Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World

Tom Zoellner, Author . Viking $26.95 (337p) ISBN 978-0-670-02064-5

In this fine piece of journalism, Zoellnerdoes for uranium what he did for diamonds in The Heartless Stone —he delves into the complex science, politics and history of this radioactive mineral, which presents “the best and worst of mankind: the capacity for scientific progress and political genius; the capacity for nihilism, exploitation, and terror.” Because Zoellner covers so much ground, from the discovery of radioactivity, through the development of the atomic bomb, he doesn't go into great depth on any one topic. Nonetheless, he superbly paints vivid pictures of uranium's impact, including forced labor in Soviet mines and lucky prospectors who struck it rich in harsh environments, the spread of uranium smuggling, as well as an explanation of why it was absurd to claim that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase significant quantities of uranium from Niger. The only shortcoming is Zoellner's omission of the issue of radioactive wastes generated by nuclear power—a significant problem given the possibility of a growing reliance on nuclear power. (Mar. 9)

Reviewed on: 11/24/2008
Release date: 03/01/2009
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