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Perilous Panacea Paperback – October 8, 2010
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About the Author
A former Research Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory with a Ph.D. in Metallurgy and Materials Science, Ronald Klueh brings a wealth of scientific knowledge and experience to contemporary techno-thriller fiction. A freelance science writer (Washington Post, Houston Chronicle, New Scientist, Popular Mechanics), he makes the present and future interesting for adventure as well as romance readers.
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The current likelihood of a deadly terrorist attack in virtually any country in the world presents an excellent backdrop for this thrilling fictional book. Up to the present time, these attacks have been aimed at large international cities (i.e., Paris, London, Madrid, Bagdad, Los Angeles, New York, etc.). Death tolls in those cities were as high as 100--thousands in New York. But what happens if nuclear weapons are involved? Perilous Panacea presents a scenario that demonstrates how nuclear materials could wreak havoc without exploding an atomic weapon or a dirty bomb.
Following an attack by Israeli aircraft on Iranian nuclear facilities, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) computer expert approaches an Iranian agent with a plan to steal bomb-grade nuclear material and build Iranian atomic bombs inside the U.S. Russian mobsters are hired, and a truck convoy transporting uranium and plutonium from a government facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee is hijacked. Two drivers and two guards are killed.
Such theft of uranium and plutonium is a realistic event, as both materials are handled in the Oak Ridge facilities. Although DOE assures the public that a successful hijacking of these well-protected shipments is highly unlikely, the novel presents a well-planned hijacking by the DOE insider who hacks the DOE computer to set up the hijacking and produce panic inside DOE.
A nuclear engineer, who as a child escaped from Iran with his grandparents, is blackmailed to help build the bomb because his father is in jail in Iran. Curt Reedan, an Oak Ridge metallurgy expert in machining nuclear materials is kidnapped along with a chemistry professor from Arizona State University. Curt’s wife Lori becomes involved. She is sexually assaulted by the Russian goons as warning what will happen should she go to the police. Her pregnancy is aborted as a result of the assault. Lori buys a gun and sets out for revenge and to free Curt.
While the FBI led by Agent Richard Saul scrambles to find the stolen material, they also work to keep the theft from a reporter who was tipped off about the hijacking. The reporter keeps getting tips and publishes articles that rile up the White House, Congress, and the public.
Nuclear material is machined for the bombs as Reedan and the professor look for ways to escape. An accident during the processing of the nuclear material releases plutonium powder, and one of the group’s technicians breathes the powder, a very deadly substance. He dies. Curt and the professor hoped to use him to escape. An escape attempt ends badly for the professor.
The reporter is being fed material by the perpetrators. A car bomb explodes in Chicago as a demonstration by the terrorists of how easy it would be to explode an atomic bomb in a major city.
Lori and Agent Saul find the factory as a fire breaks out inside. In the confusion, Curt escapes, but Saul is shot and Lori is captured. The fire is out of control and unleashes radio¬active plutonium on the nearby population. As the surroundings are devastated by nuclear material, Curt reaches home to find Lori gone and a note from the Russian goons warning him not to go to the police. With the help of a neighbor, Curt begins a chase that sends him into Virginia for a confrontation with the terrorists