By Fred Pearce | Whatever its moral pitfalls, the production of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan was a triumph of twentieth-century science. In the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the steam-powered industrial revolution suddenly seemed quaint. But the arrival of the new atomic age had been very sudden. It was the result of a tidal wave of new science about the structure of atoms, and how unstable these supposed building blocks of matter actually were.
By Fred Pearce | The exclusion zone that has stretched for twenty miles around Chernobyl’s stricken nuclear reactor since the 1986 accident is not quite the inaccessible dead zone often portrayed. Thousands of Ukrainians commute there every day to work on making safe and dismantling the plant and managing the zone itself. Yes, I needed an official permit to pass through the guarded gates on the road north from Kiev and a radiation scan before I could leave. But the scientists I was with had no trouble arranging my entry—and thankfully I was allowed to go home afterward.
By Fred Pearce | America’s iconic nuclear landscape is the Nevada National Security Site, a fenced-off and largely deserted tract of sand, cactus, and Joshua trees that is bigger than Rhode Island. Once, when America was testing its atomic bombs here, it was the site of high jinks and revelry. Everything new and exciting in America was labeled “atomic,” and Nevada was the place to experience the cutting edge of the new age.
A Q&A with Fred Pearce: Nuclear scandals and disasters have been a recurring theme of my life as an environment journalist for several decades. But they seemed to have fallen off the radar. Old news, but definitely not fake news. Then I was commissioned to visit the heart of Britain’s nuclear industry, both military and civil, at a remote spot on the northwest coast of England called Sellafield. I was profoundly shocked at what I found, from the mile-after-mile of coastal mud that qualifies as radioactive waste to the world’s largest stockpile of plutonium, sitting inside a warehouse and wide open to terrorist attack. I set out to explore the world’s hidden legacy of nuclear fallout and debris, and this book is the result.