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In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 28, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Adopting a skeptical perspective on its subject, Cooke introduces her survey of the worldwide nuclear industry as being animated by disquiet toward a possible revival of the civilian-nuclear complex in the U.S. Accordingly, she emphasizes hazards inherent in nuclear power technology, recounts such notorious accidents as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and summarizes the developmental histories of nuclear weapons programs in countries that have (or, like South Africa, had) the bomb. Parallel to the activities of nuclear enthusiasts, Cooke presents the stories of proposals for international control of atomic power, which eventuated in various arms control and nonproliferation conventions and organizations, such as the IAEA. But the worried purport of the narrative is that any government wanting a nuclear-industrial complex will do whatever is necessary to create one. A veteran reporter on nuclear matters, Cooke is well-informed, meriting the attention of readers debating whether civilian nuclear energy can be safely generated and is worth its intimate connection to the production of fissile material. --Gilbert Taylor


“Diligent history of nuclear proliferation and peaceful nuclear energy makes a good case that they are intimately connected and equally out of control… Skillful, unsettling arguments that the world is headed toward nuclear disaster from two different directions.”  –Kirkus

"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."
-- Frank von Hippel, Professor of Public and International Affairs and Director of the Center for Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University

“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.” --Paul Roberts, author of The End of Oil

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." --Helen Caldicott, author of Nuclear Power is Not the Answer and The New Nuclear Danger

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 micropower (already providing over half the world's new electrical services) and a "new strategic triad" of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and nonprovocative 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.” --Amory B. Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute

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.”    --Robert L Gallucci, Former Ambassador at Large in the Clinton Administration and Dean of the School of the Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"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."  --Frank Barnaby, Past Director of SIPRI, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596916176
  • ASIN: B0041T4T6C
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,161,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. Taylor on September 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In this book Stephanie Cooke covers the story of the nuclear industry from the start, and in particular she eschews, while explaining, the often pointless and misleading distinction made between its military and power-generating sides.

Having read this book I was put in mind of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. Not because the premise of Cooke's book is anything like it- quite the opposite; this is a fairly lengthy history of just one thing- but because like Bryson's book this is uncompromisingly well researched, avoids patronising the reader at any time, and yet is so well written and lucid that on every page you just want to know more. And she does all this without even a hint of the sensationalism that can so easily be applied to anything to do with splitting the atom.

If you have ever wanted to to know more about the nuclear business, this is the place to go, and even if you haven't, you'll soon be pretty engaged, although you will be either astonished or dismayed by the mountain of malpractice on which the nuclear industry is built. Not that Cooke is setting out to rubbish the industry- she just sets out the facts, and they speak for themselves.

If we ever have a nuclear war or another Chernobyl this will immediately become the most important book ever written. I suggest you don't wait for that, and read it now.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Bicknell on August 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed Stephanie Cooke's book on nuclear power, the nuclear arms race and the cold war. It puts so much of today's nuclear power situation into perspective. I found the detail of the Three Mile Island, Windscales and Chernobyl accidents fascinating (and creepy... man is such a stupid animal!). I am staggered by the fact, so clearly underlined here, that no nation on earth has a proper plan for dealing with nuclear waste. We are stock-piling these hazardous materials which will come back to hautn our children in tens, hundreds and thousands of years. I wish everyone in politics worldwide would read it.

In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Gradwell on January 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Before I read "In Mortal Hands", Three Mile Island and Chernobyl as well as Hiroshima and Nagasaki had become distant memories. This book is a real eye-opener for those of us who aren't nuclear experts. Stephanie Cooke does a masterful job of interweaving the facts about nuclear energy and weaponry with the personal stories and comments of those who made the history. She convincingly shows that the potential horrors of nuclear war or nuclear-related environmental disasters are too real a probability. I'm sure anyone interested in energy, science, or contemporary politics will find her work as captivating and enlightening as I did.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Daboville on October 28, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
As a proponent of so-called "peaceful nuclear uses" I read Stephanie Cooke's book with great interest. Her description of how nuclear energy was initially mastered and then spread all over the world makes you wonder if the cost is really worth it.

She is not formally taking side. However, once you realize the secrecy that in every country surrounds nuclear development - military and civil - allowed and still allows for so many excesses and lies, you start thinking.
How much money did nuclear energy really cost? No body knows. How much ecological damage has it done? No body knows.
But of course, today there is a lot of nuclear electricity produced worldwide, so there no way to put the nuclear genie back in the teapot. If the money keeps on being spent on nuclear, it will not help alternative energies and nuclear will continue its excesses.

Stephanie's book is pleasing to read because she nicely mixes history with the little stories of everyday life and she makes the people involved come alive and real.

A compulsory reading for anyone with no technical knowledge but the will to understand where the world nuclear industry stands. The book gives you the information to build your opinion about this extremely important growing and universal issue.
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