A Nuclear Family Vacation
Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry
Publication Date: June 10, 2008
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Two Washington, D.C., defense reporters do for nukes what Sarah Vowell did for presidential assassinations in this fascinating, kaleidoscopic portrait of nuclear weaponry.
In A Nuclear Family Vacation, husband-and-wife journalists Sharon Weinberger and Nathan Hodge hit the open road to explore the secretive world of nuclear weaponry. Along the way, they answer the questions most nuclear tourists don’t get to ask: Are nuclear weapons still on hair-trigger alert? Is there such a thing as a suitcase nuke? Is Iran really building the bomb? Together, Weinberger and Hodge visit top-secret locations like the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility in Iran, the United States’ Kwajalein military outpost in the Marshall Islands, the Y-12 facility in Tennessee, and “Site R,” a bunker known as the “Underground Pentagon,” rumored to be Vice President Cheney’s personal “undisclosed location” of choice. Their atomic road trip reveals plans to revitalize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, even as the United States pushes other countries to disarm. Weaving together travel writing with world-changing events, A Nuclear Family Vacation unearths unknown—and often quite entertaining—stories about the nuclear world.
Sharon Weinberger is a contributing writer for Wired’s national security blog, Danger Room. She was previously editor in chief of McGraw-Hill’s Defense Technology International and a writer for Aviation Week & Space Technology, a leading aerospace and defense magazine. She is the author of the recently published Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon’s Scientific Underworld, and writes frequently on national security and science for the Washington Post Magazine, Slate, and Discover.
Nathan Hodge is a Washington, D.C.-based writer for Jane’s Defence Weekly. A frequent contributor to Slate, he has reported extensively from Afghanistan, Iraq, and the former Soviet Union. His work has appeared in the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, and Details, among many other newspapers and magazines.
“[Hodge and Weinberger] succeed admirably in reminding us that nuclear weapons have "never really gone away" and in calling attention to the crucial public debates that are not taking place. The questions they pose are significant and overdue; the answers they receive unsettling…They remind us that the purpose and future of our nuclear arsenal are too important to be left to those whose jobs remain dependent upon its perpetuation.” —Chicago Tribune
“A Nuclear Family Vacation is an eye-opening read for anyone who thinks that nuclear weapons are a thing of the past.” —Nerve
“How are you spending your next holiday? Tired of the same old thing? You might want to pick a different destination from A Nuclear Family Vacation, a new book and travel guide by veteran defence reporters Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger. This husband-and-wife team take the reader on a rapid, darkly comic tour of nuclear weapons sites across the world. A rare achievement in a nuclear policy book, their narrative demystifies an intimidating topic for a broad audience without sacrificing substance. Instead of pontificating on thermonuclear war, Hodge and Weinberger give us an eye-level view, often through their car window…the book sparkles with anecdotes and insights. It is well worth the trip.” —Nature
“Some people trek to Machu Picchu, some dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Those of us interested in nuclear issues visit the monuments and precincts of the Bomb. Such are husband-and-wife journalists Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger.” —New Scientist
“In A Nuclear Family Vacation, a husband-and-wife duo of Washington, DC-based defense reporters takes a journey deep into the nation's nuclear weapons complex. But wait—this turns out to be a surprisingly fun road trip.” —Mother Jones
“In this off-the-uncontaminated-path adventure, Sharon Weinberger and Nathan Hodge make nuclear vacationing seem fun, in a weirdly exhilarating way. They are the slightly obsessed tour guides holding the microphones at the front of the security-cleared bus. Together, the experts lead us across a neglected, mismanaged, and forgotten past, pointing out the history of doomsday weaponry along the way. A Nuclear Family Vacation is a shocking reminder that the Cold War isn’t over; it’s just transformed into something else that we don’t have a name for yet.”—Robert Sullivan, author of Cross Country and Rats
“A vacation for some, a nightmare for others. Either way, well worth reading.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Exhibiting dark humor, defense journalists Hodge and Weinberger take a tour of America’s nuclear-weapons infrastructure, visiting labs, plants, bunkers, missile silos, and ground zeros of nuclear explosions.”—Booklist
“In this adventure in ‘nuclear tourism,’ the husband-and-wife authors…convey an acute sense of the incoherence of latter-day nuclear strategizing.”—Publishers Weekly
“Nuclear tourism is an effective and interesting way of canvassing issues we face today. Reading A Nuclear Family Vacation is a good way to learn more about the history of nuclear weapons and become conversant with our current situation. Hodge and Weinberger have done the legwork to back up their common-sense conclusions.”—Defense Technology International
“Underlying their journey into our nuclear past is an earnest and thoughtful discussion of our nuclear present—and future…They identify a troubling lack of a cohesive national nuclear policy and remark that “much of the infrastructure supporting nuclear weapons continues to exist merely because no one has come up with a compelling reason to shut it down.” One can imagine an updated version of A Nuclear Family Vacation in which the two visit sites in Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, Israel, Russia, France, Great Britain, and heaven knows where else. The itinerary is not as finite as one would like; in fact, it seems to be growing. But there would be some comfort in having these sober and subtle observers as our guides.”—Bookforum