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Book Review - The Atomic Bazaar – The Rise of the Nuclear Poor

By: William Langewiesche (408/35704)
Publisher: Penguin ISBN: 978-1-846-14011-2

The nuclear arms race is reality for all of us. Yet as proliferation continues, and more and more nations acquire the ultimate arms, the stakes of state-sponsored nuclear activity are soaring to frightening heights. Even more disturbing is the possibility of such weapons being manufactured and deployed by guerrilla non-state terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. Drawing on astonishing conversations, interviews and first-hand sources, The Atomic Bazaar investigates the inexorable drift of nuclear weapons technology from the hands of the rich into the hands of the poor.

William Langewiesche takes us to the smuggling back routes in Turkey and to the extraordinary ‘nuclear cities’ in Russia, which housed nearly a million people yet for decades were so secret that they did not appear on maps. He meets disillusioned Washington officials, scientists, technicians, smugglers and Israeli spies. He also tells the extraordinary story of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the scientist at the forefront of nuclear development and trade in the Middle East, who masterminded the theft and sale of centrifuge designs that helped build Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, and who single-handedly peddled nuclear plans to North Korea, Iran and other potentially hostile countries.

From Hiroshima to the present day, Langewiesche describes a reality of urgent consequence – one that the West must face up to, but without the blinkered response of suppressing civil liberties, limiting trade or waging blind wars on ‘rogue’ nations. Searing, provactive and timely, this is investigative journalism at its very best.

October 2007


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