27 Apr 17

During the Cold War, American and Soviet managers of the world’s first plutonium plants created “plutopias”—communities of nuclear families living in highly subsidized, limited-access atomic cities. Fully staffed and medically monitored, residents of the Hanford plant (near Richland, Washington), and the Maiak plant (near Ozersk, Russia), enjoyed all the pleasures of consumer society. Nearby, however, migrants, prisoners, and soldiers lived in temporary “staging grounds” and often performed the plants’ most dangerous work. In this lecture, historian Kate Brown explains that these hermetic plutopias were successful because they appeared to deliver the promises of the American Dream and Soviet Communism. In reality, they concealed monumental radioactive disasters that remain highly unstable and threatening to this day.