The Apocalypse Factory by Steve Olson
Time & Location
About the Event
The Hanford nuclear reservation in south-central Washington State is best known today as the most radiologically contaminated place in the western hemisphere and as the site of an immense government-funded cleanup.
But in his new book The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age, Seattle author Steve Olson argues that Hanford is also the most important site in the history of the nuclear era. The world’s first large-scale nuclear reactor was built at Hanford, and all subsequent nuclear reactors are based on technologies developed there.
Hanford produced the plutonium used in the world’s first nuclear explosion at the Trinity test in New Mexico, in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, and in the weapons in the current U.S. nuclear arsenal, all of which are built around a fist-sized pit of Hanford-made plutonium.
Olson, who grew up just 20 miles from Hanford, will explain the significance of what happened there, the decisions that led to the massive contamination of the site, and the lessons Hanford can teach us about current efforts to develop clean and sustainable energy sources.
Steve Olson is the author of the book The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age, a new history of the nuclear era told from the perspective of the Hanford nuclear reservation. His previous book, Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens, won the Washington State Book Award and was named one of the best nonfiction books of 2016 by Amazon. He also is the author of Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and other books, and he has written for the Atlantic Monthly, Science, the Smithsonian, and many other magazines. Since 1979, he has been a consultant writer for the National Academy of Sciences, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and other national scientific organizations. A fourth-generation native of Washington State, he now lives in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle.
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