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Article
August 2, 1995

Elements of Controversy: The Atomic Energy Commission and Radiation Safety in Nuclear Weapons Testing, 1947-1974

Author Affiliations

University of Utah Salt Lake City

 

by Barton C. Hacker, 614 pp, with illus, $55, ISBN 0-520-08323-7, Berkeley, Calif, University of California Press, 1994.

JAMA. 1995;274(5):431-432. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530050079041

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Abstract

The main title is meaningless without the lengthy subtitle. The controversy referred to is the repeated charges that the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was irresponsible and secretive in the exposure of individuals to nuclear tests and their fallout. This controversy is dealt with directly only in an epilogue.

The main part of the book is a straightforward presentation of information culled from recently declassified documents, including operational reports, standard operating procedures, official documents of all sorts, and interviews with individuals who participated in the US nuclear test programs. In a sense, it is a continuation of the account begun in the author's 1987 book Dragon's Tail. Hacker is careful to report AEC decisions on safety and known overexposures in as unbiased a manner as possible. This is a welcome change from the biases that are rampant in other recent accounts, eg, Gould and Goldman's 1990 Deadly Deceit: Low-Level Radiation, High-Level

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