Nuclear Power and Testing

Powerful Essays
Nuclear Power and Testing

With the development of nuclear power came a heavy moral debate between scientists and politicians. The government chose to protect its national security and engage in an “arms race,” rather than protecting its citizens. The nuclear testing between 1951-1962 exposed thousands of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada residents (“Downwinders”) to nuclear fallout, resulting in genetic defects, leukemia, and cancer in many of the fallout’s victims. In her 1992 book Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams claims she “cannot prove her mother, Diane Dixon Tempest, or [her] grandmothers, Lettie Romney Dixon and Kathryn Blackett Tempest, along with [her] aunts developed cancer from nuclear fallout in Utah ( Tempest 286,);” however, scientific tests, although hard to conduct in this circumstance, have proved a strong correlation between fallout exposure and cancer within the downwind population. However, Williams’ chooses not to highlight this variable of fallout exposure until the final chapter of the memoir, which had been previously published before the book. Therefore, one must wonder why Williams chose to write the memoir in this style, completely disregarding the unnatural source of her family’s painful battle with cancer.

Development of the Atomic Bomb and the AEC

In 1938, an earth-shattering scientific breakthrough was attained by German physicists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman- the fission of a Uranium atom into a Barium atom- which allowed for the technological development of atomic power. This knowledge was passed onto famous scientists in America such as Neils Bohr and Albert Einstein. Einstein urged President Roosevelt to develop weapons before Hitler’s nuclear physicists ( Ball, 6.) Therefore, America, bei...

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... because they simply could not afford to develop weapons. Partnered with America’s desire for national safety, and the AEC’s illegal practice, many innocent citizens were exposed to radiation that later killed many of the Downwinders. Although it cannot be explicitly said that Williams’ family contracted cancer from nuclear fallout, an extremely strong correlation, from studies and observations of drastic statistical change, can be made pointing to the culprit of her family’s misfortune. However, Terry Tempest Williams did not choose to use Refuge as a stage for her objections and protest of the nuclear testing. The values illustrated in her book, the importance of family and faith, are what drove the memoir, and ending stylistically with “The Clan of the One-Breasted Women” left the reader shocked, and allowed Williams to incorporate something new within the story.
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