Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective

Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective

Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective

Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective

Synopsis

"A superb account of the frightening and confusing accident at Three Mile Island in the spring of 1979. Walker succeeds in providing, in suspenseful prose, the best account to date about the crisis. Drawing on the insights gained from all his work over the past twenty years, Walker puts this tale into historical context, and helps us understand the hopes and fears that surrounded atomic energy, and shows how they affected responses to the accident. Prior accounts pale in comparison to this work."--Allan M. Winkler, author of "Life Under a Cloud: American Anxiety about the Atom

"This book covers a celebrated techno-political event with authority and dispassion, capturing a sense of the human frailty and heroism that proved both tragic and comic. Walker is that rare historian who exemplifies fairness and balance in a readable style. Three Mile Island details necessary background before establishing a strong narrative, weaving the participants in a drama that many of us shared but none fully understood--until now."--William Lanouette, author of "Genius in the Shadows: A Biography of Leo Szilard, the Man Behind the Bomb

Excerpt

This book is the fourth in a series of volumes on the history of nuclear regulation sponsored by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). I am the coauthor, with George T. Mazuzan, of the first volume, Controlling the Atom: The Beginnings of Nuclear Regulation, 1946– 1962 (1984), and the author of the other previous volumes, Containing the Atom: Nuclear Regulation in a Changing Environment, 1963–1971 (1992) and Permissible Dose: A History of Radiation Protection in the Twentieth Century (2000), all published by the University of California Press. My original plan for this book was to write a comprehensive history of nuclear regulation during the 1970s, a time when many complex, critical, and controversial policy issues were weighed and debated. The culmination of that book, I thought, would be a chapter or two on the Three Mile Island accident.

Once I began to conduct research on the accident, however, I realized that it required a book of its own. The issues it raised were so important and the drama it created so absorbing that I wanted to provide a full account of the crisis in 1979 as well as its historical background and longterm consequences. The drawback to this approach was that other major issues of the 1970s were necessarily shortchanged. I have covered some of those questions in my book Permissible Dose and in two scholarly articles that draw on my research on nuclear regulation during the 1970s: “Regulating against Nuclear Terrorism: The Domestic Safeguards Issue, 1970–1979” (Technology and Culture 42 [January 2001]: 107–32), and “Nuclear Power and Nonproliferation: The Controversy over Nuclear Exports, 1974–1980” (Diplomatic History 25 [spring 2001]: 215–49). But the topics I discussed in those publications and some other significant regulatory issues receive little or no attention in this volume. I regard this as a reasonable trade-off for focusing on Three Mile Island, which remains . . .

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