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Book on peaceful use of atomic bombs by FMU's Kaufman soon to be released

KaufmanCornell University Press released today, "Project Plowshare: The Peaceful Use of Nuclear Explosives in Cold War America," written by Dr. Scott Kaufman, FMU professor of history and co-director of the Robert E. McNair Center for Government and History.

Inspired by President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" speech, scientists at the Atomic Energy Commission and the University of California’s Radiation Laboratory began a program called Plowshare in 1957. Joined by like-minded government officials, scientists, and business leaders, champions of “peaceful nuclear explosions” maintained that they could create new elements and isotopes for general use, build storage facilities for water or fuel, mine ores, increase oil and natural gas production, generate heat for power production, and construct roads, harbors, and canals. By harnessing the power of the atom for nonmilitary purposes, Plowshare backers expected to protect American security, defend U.S. legitimacy and prestige, and ensure access to energy resources.

Extensive research by Kaufman in nearly two-dozen archives in three nations explains how science, politics, and environmentalism converged to shape the lasting conflict over the use of nuclear technology. Indeed, despite technological and strategic promise, Plowshare’s early champions soon found themselves facing a vocal and powerful coalition of federal and state officials, scientists, industrialists, environmentalists, and average citizens. Skeptical politicians, domestic and international pressure to stop nuclear testing, and a lack of government funding severely restricted the program. By the mid-1970s, Plowshare was, in the words of one government official, “dead as a doornail.” However, the thought of using the atom for peaceful purposes remains alive.

Kaufman is the author of several other books, including “Plans Unraveled: The Foreign Policy of the Carter Administration” and “The Pig War: The United States, Britain, and the Balance of Power in the Pacific Northwest, 1846–72.”

He earned the B.A. degree from Kansas State University, and the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Ohio University.

A copy of the book is available through, Barnes and Noble, and Cornell University Press.


Last Published: January 5, 2013 7:55 PM
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