In The News
Praise For In Mortal Hands
In her first book, veteran nuclear-industry journalist Cooke quickly dispenses with the Manhattan Project before settling down to portray post–World War II America, suddenly the world superpower because it had sole possession of the atomic bomb. While other historians stress the Soviet Union’s scramble to develop its own nuclear weapons, Cooke gives equal time to Britain and France. Offended at America’s refusal to reveal the secrets of a technology both helped develop, each launched its own successful Manhattan Project, as immensely expensive, oppressively secretive and environmentally damaging as the original. By 1960 the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and France all had the bomb; they were followed in subsequent decades by China, India, Israel and Pakistan. In parallel, Cooke describes the growth of nuclear power. It was enthusiastically embraced by the U.S. government as a means of soothing Americans’ fear of atomic fission. Also, American authorities hoped to discourage other governments from developing atomic weapons through the generous Atoms for Peace policy, which supplied enriched uranium to nations eager to acquire nuclear technology in exchange for a promise not to use it to make bombs. Neither goal was achieved.
No fan of nuclear power plants, Cooke emphasizes the expense of their construction and maintenance, the complexity of their apparatus, the pollution they cause and the catastrophic accidents that have occurred. Possession of nuclear weapons has become the mark of a great nation, she notes, just as battleships were a century ago, and any government willing to make the effort can build an atomic bomb. Since America shares this macho ideal, nonproliferation efforts always fail because have-not nations correctly perceive that the United States will never give up its own arsenal.
Skillful, unsettling arguments that the world is headed toward nuclear disaster from two different directions.
Robert L Gallucci"In Mortal Hands spans the sixty years of the nuclear age, telling the complicated and fascinating story of the way nuclear energy and nuclear weapons have been interconnected like a double helix over time. The story is well told by someone with an insider's knowledge of the nuclear industry who knows and appreciates the concerns over safety and security that have always dogged the advocates of nuclear power. For those in the new American administration who must deal with the pressures to find alternatives to fossil fuels, lessen dependence on foreign sources of energy, and reduce the risks of nuclear proliferation, Cooke's book is a fine primer."
Frank von Hippel"This thought-provoking history of the intertwined development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power is told deftly through the stories of some major and minor participants who the author came to know as a journalist. As the title suggests, the subtext is the question of whether fallible humanity is up to managing this technology wisely. This is much the best treatment of the question that I have seen."
Helen Caldicott"In Mortal Hands is an imperative read. Because politicians, industrial leaders and scientists mixed and confused the issues of nuclear weapons and nuclear power the door was opened to unmitigated disaster as country after country verges on nuclear power development and inevitable access to nuclear weapons. Pandora's box has been opened but will the collective human psyche develop the wisdom to close the box? This question will readily be answered if millions of people decide to read In Mortal Hands."
Amory B. Lovins"In Mortal Hands charts the intertwined and interdependent paths of the global civil and military nuclear enterprises. It compellingly shows how inherent human frailties create ‘ambiguity, secrecy, power, and greed’ that consistently and unavoidably turn both efforts’ promise into peril. Fortunately, better ways to provide both security and energy—efficiency and micro-power (already providing over half the world's new electrical services) and a "new strategic triad" of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and non-provocative defense—can meet all the same needs better, sooner, and more attractively, wherever they're allowed to compete. This chronicle of the distressing nuclear history that many citizens and leaders never learned, or have lately forgotten, should motivate us all to demand those wider choices now, before it's forever too late."
Robert S. Norris"Cooke has written a vivid personal and professional account of the once hoped-for promises and the many perils that surround the civilian atom and its inextricably linked counterpart, the military atom. Cooke’s long experience in covering the topic has produced a timely book that deserves wide readership. The promises and perils of the atom continue as we assess nuclear energy’s potential role in a wise energy policy, in how it might mitigate global warming, and in deciding how many nuclear weapons are enough."
Frank Barnaby"In Mortal Hands should be read by all interested in nuclear issues and the history of the development of nuclear power. Politicians, journalists and academics will find it a most useful addition to their libraries. Readers that do not normally read books about nuclear energy will enjoy this very readable book. It will equip them to participate in the coming debate about the use of nuclear power as an energy source which many political leaders are advocating as a way of limiting global warming."
Paul Roberts"In Stephanie Cooke’s hands, our complex and often shadowy nuclear history is refined into a compelling, accessible and important narrative. With the assurance of a veteran industry observer, Cooke shows us just how fallible nuclear technology and nuclear policy have been—and dismantles the myth that nuclear energy is merely misunderstood. In Mortal Hands is essential reading for anyone who thinks nuclear energy is the slam-dunk answer for our energy and climate problems."