Front cover image for Plutopia : nuclear families, atomic cities, and the great Soviet and American plutonium disasters

Plutopia : nuclear families, atomic cities, and the great Soviet and American plutonium disasters

Kate Brown
In Plutopia, Brown draws on official records and dozens of interviews to tell the 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 nuclear families living in highly-subsidized, limited-access atomic cities. 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 and polluted. 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 was successful 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. --from publisher description
Print Book, English, 2013
Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013
Case studies
x, 406 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
9780199855766, 9780190233105, 0199855765, 0190233109
Part One. Incarcerated space and Western nuclear frontiers
Mr. Matthias goes to Washington
Labor on the lam
Labor shortage
Defending the nation
The city plutonium built
Work and the women left holding plutonium
The food chain
Of flies, mice and men
Part Two. The Soviet working class atom and the American response
The arrest of a journal
The Gulag and the bomb
The Bronze Age atom
Keeping secrets
Beria's visit
Reporting for duty
Empire of calamity
"A few good men" : in pursuit of America's permanent war economy
Stalin's rocket engine : rewarding the plutonium people
Big Brother in the American heartland
The vodka society
Part Three. The plutonium disasters
Managing a risk society
The walking wounded
Two autopsies
Wahluke Slope : into harm's way
Quiet flows the Techa
The zone of immunity
The socialist consumers' republic
The uses of an open society
The Kyshtym belch, 1957
Karabolka, beyond the zone
Private parts
"From crabs to caviar, we had everything"
Part Four. Dismantling the plutonium curtain
Plutonium into portfolio shares
Chernobyl redux
The forsaken
Sick people
Cassandra in coveralls
Nuclear glasnost
All the kings' men