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March 13, 1996

Nuclear Wastelands: A Global Guide to Nuclear Weapons Production and its Health and Environmental Effects

Author Affiliations

Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health University of Utah School of Medicine Salt Lake City


edited by Arjun Makhijani, Howard Hu, and Katherine Yih (by a special commission of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the Institute for Energy and Environment Research), 666 pp, with illus, $55, ISBN 0-262-13307-5, Cambridge, Mass, The MIT Press, 1995.

JAMA. 1996;275(10):808. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530340072037

Its comprehensive coverage suggests that Nuclear Wastelands is intended primarily as a reference work. Yet, the coverage is sharply limited by many still-intact secrecy walls, although some have started to crumble.

Enough information, however, has been released to yield a large book. It is well indexed and has 44 pages of references, indicating careful documentation. It contains details on the history of nuclear arms and the various steps in the production of nuclear weapons: mining uranium ores, milling to produce uranium concentrates, conversion to uranium hexafluoride, enrichment (increasing the concentration of uranium 235), reduction to metallic form, and bomb construction. The production of plutonium adds steps, as do fusion bombs: military reactors to generate plutonium (plutonium from civilian reactors can be used but is less efficient) plus generation of tritium plus reprocessing. Waste management pertains to all steps. Sites in each of 13 nations are described for each step. Potential