Book Review: “Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock That Shaped the World” by Tom Zoellner

This is the story about Uranium, from its humble beginning when no one paid attention to it, to its glorious days even after the the two atomic bombs were dropped in Japan that ended the World War II.

The author spent a lot of time developing the story about how the atomic bomb was developed. It started from the theory about the tremendous force postulated when the uranium nuclei are punctured by neutrons, then the race to find sufficient Uranium and its purification, the start of the Manhattan Project, and finally the dropping of the atomic bombs in Japan. This first part of the story was captivating.

The second part of the book is about the race to become nuclear superpower in the post-World War II era. I was shocked to hear that Eisenhower was giving away the atomic bomb secret (atoms for peace) to spread the know how in order to keep peace. It’s counter-intuitive but may be effective. But it also propel countries like Pakistan, India to trade their hard earned money for a namesake in the nuclear hall of fame.

The uranium rush was not much different from the gold rush. There were speculators, winners and losers. The politics and economics behind the uranium ore are both mind boggling and outrageous.

The book is long but interesting, at least the first part of it. The second part about the politics of Uranium is informative but less interesting. Overall, it is very educational. Never thought an element besides gold could play such a big role.