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Atomic Accidents

author: James Mahaffey (2015)
date read: 1 December 2019
rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A detailed, methodical description of different nuclear accidents.

There’s enough context and background to understand why things go wrong, at least for me as a non-expert to follow. (For example, you want to maximise the surface-area-to-volume ratio of fuel. Keep it as a pancake, not a soup can—and when you have uranium and a soup can-shaped container in the same building, run away.) I didn’t feel lost by any of the explanations.

The author is clearly an expert and has done plenty of original research, and more speculative parts are marked.

A nuclear disaster sounds scary, but the book avoids sensationalism or hand-wringing. I’m less worried than I was before I’d started – bad things have happened, sure, but like any engineering discipline it gets better if we learn from past mistakes. This book describes plenty of past mistakes to learn from!

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