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Atomic Accidents

by Jim Mahaffey   

Charts nuclear mishaps and meltdowns around the globe, all which proved pivotal to the advancement of nuclear science.


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From the moment radiation was discovered in the late nineteenth century, nuclear science has had a rich history of scientific innovation, coupled with mistakes, accidents, and downright disasters. 

In Atomic Accidents, James Mahaffey, a long-time advocate of continued nuclear research and nuclear energy, offers a gripping narrative of nuclear mishaps and meltdowns around the globe. 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 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. 

What was first nuclear accident involving a weapons test?
On March 1, 1954, the U.S. conducted a test of the compact H-bomb code-named “Shrimp” at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The blast, believed to be between 15 and 22 megatons, generated a fireball four and a half miles in diameter, cleaned out a crater 6,500 feet in diameter, pulverized the coral in the nearby reef, and spread radioactive contamination over 7,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

What went wrong?

The expectation of “no action” from the lithium-7 component of the “dry fuel,” or lithium deuteride, in the device was incorrect, making the yield from the blast three times the expected strength.

The final report on the incident was classified SECRET, “due to possible adverse public reaction.”

“Mahaffey, a former senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, employs his extensive knowledge of nuclear engineering to produce a volume that is by turns alarming, thought-provoking, humorous, and always fascinating.”
Publishers Weekly

“Mahaffey takes readers on a 400-page thrill ride…The most comprehensive and certainly one of the most entertaining accounts of atomic accidents.”
Kirkus Reviews



Charts nuclear mishaps and meltdowns around the globe, all which proved pivotal to the advancement of nuclear science.


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  • Author(s):
    Jim Mahaffey
  • Publisher:
    Linda Biagi
  • Release Date:
    February 15th 2014
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