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.
©2014 James Mahaffey (P)2014 Blackstone Audio
I'm just a big kid.
Mahaffey does one of the best jobs of combining hard science, complete with numbers, with fascinating human stories I've ever heard.
This isn't a text book, it's a smart funny guy who happens to be a subject matter expert telling you history in a very human way.
The first accident in the book is literally a train wreck, and each subsequent story of nuclear errors, accidents, and disasters have a 'can't take your ears off of this train wreck' quality.
This is sort of like 'Cosmos' for nuclear power production history.
Or it least it would be if Carl Sagan or Niel Tyson had senses of humor and didn't talk down to the audience.
The book is written in the first person, so there is only one character.
Weiner does a great job reading this book, with the glaring exception of pronouncing the word 'Tritium'. For some reason he pronounces 'trit-E-um' as 'trisham'! I actually had to stop the audio and go to the web to double check that there wasn't really an element called 'trisham'!
I don't blame Weiner for this, I blame Blackstone's producer for not catching this glaring error.
I've been listening to audio books since the late 70s, and I've alway found Blackstone readings to have inferior production values. I will say that the production quality in this book is much better than past Blackstone recordings, but they still have work to do match the quality of studios like Recorded Books LLC.
I would have if I could have.
This is not a partisan rant, the history of nuclear power, good and bad, is related with emphasis on the 'bad'.
After telling you the 'bad' Mahaffey provides the hard facts and numbers to help readers keep a sense of perspective when thinking about future energy alternatives for the U.S. and the world.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Listening to James Mahaffey’s "Atomic Accidents", the first thing that comes to mind is point-of-view, second is author’s qualification, and third is writing ability.
Doctor James Mahaffey’s professional career is founded on the nuclear industry. Educated at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Mahaffey holds a bachelor’s degree in physics, a master’s in science, and a doctoral in nuclear engineering. Mahaffey is well versed in the science, engineering, and mechanics of nuclear energy. Because of education, one presumes Mahaffey is a proponent of the nuclear power industry. After dissection of several atomic accidents, a listener becomes unsure of Mahaffey’s point of view. By the end, his point of view is clear. Mahaffey’s book is historically fascinating, and enlightening. Happily, Mahaffey writes well with erudite understanding and little obfuscating jargon.
Mahaffey explains that radiation is a naturally occurring phenomenon. He argues that shutting nuclear waste disposal facility like Yucca Mountain in Nevada is a mistake. Mahaffey’s point of view is that nuclear power generation accidents will happen but their consequences can be minimized with smaller plants and better planning for treatment of victims when accidents occur. He believes nuclear energy benefits far out way their risks.
"Command and Control". More about nuclear weapons and specifically an incident at a missile silo in Arkansas.
I enjoyed the several scenes describing the internal working of nuclear power plants and the details of accidents that occurred in them.
I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book. I have listened to it twice in the past 3 months and I expect I will listen to it again soon. The subject matter was surprising, informative, technical enough to be interesting and yet completely understandable to a lay person. I think Mr. Mahaffey's writing style suits my tastes in that it was casual, humorous and still on point and relevant. A++
I'm enjoying this book. It's giving a lot of detail on accidents beyond the oft-explained "tickling the dragon." There's one glaring problem that's like fingernails on a blackboard. Blackstone Audio apparently can't be bothered with making sure their narrators know how to pronounce slightly technical terms. The narrator is good except he's said "trih shum" (instead of tritium) more times than I can count. He also says "regent" instead of reAgent. My recommendation is to grit your teeth through these because otherwise the book is quite good.
Man's nuclear follies
For history and science buffs, a good history not only of nuclear power but also the naïveté, creativity and hubris of man's relationship with all things nuclear. Underlying every accident is a system designed to avoid it, someone's attempt to circumvent the system, and the complex interaction between the two. Fascinating stuff, with enough technical details to interest the science buffs and a connect the dots narrative to keep the history buffs glued. I found it all very fascinating and it was a definite plus that the narrative is told with the odd bit of sarcastic humour in it. My only criticism was that the three most infamous accidents: Three mile island, Chernobyl, and Fukishima, are given a comparatively short treatment compared to the rest of the book.
Probably not. There is a fair bit of technical detail that would leave most readers head's spinning to get through this all in one reading.
The author has a background working in the nuclear industry which is a definite plus.
Mahaffey has a remarkable talent for describing very complex situations without being boring or verbose. He's clearly a master of the subject matter with a wickedly droll sense of humor to boot. This is one of the best Audibles I've had in the last year. It's also extremely informative.
The mysterious "problem" in Russia in 1957 is a great story, very well told. It's almost hilarious at a distance of 50+ years and several thousand miles. A separate high point is the Three Mile Island description. Having lived through the TMI news coverage at the time, it was nice to finally get a coherent, concise depiction of what happened -- and what did not happen.
The story Telling, the author manages to keep it understandable and funny at the sametime with his sarcastic undertones.
It did make me laugh at times, but it really opens your eyes to nuclear power. I was amazed at all the experiments that have occurred since we discovered it.
This is a page turner, even the opening was great. There is a lot of good information in this book, especially the human performance aspect, there a lot of great examples of human errors that could be used in safety meetings, which I have done. I have even googled much of the reported disasters in this book to get more information. I am normally a fiction reader, who likes end of world types of books, but this non-fiction book gives you the same flavor and keeps you interested.
Absolutely worth a few listens. The information density is well blended with an easygoing narrative style that engages the listener throughout the entire book.
Chapter eight: the Strategic Air Command years, with all the near misses that we somehow lived through.
Fluent vocal style, never distractive. This guy has it down cold.
No laughing matter this. More outcome information on the Fukushima disaster would be helpful.
It was an enlightening shift away from the mass media induced anti-nuclear coma we've all been stuck in for decades. I have always been hard pitched against nuclear energy and its uses against humanity, and I'm likely to stay that way.However, this book helps demystify some of the beliefs about the atomic age I've come to own as sort of a mindless religion. For me at least, this book has offered me a good start on basing my beliefs on evidence, not media hyperbole.
I need to begin by saying I have a degree in electrical engineering and have been trained to "think like an scientist/engineer" for all of my adult life.
This book was obviously written by a scientist. It is well researched and well written, but not overly technical. Even more important than those attributes, it is written by a great story teller. Dr. Mahaffey does a wonderful job explaining what went wrong in a number of accidents, including ones that having nothing to do with atomic energy. His vignettes have a subtle sense of humor -- like "uh-oh" when a sequence of seemly independent and relatively minor decisions by operators/engineers come together and result in a very bad outcome. This is why I think this book should be required reading/listening for anyone involved in the field of systems analysis. Whether airplane accidents, nuclear accidents, or countless number of other accidents, it often comes down to several small decisions made along a longer path, often with a human thinking "this is obviously the right thing to do," that add up to a disaster.
I especially enjoyed his conclusion as to the cause of the infamous SL1 reactor accident. I have never bought into the Army's semi-official conclusion of murder-suicide, but Dr. Mahaffey's conjecture that it was a practical joke gone terribly wrong seems right on the money to me.
A few other thoughts worth noting that every reader needs to evaluate for themselves after listening to this audio book: 1) it's very unfortunate that the world has advanced so very far technologically over the past 60 years and yet current commercial nuclear reactor design is largely based on research and engineering done on the 1950s and 60s; 2) the fact that governmental agencies, whether the US, USSR, Japanese, or others, have always striven to hide information about nuclear accidents from the public has only created distrust among it's citizens, as opposed to being fully transparent (this does not just apply to nuclear accidents, of course); 3) Mahaffey's recommendation to compare the data about the ill health consequences of coal-based power generation or the hazards of other industries such as asbestos mining compared to modern-designed nuclear power plants need to followed up by everyone. Unfortunately politics and money will get in the way of doing this.
In summary, this book was both thought provoking and a great listen that kept me fully engaged mentally. Highly recommended. BTW, and this should definitely NOT be an afterthought, Tom Weiner does a very nice job as narrator.
"Disasters made fun"
I really enjoyed this well researched journey through nuclear history, and how despite all the best intentions failures have occurred. The last chapter on the future of nuclear power was very enlightening. A heavy engineering subject made light with appropriate humour.
"Educate yourself about Nuclear Power"
Irrational fear appears to drive much of thinking and politics that surround the viability of Nuclear Power.
This book goes a long way toward educating and increasing clarity around the issue.
"Not Quite The Bomb"
I enjoyed this book for the most part (including the stellar narration) but the repeated discussion of which fissile material decays into which, or the technical schematics of a nuclear powerplant does not lend itself well to the aural form.
I'd like to recommend Atomic Accidents, but due to the inherent setbacks of the medium I could not do so wholeheartedly.
"such a great book."
Tom Weiner writes about nuclear power and its history and evolution with such clarity. He writes in such a way that is easy to understand but with dumbing the topic down.
Basically the opening section about the steam engine collisions and the flocks of people who came to see them, and how far we have come since then but yet at the heart of nuclear power we still rely on steam.
As I said above , just how clearly he approaches the subject and how easy he makes it sound without dumbing it down.
"The new clear age"
"Well researched and entertaining"
Well researched facts explained in an entertaining narrative
The story struck a balance between highlighting the risks and mistakes but also pointing out the benefits of nuclear power and ending with considerable reason for hope in the future
The scene that covered the thorium LFTR and MSRE technologies
Think twice before you eat that banana!
Complex science explained in an accessible way without dumbing down. Also very entertaining and at the same time well balanced. Explains what everyone should be worried about and what everyone should waste no more time worrying about.
It is one of the best
The guy accidentally releasing the H bomb by holding the bomb release to steady himself.
No I listened to it (twice) in parts as I like to take in the technical aspects and would be over whelmed in one sitting
A very balanced book considering the title.
"Want a disaster? Fell into a routine."
From the first discovery of nuclear material at Ozark to Fukushima, history of nuclear disasters is a history of bad luck, human stupidity and routine. You can learn a lot about adverse results of being eager and working overtime (death by explosion). Why it's very unhealthy to show initiative (death by explosion). Book tells you why correct labelling is crucial in nuclear establishments (and why use of piece of paper loosely attached by a piece of string is not a way to do it) and why you should never, ever use cement mixer to decant nuclear substances. Even if it makes life easier.
Of course not all about this book is laugh and fun. The story is serious and accidents described tragic. Deaths that could have been avoided sadden and anger. The fact is that almost all of described accidents could and should have been avoided. And even though reading about human stupidity makes you laugh, you can not but wonder that the same mistakes area repeated over and over again. And that it does not bade well for the future. Unfortunately.
"Great Content, Tons of Background, Meandering"
Brilliant topic, excellently researched, though sometimes more background than you'd expect - but overall necessary; this book gives you all the information you could need to make your own mind up about the way the industry (and much wider) is managed.
Compounded by the wrong reading style, needed to be delivered by an entertainment-oriented physics professor - someone with a bit of enthusiasm for the topic and the means to communicate it clearly - though admittedly that's a tall order.
Tom's narration is a little rigid and monotone, this would be fine in some circumstances, but the topic warrants a little extra interpretation and dynamism to make it sufficiently accessible - it's hard enough to chew some of these facts as it is, particularly when coupled with the meandering nature by which the background is woven into the main topic.
It's not that kind of book - of course. But there are certainly parts which explain the human aspects of the topic.
A fantastic mine of information for those interested in all kinds of the related disciplines, not to mention human nature and a brilliant insight into big-pharma / corporations / just selfish individuals - who'll sell you anything any way they can, and are always one step ahead of the authorities.
There's a lot of background here and you often have to be paying close attention to see the relevance, but the information is very well researched and very interesting. You'll struggle to find the same degree of detail elsewhere.
Could have been a superficial read, turns out to be a one of a kind.
Report Inappropriate Content