Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters

Paperback | July 8, 2015

byKate Brown

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While many transnational histories of the nuclear arms race have been written, Kate Brown provides the first definitive account of the great plutonium disasters of the United States and the Soviet Union. In Plutopia, Brown draws on official records and dozens of interviews to tell the extraordinary stories of Richland, Washington and Ozersk, Russia-the first two cities in the world to produce plutonium. To contain secrets, American and Soviet leaders created plutopias - communities of nuclearfamilies living in highly-subsidized, limited-access atomic cities. Fully employed and medically monitored, the residents of Richland and Ozersk enjoyed all the pleasures of consumer society, while nearby, migrants, prisoners, and soldiers were banned from plutopia - they lived in temporary "staginggrounds" and often performed the most dangerous work at the plant. Brown shows that the plants' segregation of permanent and temporary workers and of nuclear and non-nuclear zones created a bubble of immunity, where dumps and accidents were glossed over and plant managers freely embezzled andpolluted. In four decades, the Hanford plant near Richland and the Maiak plant near Ozersk each issued at least 200 million curies of radioactive isotopes into the surrounding environment - equaling four Chernobyls - laying waste to hundreds of square miles and contaminating rivers, fields, forests,and food supplies. Because of the decades of secrecy, downwind and downriver neighbors of the plutonium plants had difficulty proving what they suspected, that the rash of illnesses, cancers, and birth defects in their communities were caused by the plants' radioactive emissions. Plutopia wassuccessful because in its zoned-off isolation it appeared to deliver the promises of the American dream and Soviet communism; in reality, it concealed disasters that remain highly unstable and threatening today. An untold and profoundly important piece of Cold War history, Plutopia invites readers to consider the nuclear footprint left by the arms race and the enormous price of paying for it.

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While many transnational histories of the nuclear arms race have been written, Kate Brown provides the first definitive account of the great plutonium disasters of the United States and the Soviet Union. In Plutopia, Brown draws on official records and dozens of interviews to tell the extraordinary stories of Richland, Washington and O...

Kate Brown is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland, winner of the American Historical Association's George Louis Beer Prize. A 2009 Guggenheim Fellow, her work has also appeared in the Times Literary Supplemen...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:416 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:July 8, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190233109

ISBN - 13:9780190233105

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Table of Contents

IntroductionPart I: Incarcerated Space and Western Nuclear Frontiers1. Mr. Matthias Goes to Washington2. Labor on the Lam3. Labor Shortage4. Defending the Nation5. The City Plutonium Built6. Work and the Women Left Holding Plutonium7. Hazards8. The Food Chain9. Of Flies, Mice and MenPart II: The Soviet Working Class Atom and the American Response10. The Arrest of a Journal11. The Gulag and the Bomb12. The Bronze Age Atom13. Keeping Secrets14. Beria's Visit15. Reporting for Duty16. Empire of Calamity17. "A Few Good Men" in Pursuit of America's Permanent War Economy18. Stalin's Rocket Engine: Rewarding the Plutonium People19. Big Brother in the American Heartland20. Neighbors21. The Vodka SocietyPart III: The Plutonium Disasters22. Managing a Risk Society23. The Walking Wounded24. Two Autopsies25. Wahluke Slope: Into Harm's Way26. Quiet Flows the Techa27. Resettlement28. The Zone of Immunity29. The Socialist Consumers' Republic30. The Uses of an Open Society31. The Kyshtym Belch, 195732. Karabolka, Beyond the Zone33. Private Parts34. "From Crabs to Caviar, We Had Everything"Part IV: Dismantling the Plutonium Curtain35. Plutonium into Portfolio Shares36. Chernobyl Redux37. 198438. The Forsaken39. Sick People40. Cassandra in Coveralls41. Nuclear Glasnost42. All the Kings' Men43. FuturesNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Plutopia is reporting and research at its best, both revealing a hidden history and impacting the important discussions about nuclear power that should be happening today." --Glenn Dallas, San Francisco Book Review