Cover image for The angry genie : one man's walk through the nuclear age
The angry genie : one man's walk through the nuclear age
Morgan, K. Z. (Karl Ziegler), 1908-
Publication Information:
Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvii, 218 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 23 cm
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R895.6.U6 M67 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Karl Z. Morgan was a physicist at the Manhattan Project and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he was director of health physics from the late 1940s until his retirement in 1972. He collaborated with leading trial lawyer Ken M. Peterson to write this extraordinary memoir about the dawn of the nuclear age and the moral dilemmas associated with nuclear energy.

A deeply humane and religious scientist, Morgan regards his own role, in meeting the challenges presented by the "angry genie" of nuclear energy, with the same unblinking eye he focuses on government, the military, and the nuclear industry. He tells harrowing tales of radiation accidents and near-disasters, and shows the actual and potential consequences of the clumsiness, recklessness, and carelessness of fallible human beings.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Morgan, a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, FDR's secret wartime effort to develop the atomic bomb, is today an outspoken critic of what he sees as the nuclear power industry's willful blindness, greed and hazardous nature. His plainspoken autobiography, written with trial lawyer Peterson, opens with an account of his Manhattan Project work, first at the University of Chicago and then at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where, as director of the health physics division for three decades, Morgan sought ways to protect workers from radiation exposure. With hindsight, Morgan laments his "pitifully limited" wartime awareness of the true risks of radiation, citing recent studies that suggest the nuclear industry's "acceptable" levels of airborne emissions and its contamination of waterways with radioactive wastes have greatly increased the incidence of cancer, cataracts and genetic mutation. He includes a chilling summary of horrifying radiation experiments conducted by the U.S. government, including downwind studies that rained thyroid cancer-inducing radiation upon "expendable" Native Americans. Morgan blasts the nuclear power industry as plagued by endless repairs, shutdowns, high occupational exposure to radiation, a seemingly insoluble waste disposal problem and reactors bedeviled by flawed features. He also warns that the appallingly lax security conditions of Russia's nuclear weapons facilities make them easy targets for terrorist attacks and inside jobsÄand he urges the U.S. or a consortium of peacekeeping nations to buy Russia's nuclear arsenal. This personal testament is a beacon in a sea of inertia, recklessness and misinformation. 56 b&w illustrations. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Morgan is a founder of health physics (concerned with the effects on life of nuclear radiation) who has become a critic of the nuclear industry and of his own field for failing to adequately put human health and safety first in the thousands of nuclear energy plants worldwide. This memoir, written with Peterson, a trial lawyer specializing in business and personal injury litigation, establishes clearly the dangers involved in human use of nuclear power and the many ways in which nuclear energy has been and is carelessly employed. Beginning with his employment on the Manhattan Project and then, by 1943, as a physicist at Oak Ridge responsible for establishing and maintaining "safe" standards for exposure to nuclear radiation, Morgan's memoir vividly relates the details of nuclear accidents and near accidents that endangered or killed people; he also describes his role after retirement (1972) as an expert witness in celebrated cases such as the Karen Silkwood suit against Kerr-McGee Corporation. He effectively establishes the conflicting interests of power associated with rapid growth of the nuclear industry through the 1970s and the ways in which the industry threatened and still threatens the safety of life. This disturbing and provocative memoir should be in all general library collections. All levels. M. J. Moore; Appalachian State University