Cold War and Nuclear Disaster
The Cold War had a dominant impact on numerous facets of American society and culture. It escalated because of antagonist values between the U.S., standing for capitalism and democracy, and the Soviet Union, encompassing totalitarian regime and communism. The U.S.’s powerful influence as the main economic and military force in the post-World War II period created the cult of the sciences permeating in the U.S. society. Thus, technology and science appeared to be practically universally attributed to a determinative function in obtaining victory in war, welfare in peace, magnifying national security, enhancing the society’s health, and fortifying the caliber of life. In regards with the U.S. society, the Cold War and the nuclear age appeared to be manifested at numerous levels, especially through the diffusive apprehension of communism combined with large-scale mobilization of national resources specifically created to retrain the communist hazard. Therefore, the current paper will analyze how and why the nuclear era influenced the American life, vividly depicting that it stimulated the American society to risk its future.
The Cold War appeared to be almost a 50-year long time of strained relations between the United States and the Communist-governed Soviet Union. The nuclear age started before the Cold War. The Cold War started practically instantly after World War II. The horror and hazard of Communism infiltration in the U.S. government, other organizations, and entertainment industry solidly influenced American politics, culture, and routine daily life, especially during in the early years of the Cold War itself. This infiltration, combined with the desire to become global power helped the nuclear age change the country, as it neglected domestic health and environment in pursue for worldly leadership. The early years of Cold War appear to be of specific interest, as they illustrate the start of the nuclear age and agenda, which revolutionized the American life through all spheres, encompassing political, economic, and social, challenging former old assumptions and forcing re-evaluation of accepted norms and standards. The atomic bomb dropping on Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be commenced as the beginning of the nuclear age around the globe. The actual appearance ofnuclear weapons poised the American society with annihilation, which stands for the principle guiding the nuclear weapon states in the theory of deterrence, the assumption that no nation would attack another if it is known to have nuclear weapons. This marked the beginning of American-Soviet Union opposition. The facts demonstrate that in the late 1950s, Americans consoled oneself in the fact that the country appeared to be the champion of the mechanical and rational art of nuclear development. Even despite the fact that the Soviet Union attained of the bomb in 1949, the U.S. sustained as confident regarding its technological and scientific supremacy and had based its Cold War foreign policy on the concept of implicating the communist menace, which actually stands for a policy grounded on infinite technological superiority. Taking into account both countries, the Cold War resulted in massive military-industrial facilities, but the U.S. version appeared to be much better amalgamated with the society, culture, and larger economy. On the other hand, the Soviet system can be characterized as subduing the civilian economy and limiting the flow of information. The Cold War changed the American society, as people lived in a constant fear of communism and of nuclear war, making them support all government ideas and development during the nuclear age. This fear made both societies bull-eyed of the Cold War, being similarly vulnerable of attacks from the enemy abroad, defenseless in a face of huge explosions, which might be caused by the nuclear age development, and helpless because of daily exposures to doses of low-levels of radiation.
During the Cold War period, governmental sustenance of engineering and science had already transformed to a pivotal method of maintaining technological supremacy in domestic and international markets, and supporting the nation’s comparatively innovative military ascendancy. Due to the fact that the U.S. lived in the contexture of an overall deviation of New Deal politics and outstanding restitution to a free-market economy, the federal government would amplify its function in applied and basic research appeared to be essential to the national defense and economy. Nevertheless, this enlargement of federal sustenance and the evolvement of a national technology and science policy were slow, anticipating for the jolt equipped by Sputnik. The abasement of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik launching in 1957 forced the U.S. financing to novel methods/levels, making aeronautics and electronics the prime beneficiaries.
Numerous Americans rejected hidden fear regarding the new nuclear weapon due to the fact that they were persuaded to believe in the ‘golden abundance age’, which appeared immediately after the Second World War. The society was additionally induced by President Truman’s speeches who saluted the atomic bomb in a form of a “god-given tremendous discovery” and “one to bring together one human community”. People truly believed in the “limitless beneficial applications of the atomic energy”. The nuclear age persuaded the American society to connect the atomic bomb to mere positive advantages, while even governmental programs endeavored to change the fear arising after Hiroshima and educate the general public about the overall science behind the bomb. The facts demonstrate that the society was impacted through different educational films, including Walt Disney’s “Our Friend the Atom”, which revealed the advantages the benefits of the nuclear age and the wonders of this innovative technology, completely neglecting all risks and dangers. Other educational videos, encompassing “A is for Atom”, which was sponsored and funded for by General Electric have been produced and provided to the general public in order to expound the advantages of nuclear technology. All this one-sided information made the change, which allowed of the bomb in Hiroshima event pass as unnoticed.
The period of nuclear age in the American history also coincides with tentatives to create a new world order, which has been combined with the appearance of the U.S. as a global superpower. Thus, all social, political, ideological, and social shifted from being merely domestic to becoming the international issues. The facts demonstrate that the Truman Doctrine together with the Marshall Plan was launched in order to assist in financing an American-friendly Europe. The overall nuclear agenda started to alter because of the U.S.’s foreign policy of Containment, making Americans observe Communism as a solid issue, which had to be continuously controlled and monitored. The Cold War sparked a concern regarding a superpower rivalry, especially after the Soviet Union’s tests of 1949. This led to the existence of two countries with conflicting ideologies, which appeared to have the most destructive weapon ever invented.
Thus, the atomic age in the American society emerged gradually and constantly evolved over the course of a Cold War and nuclear age. It was the time when the American society lived in accordance with the phrase: “progress is our most important product”. The tactics utilized by the American government during the Cold War period to increase support for further nuclear research is outstandingly outlined in Kate Brown’s Plutopia. The author demonstrates that the perfect lifestyles created out of thin air on the atomic frontier helped to cover the risks and hazards connected to the nuclear research. Kate Brown vividly depicts why and how the U.S. society evolved such a defective comprehending of nuclear weapons during the Cold War years. In accordance to Brown: “the orderly prosperity of Plutopia led most eyewitnesses to overlook the radioactive waste mounting around them”, resulting in the fact that the created comprehension of atomic weapons during the nuclear age was majorly detached from reality. Thus, science and technology helped to make the American public completely ignorant of the nuclear destructive capacity. In fact, the broadening industrial prosperity of the Hanford area alongside the individually elevating wealth of the American working class joined at a point where science, technology, and culture bolstered one another to send a message of competence, expertise, and trust. The ideal picture created behind the atomic bomb and plutonium locations assisted in convincing people to believe in progress and science, regardless their possible future causes.
The scientists, engineers, and technicians at Hanford and Mayak were at the front lines of the Cold War. In their perspective, they observed themselves as contributing to the preservation of peace enjoyed by the postwar generation. The American nuclear arms race provided a powerful incentive for government to invest in the development of university-grounded research and scientific training. The U.S. leaders believed that the deterrent value of nuclear weapons dampened conflict between the superpowers and that these weapons prevented a third world war. Sanford (the eastern Washington State) appeared to stand as the Cold War hostile. Despite the fact that plutonium production is known as the dirtiest among all others, as every kilogram of final product leads to hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive waste, these locations actually appeared to be model community locations replete with happy childhood memories, affordable housing, and excellent schools. The facts demonstrate that during the four decades of operation, the Hanford and the Mayak plutonium plants issued at minimum 200 million curies of radioactivity into the surrounding environment (twice the amount of what was emitted in Chernobyl). These plants resulted in hundreds of square miles of unsuitable for living area, polluted rivers and waters, contaminated forests and fields, and numerous quantities of people stating to be ill because of the plants’ radioactive emanation. Nevertheless, everybody knows about Chernobyl, while the information about these two facilities appears to be secret. Hanford plant was government-possessed and managed by corporate directors. The facts demonstrate that Richland appeared to be exceptional in regards with the American landscape due to the fact that it had no private property, no free market or local self-government. The facts demonstrate that Hanford facility stands among the monuments of scientific and engineering achievements of their respective societies. The construction of the first nuclear reactor at Hanford, was accomplished in a phenomenally short time under extremely adverse conditions, as the American nuclear weapons program heavily relied upon the operations at Hanford. The leaders of both nations undoubtedly felt that these facilities were essential to their having survived the cold war. In the West, the United State assumed a new global role and participated in a process of détente that eventually transformed the international order. The relatively stable peace enjoyed over the course of more than three decades also was a factor in the evolution of the Soviet system beyond the authoritarian brutality of the Stalinist era. Nevertheless, the Cold War competition came at an enormous cost.
Winston Churchill delivered his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech in February 1946, while President Harry Truman retraced the concept of the arising Cold War even more explicitly in March 1947, stating that the United States had to protect ‘free nations’ from oppression by ‘totalitarian regimes’ around the world. During the Cold War, proponents and experts frequently compared the U.S. and the Soviet Union in order to justify or vindicate one side or the other regarding some inequity or fallacy. On the other hand, Kate Brown places the plutonium communities alongside each other in order to demonstrate how plutonium bound lives together across the Cold War divide. The major difference between the U.S. and Soviet plutopias, which stands for the discrepancy, which so critically determined health and illness, accounts the fact that people residing in or close to Sanford actually lived in a much wealthier state, which comprised that their oblations for nuclear safety, despite being great, appeared to be not as embosoming as compared to people who lived close to Mayak.
Kate Brown demonstrates numerous similarities between Sanford and Mayak, which actually undermine the traditional Cold War polarity between the U.S. ‘free world’ and the Soviet Union’s totalitarian one. The comparison of these two facilities helps to understand that the U.S. similarly to the Soviet Union was ready to risk the future and lives of its people merely to become the global power. The parallels between two facilities appear to be impressive. Firstly, the author demonstrates that doctors and security agents observed residents apprehensively, with a help of informants networks, phone taps, and mandatory medical examinations. Nonetheless, both countries ignored health risks posing the pursue for global leadership higher than human life. Secondly, political elites forces facilities managers to provide maximum production, which resulted in the fact that managers operated through the methods, which contaminated the environmental landscape openly, munificently, and fatally. The third most sticking parallel stands for the political one, as the town of Richland, similarly to Ozersk, appeared to have no private property, no free market, and no democratic government. The whole town, including the entire housing and all the land, appeared to be possessed by the U.S. government and operated by General Electric (GE), which stands for the operator of the plant in the postwar years. The author states that a Chicago Tribune reporter who visited the city in 1949 wrote that Richland appeared to be a ‘police state’, while even Time magazine outlined it as a “benevolent dictatorship”. Nonetheless, regardless the shortage of democracy, which was combined with the dissemination of cancers provoked by radioactive contamination, residents of the two plutonium towns on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain appeared to be have analogous happy memories of secure, middle-class communities with nice schools and admissible apartment buildings. Kate Brown vividly demonstrates that the above-mentioned phenomenon vividly accounts for the Plutopia as such. This was the case when workers in both locations renounced their political rights, which was frequently entailed with neglecting of their health, in exchange for a middle-class consumer existence equipped by the state. As a matter of fact, Nikita Khrushchev’s so called ‘kitchen debate’ with Vice-President Richard Nixon at the U.S. exhibition in Moscow in 1959 apparently illustrates the time when Khrushchev rejected the concept and notion of communism, of security and equity, and embraced instead the U.S. commitment to a consumer society. Thus, the Soviet Union would compete with the U.S. on the terrain of consumer goods, while Ozersk appeared to be one of the shining jewels of this new Soviet Union. The final parallel between the two facilities appeared after Chernobyl, as the victims’ groups on both sides advocated their rights to information regarding plant histories, leading to the challenging of the weapons producers power and dominance. In fact, experts armed with classified knowledge had spoken with assurance about safety and permissible doses for decades, at the same time disbanding the existing concerns. After 1986, local residents, journalists, and activists insisted on learning the hazards, which governmental and corporate power brokers had exposed them to. In the court battles that ensued, self-styled victims’ groups organized around innovative conceptions of knowledge, freedom, and citizenship. This stood for a stunning novel movement, in which the U.S. and Soviet activists, previously concentrated on civil, political, and consumer freedoms, demanded living and biotic rights. In fact, they railed against corporate contractors who had privatized the tremendous profits from nuclear weapons production while socializing the hazards to health and environment. Despite the existing and obvious parallels, there are massive discrepancies between the two plutonium projects as well. The facts demonstrate that the U.S. appeared to be the richest and most scientifically advanced country in the world after World War II, while the Soviet Union had its population devastated, at the same time when its industrial base was destroyed. Moreover, the Soviet Union had Stalin and the Gulag, which he decided to make the nucleus of the Soviet atomic weapons project. The facts demonstrate that the slave labor from the Gulag together with the Gulag’s violence, theft, and inefficiency, doomed the Soviet project to “a future of calamity”. Deploying and developing the Gulag in order to build and evolve the plutonium facility meant for Soviet leaders the smallest investment in return for a nuclear arsenal. It actually meant, in a comparison to other Soviet industrialization programs, a prioritization of industry over consumption, factories over cities, and bombs over food. In other words, the atomic Gulag was business as usual for the Stalinist state. The facts demonstrate that currently Hanford is known as a disaster area, being the most contaminated location in the U.S., but officials allow visitors who reserve specific days and times in advance to see it, even despite the fact that the visitor quantities are limited. On the other hand, Ozersk sustains as a closed town. Kate Brown had to spent a summer living in cottage as close to Ozersk as she could to be capable of interviewing former residents and workers.
Regardless the fact that that American society was solidly persuaded regarding the benefits of the nuclear power, things changed in 1962 in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, when a socialist revolution in Cuba vividly demonstrated that it might have brought the world closer to nuclear war than ever before. It actually depicted how fragile the balance between a nuclear war and peace had become. Despite the previous American public opinion shifts towards the bomb, the Cuban Missile Crisis showed Americans the genuine terror of a nuclear attack. This stimulated the American society to move into a new era of fear, similarly to the wave of Communism infiltration fear experienced at the beginning of the Cold War. Moreover, this helped the U.S. to change its perspectives on nuclear power, being supported by the open criticism of the nuclear programs.
The scope of influence that the nuclear agenda and nuclear era (especially the early atomic period) had on the American society was immense. The timeframe encountered numerous alterations within America. It is obvious that the early atomic culture appeared to have a solid impact on society and culture. The turning point probably appears at the end of the overall nuclear age period during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as this was the time when the nuclear agenda shifted to the become the source of tensions and fear of the American society, as it was blindly ignorant and unsuspicious of the genuine hazards and dangers occurring behind the closed doors.