Paul R. Josephson is associate professor of history at Colby College. He is author of Red Atom: Russia’s Nuclear Power Program from Stalin to Today (Freeman, 1999),Totalitarian Science and Technology (Humanities, 1996), and New Atlantis Revisited: Akademgorodok, the Siberian City of Science (Princeton, 1997), which won the Shulman Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. He has published articles in Physics Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times.
In the 1950s, Soviet nuclear scientists and leaders imagined a stunning future when giant reactors would generate energy quickly and cheaply, nuclear engines would power cars, ships, and airplanes, and peaceful nuclear explosions would transform the landscape. Driven by the energy of the atom, the dream of communism would become a powerful reality. Thirty years later, that dream died in Chernobyl. What went wrong? Based on exhaustive archival research and interviews, Red Atom takes a behind-the-scenes look at the history of the Soviet Union's peaceful use of nuclear power. It explores both the projects and the technocratic and political elite who were dedicated to increasing state power through technology. And it describes the political, economic, and environmental fallout of Chernobyl.