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Powell's Books Presents Steve Olson in Conversation With Tom Carpenter
Steve Olson’s THE APOCALYPSE FACTORY: PLUTONIUM AND THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC AGE (W. W. Norton) is a thrilling narrative of scientific triumph, decades of secrecy, and the unimaginable destruction wrought by the creation of the atomic bomb.

It began with plutonium, the first element ever manufactured in quantity by humans. Fearing that the Germans would be the first to weaponize the atom, the United States marshaled brilliant minds and seemingly inexhaustible bodies to find a way to create a nuclear chain reaction of inconceivable explosive power. In a matter of months, the Hanford nuclear facility was built to produce and weaponize the enigmatic and deadly new material that would fuel atomic bombs. In the desert of eastern Washington State, far from prying eyes, scientists Glenn Seaborg, Enrico Fermi, and many thousands of others — the physicists, engineers, laborers, and support staff at the facility — manufactured plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, and for the bombs in the current American nuclear arsenal, enabling the construction of weapons with the potential to end human civilization.

With his characteristic blend of scientific clarity and storytelling, Olson asks why Hanford has been largely overlooked in histories of the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. Olson, who grew up just 20 miles from Hanford’s B Reactor, recounts how a small Washington town played host to some of the most influential scientists and engineers in American history as they sought to create the substance at the core of the most destructive weapons ever created. THE APOCALYPSE FACTORY offers a new generation this dramatic story of human achievement and, ultimately, of lethal hubris.

Olson will be joined in conversation by Tom Carpenter, attorney and Executive Director of Hanford Challenge, a regional watchdog organization that seeks a safe and effective cleanup of the Hanford nuclear site.

Aug 3, 2020 06:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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Steve Olson
Steve Olson is the author of Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens (winner of a Washington State Book Award), Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our Genes (a finalist for the National Book Award), and other books. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
Tom Carpenter
Tom Carpenter brings decades of experience in organizing, litigating, and policy oversight in the nuclear field, much of it devoted to Hanford. He is an attorney, a graduate of Antioch School of Law, and has a Masters in Organizational Design and Renewal from Seattle University. Tom worked as the Director of the Nuclear Oversight Campaign for the Government Accountability Project from 1985 to 2007. He founded Cincinnati Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE) and served on the Cincinnati Mayor’s Environmental Advisory Council. Through his work at GAP and Hanford Challenge, Tom has visited dozens of nuclear sites in the U.S. and Russia and hosted many international conferences. Tom has represented numerous whistleblowers at various nuclear sites around the nation, including at commercial and military nuclear production facilities, such as Hanford, Los Alamos, Knolls Atomic Power Lab, Pantex, Lawrence Livermore, Fernald, Mound, and others.