Critical Masses

From American and Comparative Environmental Policy

Critical Masses

Citizens, Nuclear Weapons Production, and Environmental Destruction in the United States and Russia

By Russell J. Dalton, Paula Garb, Nicholas Lovrich, John C. Pierce and John M. Whiteley

With Michael E. Kraft





This book investigates how citizens in the United States and Russia have used the democratic process to force their governments to address the horrendous environmental damage caused by the nuclear arms race. It is the first in-depth comparative study of environmental activism and democracy in the two countries. Critical Masses focuses on two crucial areas—the Hanford Reservation in Washington State and the Mayak Complex in Russia—that were at the heart of their nations' nuclear weapons programs, examining how the surrounding communities were affected. It explores nuclear weapons production, how both governments concealed environmental and health dangers from people living nearby, and how Russian and American citizens think about environmental issues. And it provides insights into the process of democratization in Russia and the limits of democracy in the United States, as well as the development of nuclear policy in the post-Cold War era.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262041751 473 pp. | 6 in x 8.9 in


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262541039 473 pp. | 6 in x 8.9 in


Michael E. Kraft.


  • Critical Masses is much more than merely a fine-grained scholarly analysis of major environmental disasters deriving from the nuclear arms race. In addition to neatly summarizing the massive amounts of sobering empirical data about the two infamous nuclear weapons production sites in the United States (Hanford) and Russia (Mayak), Russ Dalton and his co-authors enable us to understand the political, cultural, and structural dynamics creating unintended consequences in both cases. Along the way, they test and repair social-movement and environmental theory, making this book a trasure trove of information and insight for a broad array of social scientists, politicians, and the general public.

    Edward J. Walsh

    Department of Sociology, Penn State University

  • This book, the product of a unique interdisciplinary collaboration, explores the environmental damage left behind by plutonium production facilities in Washington State and in the Urals region of russia. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, it shows how two nuclear cities on opposite sides of the world became among the most contaminated places on earth and how local citizens struggled within the constraints of their political systems to respond to the devastation of their environments. The comparative persepctive works beautifully to show parallel ways in which the cold war destroyed human freedoms and the environment on both sides of the iron curtain, and to analyze the different political responses of citizens' groups a must-read for historians of the cold war, environmentalists, political scientists, historians of technology, and anyone interested in the tragic human consequences of the cold war.

    Hugh Gusterson

    Department of anthropology and Science Studies, MIT