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Nuclear culture: Living and working in the world's largest atomic complex Hardcover – 1982
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From Library Journal
This book is a description of the "culture" of the nuclear complex at Hanford, Washington, based on three visits the author made between 1979 and 1981. It includes interviews with now-retired workers who produced plutonium at Hanford during World War II as well as with younger Washington Public Power Supply System construction workers. Useful for its description of life at a nuclear facility, Loeb's account may be of interest to both public and academic librariesespecially since Hanford has recently been in the news. (This book was initially scheduled for publication several years ago but was not released.) Elizabeth K. Tom, formerly with Purdue Univ. Lib., W. Lafayette, Ind.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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A political competition starting in the late 1960s, out of which Hanford got the Fast Flux Test Facility as a consolation prize, was not over a "linear accelerator." [p. 109] Instead, it was over a proton synchrotron--the world's largest circular accelerator at the time--that became Fermilab. The Fast Flux Test Facility was never a "breeder reactor." [p. 145] There was no fuel recycling. Instead, it was a research instrument combining high neutron flux with high neutron energy. The unfinished WNP-1 nuclear power-plant did not go "on line in 1978." [p. 160] The WNP-2 did in 1984, not 1978, while the WNP-1 project was abandoned in 1982.
Mr. Loeb claims "nothing in the Hanford plants' physical presence makes them particularly fearsome." [p. 207] He did not connect the dots with his own accounts about plutonium-bearing waste dumped on bare earth [p. 193] and about massive, continuing discharges of high-level radioactive waste. [pp. 211 ff] Mr. Loeb's claim about "3,000 million megawatts" of solar energy "on each square mile of earth on a sunny day" is wildly exaggerated. [p.224] Instead, solar influx in the tropics, with the sun square overhead on a cloudless day, is about a kilowatt per square meter, or 2,600 megawatts per square mile--less than a millionth of the amount claimed.
Mr. Loeb was able to escape with relatively few such howlers because he usually sidestepped technical and quantitative topics. His book is filled with chatter copied down from Hanford workers who did cope with those matters and from their friends and relatives. On occasions that he mentions, when he asked questions of people he met it was rarely about some specific but instead about "how they felt." He tended to get the curt replies that he invited. His evaluations of what he heard remain opaque. To the end, he would not connect the dots.
It was an opportunity missed: a literary boy trying to do a man's job. On pages 89, 211-219 and 248, Mr. Loeb mentions former Hanford tank waste supervisor Steve Stalos--a physicist who had found his work undermined by Hanford management, quit in 1978 and went to work for NASA--and who gave a detailed introduction to Hanford's most frightening environmental disaster. Lacking relevant technical background, Mr. Loeb failed to understand the magnitude of the disaster and did not follow up--in either this book or later writings. What emerged only a few years later became a national crisis--leading to efforts that could take a century or more, if they work.