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Book Reviews: 'The Day We Lost the H-Bomb' | 'Atomic America'; by Barbara Moran | by Todd Tucker

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Review by Seth Shulman
Sunday, April 19, 2009

THE DAY WE LOST THE H-BOMB

Cold War, Hot Nukes, and the Worst Nuclear Weapons Disaster in History

This Story

By Barbara Moran

Ballantine/Presidio. 321 pp. $26

ATOMIC AMERICA

How a Deadly Explosion and a Feared Admiral Changed the Course of Nuclear History

By Todd Tucker

Free Press. 277 pp. $26

In a historic speech in Prague recently, President Obama proposed concrete steps to move toward "a world without nuclear weapons," including a test ban, an end to the production of fissile materials and a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russians. This effort to build a safer world is most welcome: The six-decade-long history of nuclear weapons and nuclear power includes a frightening number of fiascoes still shrouded in secrecy.

As two new books illustrate, there is much to mine in this atomic tale: stories as big and dramatic as mushroom clouds, events that lend themselves easily to superlatives. When mistakes are made with nuclear reactors and warheads, the consequences are often scary indeed.

In her first book, journalist Barbara Moran exhibits dogged research and an eye for detail in reconstructing one such incident. "The Day We Lost the H-Bomb" revisits the 1966 explosion of a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs over the Spanish village of Palomares, a story the book's subtitle trumpets as "the worst nuclear weapons disaster" ever.


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