Kate Brown is a professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who is “trying to recover the lost histories of modernist wastelands.” She is the author of Plutopia...
Bosch Lecture in Public Policy
Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters
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.