A history of nuclear energy in the United States

In August 1939, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt with some observations and recommendations about atomic weapons, including this chilling line: “A single bomb of this type carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory.” Today, we share three pieces looking at the dangers, applications, and security questions surrounding this invention.

Image: Lennart Tange (Flickr)

The dangers of nuclear power Studs Terkel Radio Archive

Myron M. Cherry is a lawyer who argued against the licensing of several nuclear power plants. He successfully slowed their development in the 1970s by “waging a war of attrition on the nuclear industry,” turning the construction of a new reactor into a public and political liability. In 1975, he was interviewed by Studs Terkel. Listen.

President Harry S. Truman signs the Atomic Energy Act into law on August 1, 1946. Image: Wikimedia

Open secrets: National security and the first amendement
— Pacific Radio Archives

In 1983, as part of the  bill of rights education project producer John Reiger undertook an examination of the legal, historical, and practical contexts of technology for nationalistic purposes — including the Atomic Energy Act. Listen.

SS Kentuckian in the Panama Canal. Image: Wikimedia

The Nuclear Canal — KQED Science

“Geographical engineering” with atomic explosives almost became a reality more than half a century ago, when scientists and engineers at the Lawrence Livermore Lab wanted to expand the Panama Canal to allow larger ships through. “Project Ploughshare,” as this effort was known, never happened (and thank goodness). Listen.

See you in the archives,

The Pop Up Archive Team