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.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


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.


Support our journalism

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


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.