On a tranquil summer night in July 2012, a trio of elderly peace activists infiltrated the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Nicknamed the "Fort Knox of Uranium", Y-12 was reputedly one of the most secure nuclear weapons facilities in the world, a bastion of warhead parts that harbored hundreds of metric tons of highly enriched uranium - enough to power thousands of nuclear bombs.
The activists - a house painter, a Vietnam war veteran, and an 82-year-old Catholic nun - penetrated the complex's exterior with alarming ease; their strongest tools were two pairs of bolt cutters and three hammers. Once inside, the pacifists hung freshly spray-painted protest banners and streaked the complex's white walls with six baby bottles' worth of human blood. Then they waited to be arrested.
With the symbolic break-in, the Plowshares activists had hoped to draw attention to a costly military-industrial complex that stockpiled deadly nukes and drones. But they also triggered a political, legal, and moral firestorm when they defeated a multimillion-dollar security system. What if they had been terrorists with a deadly motive? Why does the United States continue to possess such large amounts of nuclear weaponry in the first place? And above all, are we safe?
In Almighty, Washington Post reporter Dan Zak explores these questions by reexamining the 70-year history of America's nuclear weapons programs and its attendant madness. At a time when we are rightly concerned about proliferation in such nations as North Korea and Iran, the United States' massive arsenal is plagued by its own questions of security. This truly life-or-death issue is unraveled in Zak's eye-opening and terrifying account. From the influential biophysicist who first educated the public on atomic energy to the prophet who predicted the emergence of the Oak Ridge facilities to the jury who convicted the Plowshares activists under the Sabotage Act, Zak's Almighty reshapes the accepted narratives surrounding America's atomic weapons.
Powerful, illuminating, and ambitious, Almighty makes the case that, more so than any other global peril, our greatest modern-day threat of nuclear disaster begins at home.
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