale disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima, dating back to the late nineteenth century, nuclear science has had a rich history of innovative exploration and discovery, coupled with mistakes, accidents, and downright disasters.
In this lively book, long-time advocate of continued nuclear research and nuclear energy James Mahaffey looks at each incident in turn and analyzes what happened and why, often discovering where scientists went wrong when analyzing past meltdowns. Every incident, while taking its toll, has led to new understanding of the mighty atom—and the fascinating frontier of science that still holds both incredible risk and great promise.

.… (more)
Member:Stephet
Title:Atomic Accidents
Authors:James Mahaffey (Author)
Info:Pegasus Books (2015), Edition: Reprint, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
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Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters: From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima by James Mahaffey

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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 | 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. ( )
  lemontwist | Jun 19, 2024 |
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. ( )
  jcvogan1 | Oct 1, 2022 |
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.

Highly recommended. ( )
  iandrewmartin | Jun 16, 2022 |
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. ( )
  Jerry.Yoakum | Apr 13, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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James Mahaffeyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Weiner, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Science. Nonfiction. HTML:

A "delightfully astute" and "entertaining" history of the mishaps and meltdowns that have marked the path of scientific progress (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
Radiation: What could go wrong? In short, plenty. From Marie Curie carrying around a vial of radium salt because she liked the pretty blue glow to the large-scale disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima, dating back to the late nineteenth century, nuclear science has had a rich history of innovative exploration and discovery, coupled with mistakes, accidents, and downright disasters.
In this lively book, long-time advocate of continued nuclear research and nuclear energy James Mahaffey looks at each incident in turn and analyzes what happened and why, often discovering where scientists went wrong when analyzing past meltdowns. Every incident, while taking its toll, has led to new understanding of the mighty atom—and the fascinating frontier of science that still holds both incredible risk and great promise.

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