This 1994 non-fiction
book by University of Alaska
historian Dan O'Neill chronicles the United States Atomic Energy Commission's
plans to use atomic bombs for civil engineering
. The book takes its name from a sarcastic reference to the scientists and Washington desk jockey
s who were looking for any excuse to use their nuclear bombs - i.e., firecrackers. So eager to use the bomb that they seemed to have lost all common sense
In the 1950's the US government considered plans to build a new Panama Canal through Nicaragua using atomic bombs. After that project was tossed aside they came up with Project Chariot - a plan to build a large port in northern Alaska. The port was to be created by six atomic explosions.
O'Neill details the project, its scope, its likely effect on native Eskimos, and the government's lies and deceptions in trying to persuade Alaskans that the plan was entirely safe.
It is stunning how close this plan came to becoming reality. All it lacked was President John F. Kennedy's signature. O'Neill also tells the story of the environmental activists who fought against the government plans and the price they paid for standing up to The Firecracker Boys.
An exceptional story that is exceptionally told.