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Idaho Falls: The Untold Story of America's First Nuclear Accident Paperback – April 1, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"McKeown does succeed…in exposing how it was possible for the wealth of rumors and speculation to gain so much momentum." -- Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Chicago, Illinois

About the Author

William McKeown has been a reporter and editor at newspapers in Idaho, California, and Colorado. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press, the Colorado Press Association, and the Best of the West journalism competition. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1550225626
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550225624
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Very well written and informative book.
marvin spacek
To portray them as McKeown did was insulting and false,anyone that called him "nerdy" or worse clearly didn't know anything about him.
Stewart Gammill
Excellent book about possible solutions to the mystery surrounding the atomic reactor explosion in Idaho.
Aerial Photographer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Bud Russell on September 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
The author does a good job with the Accident victims autobiographies, psychology, injuries, and burial preparations.
However his account of the Accident victim's rescue is insulting of the Rescue Team and inaccurate.

The insults include "nerdy engineers"(p.99), "bourbon and water downing bosses"(p.95) and individuals who were"forced to conduct a rescue operation even though they were unprepared"(p.95). In fact they were some of the most courageous, intelligent, experienced, innovative and caring individuals I have ever known. The 4-man rescue team was composed of the following individuals:

Paul Duckworth, the SL-1 Operations Supervisor, who may have been a WWII South-Pacific Campaign ship commander at age 19 and owned the powerful Model 88 Oldsmobile used to race the Rescue Team to the Accident site.

Sidney Cohen, the SL-1 Test supervisor, a WWII, 2nd-wave Normandy Invasion infantryman at age 17 and a "Life Master" bridge player.

William Rausch, the 28-year old SL-1 Assistant Operations Supervisor who had been a Merchant Marine ship engineer with experience in recovery of a fatal shipboard boiler room explosion.

Ed Vallario, the 33-year old SL-1 Health Physicist who was the first team member to be notifed of the post-Accident lethal radioctive conditions and missing operators because he was the designated technical contact for concerns of the SL-1 plant operators and NRTS security and firemen that evening.

William Gammill, the 32-year old, on-duty, AEC Site Survey Chief and a certified Health Physicist who volunteered to assist the rescue team

In 1962 all five men received medals and national recognition for "heriosm in saving human life" from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Rossin on May 16, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I did the calculations and wrote the Safety Analysis Report for the SL-1 reactor. It was called ALPR back then. I did the "worst case scenario" and we studied it. Our design and tools used common sense equipment recognizing what could possibly go badly wrong. Several years later I was shocked to see the headlines of the Chicago Tribune reporting the explosion at SL-1. No secret! Years of studies afterwards revealed that the military operators had made handling tools of their own that short-cutted our common-sense approach. One of these shortcuts turned out to be a weak link in a system that had its own inherent vulnerabilities. I'll read the book. But I doubt that any new secrets are revealed. The AEC extensively revised its safety criteria after the accident. All public information.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
McKeown does a good job of pulling together the many strands of this story, giving just enough technical detail to know what went wrong, and enough (relevant) human interest to keep the story interesting.

Yes, it's true that Idaho Falls isn't exactly a brand-new 'revelation', but few outside the nuclear industry have heard about it, or know its significance. McKeown shows that the ultimate cause was a failure by the designers of the reactor to take into account Murphy's Law - if something can go wrong, it will. This is a common thread running thru nuclear incidents ranging from Windscale to Chernobyl. With some energy experts now calling for us to embrace nuclear power again in order to meet energy demand without triggering excessive global warming, McKeown's book is a very timely reminder of why and how things went wrong 50 years ago, and what we need to look out for the second time around (if nuclear power is granted one)
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Stewart Gammill on September 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
My father, William Gammill, was the first health physicist on site. He was one of the ones to actually go into the reactor building in an effort to save the operators; an action for which he and four others received a Carnegie Heroes Medal. To portray them as McKeown did was insulting and false,anyone that called him "nerdy" or worse clearly didn't know anything about him. They performed with heroism that few of us will ever match. He and William Rausch were still alive during the period that the book was written yet was not even mentioned and neither were interviewed. Very sloppy indeed.

This reviewer is the son of William P. Gammill and remembers well the night that his dad went rushing out into the night not knowing whether he was going to be returning. I also discussed the book with him before his death in October of 2008. Shame on McKeown.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Victor Allen on February 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
In the interest of full disclosure I will say up front that I am not in any way connected to The Site (locals' name for the facility out on the desert now called the INEEL) I have friends who work there and friends who would love to see it shut down.
That said I think McKeown does an excellent job in telling what's known about the SL-1 accident (if that's what it was) and the rumors that surrounded it. I found it an first-rate read (I read it in two days) and very informative.
McKeown goes to great lengths to delineate between what can be and is known and what is rumor and supposition. He also repeatedly explains (which keeps me from giving the book a 5th star) how different attitudes were then, particulary among the personel working at and responsible for the facility. This is the excuse given and accepted by the author for the lack of disclosure at the time. There's nothing here about what changed, or more importantly, what didn't change, as a result of SL-1.
Its unfortunate that the story of this incident is completely unkown by the general public. Both the heroism of those there immediately after the incident and the behavior of those in charge should be common knowledge. Reading this book goes a long way in correcting that.
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