The American Atom: A Documentary History of Nuclear Policies from the Discovery of Fission to the Present, 1939-1984

The American Atom: A Documentary History of Nuclear Policies from the Discovery of Fission to the Present, 1939-1984

The American Atom: A Documentary History of Nuclear Policies from the Discovery of Fission to the Present, 1939-1984

The American Atom: A Documentary History of Nuclear Policies from the Discovery of Fission to the Present, 1939-1984

Synopsis

"Those interested in the nuclear-technology debate will benefit from this extremely useful compendium."--New York Times

Excerpt

Historical understanding is essential to an informed public that must live in a world of nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors because of decisions made years or even decades ago. The purpose of this volume is to tell the story of America's nuclear policy through its primary documents. Our hope is that a documentary collection will contribute historical evidence to a public concern with nuclear policy that is often more rhetorical than substantive.

Since 1979, when the SALT II treaty was withdrawn from Senate consideration and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident drew international attention, a public debate on nuclear policy without precedent since the mid-1950s has developed. A generation "born nuclear" and raised in a world of tens of thousands of nuclear warheads and hundreds of reactors is asking questions that had been the secret concern of only a few experts since 1945: should we proceed with the further development of nuclear weapons? Of nuclear reactors? Is the benefit worth the cost and the risk? Does deterrence work? Is arms control beneficial? Should America use nuclear weapons first? Are national technical means of verification reliable? Can you trust the Russians? Can a nuclear war be limited? Can it be won?

The early decisions to build nuclear and thermonuclear weapons were usually made in secret by nuclear and military specialists. Yet since 1979 decisions to install Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe, to build the MX missile, and to develop antimissile defense systems all have come under immediate concerned public scrutiny. Nuclear issues have assumed mythic proportions: nuclear war is the Apocalypse and Armageddon; nuclear power is a Faustian bargain; missiles are named after the gods Nike, Zeus, and Titan. What has often been missing is a knowledge of the facts.

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