Plutonium Towns in the Cold War

Note: this is my contribution to an online roundtable on Kate Brown’s book Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (Oxford, 2013). The roundtable was published in H-Environment Roundtable Reviews 4:5 (2014). For the full roundtable, including Kate Brown’s response, click here. Few places encapsulate the concept of the Faustian bargain more…

Can’t Historians Predict the Future?

Nostradamus could have been a policy wonk. My favorite not-so-witty quip during my public talks is “historians are always asked to predict the future.”  It usually gets a chuckle.  I say it as a cop-out when someone asks me about anything controversial: the future of nuclear power, the future face of warfare, or whether Iran…

The Rhône and Nuclear Power in the South of France

From the Alpine glaciers of Switzerland to the Mediterranean Sea stretches what was once a glorious, untamed river: the Rhône. Used by humans for trade and irrigation for centuries, it attracted investors in the late nineteenth century as a natural source of hydroelectric power. Today, it is lined with cooling towers and is the pride…