Book Review: A Nuclear Family Vacation

Authors Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger provide a guided tour to atomic weaponry tourism, from nuclear labs to blast-proof bunkers (including Dick Cheney’s rumored “undisclosed location”).


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, even though it’s led by a pair of Beltway policy wonks. Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberger join the small but growing number of nuclear tourists who, like the families that swarm Gettysburg and Antietam each summer, visit Cold War nuclear sites and get nostalgic about mutually assured destruction. The nukes complex is happy to play along: The National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque hosts children’s birthday parties; the “Hall of Success” at Tennessee’s Y-12 uranium-enrichment facility exhibits some of the plant’s lesser-known spin-offs, such as an ultrathin aluminum beer can (now that’s a peace dividend!); and Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain command center displays framed photographs of prior visitors, including Clifford the Big Red Dog.

As they drop in on nuclear labs, production plants, icbm silos, and blast-proof bunkers (including Pennsylvania’s “Site R,” rumored to be Dick Cheney’s “undisclosed location”), Hodge and Weinberger also get a good look at our fast-deteriorating nuclear stockpile. Beneath the tourist kitsch, they find a system in panic, uncertain of its reason to exist in the post-Berlin Wall world. In the end, Hodge and Weinberger conclude, “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.” In the meantime, it’s fast becoming a bizarre roadside attraction for those in search of apocalyptic fun.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate