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Although I'm primarily a novelist, I've also written articles on scientific topics. I'd once asked Rip how the atomic clock at the National Bureau of Standards operated, but I was careful never to make inquiries about his job. In New Mexico, it's bad manners to ask federal employees about their work or about information that might be secret. In fact, for years I wasn't sure what my father did after he left the Forest Service to become a security-cleared civilian employed by the air force. ) Still, I was hoping that if commercial flights could now pass through formerly restricted airspace, maybe scientists such as Rip could speak more freely.

Can we replace coal and nuclear with something better in the next few decades? As far as I know, nobody has ever written anything accurate for the public about the risks and benefits of uranium throughout its fuel cycle—its trip from cradle to grave—and how they compare to other energy sources. ” “In the late 1960s, the Sierra Club in California did not want big hydroelectric projects messing up wilderness areas. The environmentalists back then knew that a nuclear plant has a much smaller footprint and would save thousands of acres of habitat from the destruction that occurs when you build a big dam and flood a canyon.

Even though I'd participated in ban-the-bomb rallies in Greenwich Village after I moved East to study literature in graduate school and rejoiced when the United States and the USSR called off the arms race, I'd never considered the fate of a retired weapon. ” “The pits—the uranium and plutonium components—will one day be processed into fuel. ” I was incredulous. ” I don't know which surprised me more—confirmation that the mountain had really contained bombs or the news that weapons could provide constructive power.

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