Uranium

The untold story behind the rock that threatens to change the world

The stability of our world rests on a substance that is unstable at the core. This is the fundamental paradox of uranium, the strongest element the earth can yield, and one whose story is a fascinating window into the valor, greed, genius and folly of humanity.

Uranium is a riveting journey to the heart of this eerie mineral, taking us from slave camps in Africa, to desert mesas, war councils, smugglers’ routes, doomsday cults, jungle mines and secret enrichment plants over five continents in a narrative that is equal parts history, investigative journalism and nonfiction thriller.

Winner of the 2011 Science Writing Award from The American Institute of Physics

 

Praise for Uranium:
“Journeying to such far-flung sites as Congo’s Shinkolobwe uranium mine and a smuggling route along the Russian-Georgian border, Tom Zoellner examines how uranium has helped shape our recent history and could determine our future. Policymakers and citizens alike need to read Uranium.”
The Washington Post

“Crazy fascinating”
—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

“Part history and part travel narrative, the book presents the atomic age not through its scientists or grand strategists, but through its raw material…”
New York Times

“A riveting journey into perilous terrain.”
Booklist

“Zoellner possesses the gift of making complex science clear, while weaving the saga of the historically unwanted rock into a compelling narrative.”
Christian Science Monitor

“In this fine piece of journalism, Zoellner does for uranium what he did for diamonds in The Heartless Stone—he delves into the complex science, politics and history of this radioactive mineral, which presents the best and worst of mankind.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Who knew that a rock could be so endlessly fascinating? In this engaging geo-thriller, Tom Zoellner leads us through uranium’s dark and colorful past and points us to its possibly terrifying future. Put on your haz-mat suit and prepare yourself for a wild and ultimately sobering ride.”
—Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers, and winner of the PEN award for nonfiction

“Tom Zoellner has written a stunning book about he calls the “apocalyptic pull of uranium.” His reportage reads like a detective story with a cast of characters ranging from H.G. Wells to Robert Oppenheimer to A. Q. Khan. His writing is at once lyrical, historically informative and deeply investigative. Zoellner’s engrossing history of uranium is a formidable achievement.”
—Kai Bird, co-author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2006

“There may be nothing on this Earth that more powerfully symbolizes human hope and dread than the ‘unstable element’ known as uranium. Tom Zoellner has spun the curious, epoch-defining story of this yellow dirt into journalistic gold.”
—Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic and Survival City

“A cogent, fascinating investigation of one powerful rock that offers a clear explanation of the current state of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, readable for even those who would prefer not to dwell on the matter.”
New West magazine

“This multi-faceted investigation of uranium sheds light on the rock in new and interesting ways, but doesn’t shy away from the controversy that surrounds it.”
Santa Fe Reporter

“One long, cool look at the history of uranium”
Salt Lake Tribune


Click here for an excerpt.

Click here for endnotes.

Daily Show interview

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