Reviews should be approximately 4-5 pages. There is no need to cite page numbers in your review, unless you are quoting a specific passage. In that case, put the page numbers in parentheticals at the end of the sentence. Your book review should 1). Lay out the author’s argument, and, most importantly 2) critique the author’s historical argument and discuss how the book challenges us to reevaluate our historical conceptions of American history since 1945. What are the book’s strengths? Weaknesses?
See if you can gather enough information with this and the introduction I sent earlier, because it won`t allow me to send more.
EPILOGUE The 1980s brought significant changes for the Savannah River Plant (SRP). The partial meltdown of a reactor core at the Three Mile Island plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1979 created a climate of increased fear and trepidation regarding the nuclear power industry. Although it is considered the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history, the events at Three Mile Island did not result in loss of life, nor was there a significant release of radioactive material into the environment. Still, the incident put the federal government and the nuclear industry on the defensive as an energized environmental movement and a nervous public demanded greater regulations. The decision to temporarily restart the SRP’S L reactor, previously shut down in the 1960s, ignited objections from environmentalists and disarmament advocates alike. The Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Strom Thurmond, held local hearings on the issue in February 1983. Representatives of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, and Physicians for Social Responsibility took strong stands against further plutonium production and warned of the threat of possible radioactive releases, the thermal effect on the Savannah River, and the potential health risk to children. One representative from the GrassRoots Organizing Workshop argued that the government that wanted to restart the L reactor was “the same Government that … was willing to napalm children, women and old men in Vietnam, and is now willing to support the massacre of people in Central America.” A representative of the National Academy of Sciences, however, provided data showing minimal impact from the L reactor on river organisms. The restart had strong support from area political leaders, including Aiken County’s representatives in the state legislature and the mayors of Aiken, Augusta, North Augusta, Williston, and Allendale. In the end, the Department of Energy renovated and reconditioned the aging reactor. It was activated in 1985 and was deactivated in 1988.1 The 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine forever changed the game plan for the nuclear power industry worldwide. The explosion released huge quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere. Deaths from the initial explosion and from prolonged radiation exposure have run into the hundreds of thousands.
Considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, the disaster at Chernobyl brought the industry under intense scrutiny. A year after the Chernobyl accident, Du Pont announced that it would not renew its contract to operate the SRP. These changes had been precipitated by more than just nuclear crises; the international scene had shifted dramatically. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, and the demise of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the Cold War and with it a new mission for the SRP. By 1988, all reactors at the SRP had been deactivated. The Department of Energy, which had assumed federal oversight of the facility from the Atomic Energy Commission, announced the following year that its primary mission had changed from weapons production to a comprehensive program of environmental compliance and cleanup. Also in 1989, Westinghouse Savannah River Company, a subsidiary of Westinghouse Electric, assumed operation of the site. Reflecting its new emphasis, the facility’s name was changed from the Savannah River Plant to the Savannah River Site. Its mission transitioned from the production of nuclear materials to assure supremacy in the Cold War arms race to the safe and secure stewardship of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, nuclear materials, and the environment. The Cold War had ended, and along with it the SRP’S role as a key production component in the country’s nuclear weapons complex. 2 The Savannah River Site’s new mission of stockpile stewardship and cleanup highlights growing concerns in the 1970s and 1980s regarding the Cold War’s environmental legacy. Waging the Cold War required not only massive financial resources but also a remarkable amount of land. By the end of the twentieth century, Cold War facilities covered some twenty-seven million acres across the United States. Vast acreage was required in particular in the American West for nuclear weapons and missile testing. Forty years of fighting the Cold War created what have become known as “national sacrifice zones,” areas so contaminated that they remain uninhabitable and pose a continued threat to public health. Anthropologist Catherine Lutz notes that “military target practice, atomic bombing, and toxic washing have created a surreal landscape, particularly in the West, of bomb craters, spent missile noses jutting out of the pierced earth, and giant pits of animal carcasses poisoned by radiation.” 3 In their study of the communities linked to the Hanford Engineering Works, historians John M. Findlay and Bruce Hevly state that “by the early 1990s, the Hanford Site was commonly identified as one of the most polluted places in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, noting the 440 billion gallons of liquid radioactive and chemical wastes released into the ground and distributed about the place after 1943, ranked Hanford as ‘the most contaminated site in the nation.’” But Findlay and Hevly highlight a peculiar environmental juxtaposition within the confines of the Hanford site. The Hanford Reach, a fifty-mile stretch of the Columbia River that flows through the nuclear reservation, was set aside as a national wildlife refuge because of its natural attributes. They further note that other portions of the nuclear reservation have been set aside for ecological research and wildlife preservation. Such conflicting forms of land use epitomize what they call a “hypercompartmentalized West,” a region in which land and water resources had become increasingly fragmented. But the juxtaposition of nuclear waste site and pristine wilderness also highlights the Cold War’s highly ambiguous environmental legacy. While carefully documenting the damage done by the work at Hanford, Findlay and Hevly also point out that the Atomic Energy Commission was the first government entity to set aside land for explicitly environmental reasons. 4 Similar contradictory forces of environmental threat and environmental protection existed and continue to exist within the boundaries of the Savannah River Site. As at Hanford, the production of highly radioactive materials and the storage of radioactive wastes pose serious environmental concerns. From 1953 until the reactors were deactivated, around thirty-six metric tons—40 percent of the plutonium in U.S. stockpiles—was made at the SRP. The waste materials generated by this and other production remained at the site, housed in massive underground storage tanks. In the 1970s, leaks were discovered in the tanks, although no detrimental effect on the off-site civilian population was found. Natural areas closest to the complex’s manufacturing facilities were not always so lucky. Lost Lake, located within the site’s boundaries, had been heavily damaged by contamination from an industrial seepage basin.
Steel Creek, a tributary of the Savannah River, received hot water effluent discharge from the L reactor and was considered a sacrifice zone. A 1988 Department of Energy report noted that a primary aquifer within the Savannah River reservation had been contaminated with solvents. Wildlife at the site was likewise affected. Researchers discovered that reactor seepage basins that had received radioactive contaminants, including strontium 90, had contaminated turtles on the site. In addition to radioactive emissions into the air, ground, and water, ecologists studying the area surrounding the site were greatly concerned about the impact of elevated water temperatures on natural habitats. Large quantities of water from the Savannah River were used to cool the site’s nuclear reactors. The water eventually flowed down cooling canals into reservoirs, streams, and a swamp before returning to the river. Elevated thermal temperatures have had some detrimental effects on area habitats, including higher rates of certain parasitic infestations, the destruction of original swamp forests, and reduced body weight in fish during the summer months—“ skinny bass.” By the mid-1990s, the cost to clean up Savannah River and other Cold War sites had reached into the hundreds of billions of dollars. 5 The impact of the SRP on communities outside the plant’s boundaries appears to have been less than the damage caused by other Cold War facilities. A fourteen-year, $ 10.3 million study undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2006 that the fifty-year-old plant delivered a negligible amount of radiation to thousands of residents in the counties around its boundaries and therefore posed little health risk to the area communities. 6 The Centers concluded that cancer rates in communities surrounding the plant were about the same as in similar communities. 7 But while the study provided some level of comfort to area citizens, in the course of collecting data, scientists received declassified documents that revealed safety mishaps at the site. A 1960 memo revealed an accidental tritium leak that was classified as “moderate.” Workers repairing the leak were briefly exposed. Also in 1960, according to documents, a rapid restart of the L reactor resulted in extreme heat that came within forty seconds of a potential fuel meltdown if a shutdown had not been performed. After the incident, the rapid restart of reactors was prohibited. In 1970, a neutron source, used to generate plutonium, was held too long with cooling after being removed from the K reactor. The incident resulted in significant contamination inside the reactor building, which was shut down for three months. 8 Although the study ultimately confirmed that citizens’ health had not been compromised, it also reminded area residents of the potential dangers posed by the site. The health of workers at the Savannah River Site and other Cold War plants was another matter. By 2007, more than seventy-two thousand workers, retirees, and family members of workers who staffed facilities at Savannah River, Hanford, Oak Ridge, the Nevada Test Site, the Rocky Flats Complex in Colorado, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky, and elsewhere had sought damages from the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program to treat a range of cancers and other ills thought to be related to hazardous materials in their workplaces. Proving that a certain level of exposure caused a particular illness is extremely difficult, and more than half of the claims have been denied. 9 In 1997, ninety-nine African American employees filed discrimination suits against Westinghouse Savannah River Site and three other site contractors. In addition to claims concerning wage and promotion discrimination, black workers claimed they were more likely than white workers to be exposed to hazardous working conditions. The story was covered on CBS’S Sunday news show 60 Minutes in 2000. Robert W. Warren, an attorney who represented dozens of Savannah River workers, observed that employees there stood less chance of having claims accepted because they lack the organization and lobbying advantages found at some sites where more workers were white and where staff were represented by strong unions: “Black workers…. were put in high-exposure areas without proper protection or monitoring. They worked in some of the most dangerous places, but there are no records today to show that.” Wayne Knox, a radiation-safety expert who was a contractor at the SRP for nearly two decades, confirmed that blacks were often employed in menial tasks—cleaning spills, scraping paint, removing waste—and were sometimes sent to the most dangerous parts of the plants, without being told of the risks they faced. 10 A former epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control hired by the plaintiffs to conduct a study on radiation exposure rates found that black workers at the site were exposed to 1.7 to 1.8 times more radiation than were whites. An unrelated study by a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina found that black nuclear workers were four to five times more likely than whites to die of multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. 11 Like Hanford, the Savannah River Site has a complex environmental legacy. While it has produced massive quantities of toxic substances and wastes that require careful stewardship, the site also has been a boon to the study of ecology. In 1951, a team of scientists undertook environmental baseline studies to inventory the terrestrial flora and fauna and the general ecology of the area.
Biological baseline studies of the region’s waterways were conducted by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia under the direction of Dr. Ruth Patrick. These scientists conducted comprehensive surveys of the Savannah River at three-to five-year intervals and found that biological change to the river stemmed from a variety of sources, including dam projects, industrialization outside the boundaries of the plant, sewage treatment, and dredging. In addition, virtually no biological alterations had occurred to the river environment as a direct result of the activities at the Savannah River Site. Also undertaken in 1951 were benchmark radiation surveys. From 1955 to 1961, University of Georgia researchers at the site began studying radioecology—the fate and effects of radioactive contaminants on the environment and the use of radioactive tracers to follow ecological processes. In 1961, the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) was established within the reservation, and in 1972, the Atomic Energy Commission designated the SRP reservation as the nation’s first National Environmental Research Park, an outdoor laboratory for investigating the effects of energy technology and production on the environment. Off-limits to the general public, the research area was large and possessed a high natural diversity of species, creating an ideal environment for conducting uninterrupted, long-term ecological research. Over the years, scientists with the SREL have published more than three thousand articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. 12 Retired SREL ecologist J. Whitfield Gibbons conducted the longest uninterrupted study of freshwater turtles in the world, spanning twenty-six years and involving more than twenty thousand turtles. Gibbons calls the laboratory “an ecological researcher’s paradise,” and notes that the SREL has produced more ecologists and has done more to further the study of ecology than any other facility in the world. 13 Any assessment of the legacy of the Cold War must take such accomplishments into account. The impact of the SREL and other projects within the site’s boundaries focused on environmental stewardship is clearly visible from outer space. A satellite image of the site reveals not a hellish deathscape but a lush, verdant island. Outside the plant’s boundaries, the land clearly shows the environmental damage that is the result of the more traditional ways by which humans have affected the natural landscape. More than half a century has passed since the Atomic Energy Commission and Du Pont Corporation made the decision that set this region on the path to modernization. The Savannah River Site is today the state’s largest industrial employer, and its wide-ranging impact on the region remains unrivaled by any other single entity. Like the antebellum cotton plantations, the arrival of the Winter Colonists, and the coming of the textile mills, the creation and impact of the SRP during the Cold War has become an integral and celebrated part of the region’s history. In 2005, former employees of the SRP, led by scientist Walt Joseph, founded the Savannah River Heritage Foundation. Its goal is to build a heritage center and museum at the site to educate the public on the technical, social, and ecological impacts of the Cold War. The foundation also hopes to create a walking tour through the former town of Ellenton, complete with exhibits recognizing the sacrifices of its residents.
On August 27, 2010, the Savannah River Heritage Foundation commemorated the discovery and confirmed existence of the neutrino. The smallest of particles, the neutrino has no electrical charge and only the smallest mass. It is, according to Joseph, “the closest thing to nothing that is still something.” The neutrino, Italian for “little neutral one,” was calculated to exist in 1931 by Austrian theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli. In 1956, Clyde Cowan and Frederick Reines, two physicists working in the SRP’S P reactor, detected and confirmed the neutrino’s existence. Cowan died in 1974, but Reines accepted the Nobel Prize in both of their names in 1995 for the discovery, the only Nobel Prize awarded for scientific work conducted in South Carolina. The commemoration of the discovery of the neutrino was a fitting tribute to the Cold War forces that had so dramatically transformed the South. The 2010 celebration included a scientific conference, a banquet, and the unveiling of a historical marker commemorating the discovery. 14 The marker stands across the street from the Aiken Chamber of Commerce, an appropriate placement given the importance of the SRP in the city’s growth, development, and modernization. The Savannah River Site, still commonly referred to by locals as the Bomb Plant, remains rendered mostly as a vast blank space on maps. It is anything but. The site, embodying the powerful economic, social, cultural, and political forces that accompanied the Cold War, has left an indelible imprint on the landscape of the modern South.