Rickover and the Nuclear Navy: The Discipline of Technology (Hardcover)

Rickover and the Nuclear Navy: The Discipline of Technology By Francis Duncan Cover Image
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No book will ever come closer than this to providing an inside overview of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover's nuclear propulsion program. The author, an Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) historian assigned to the admiral's office, spent years observing the project and its controversial leader in action, and the insights he provides here reflect both his familiarity with the subject and his ability to remain an objective observer.

From 1974 to the day Rickover retired in 1982, Francis Duncan had free access to files, documents, and personnel at every level of involvement--a rare, never-to-be-repeated opportunity that most historians dream of but few get. And, as this book clearly shows, he took full advantage of the situation to gain a unique understanding of exactly how the program operated. The result is a thorough, balanced record of what may well be the U.S. Navy's and the nation's most important and far-reaching project of the twentieth century.

Knowing that facts and figures alone don't tell the entire story, Duncan talked to scores of people who dealt with day-to-day operations, watched men in prototype training and then accompanied them to sea, visited civilian and naval installations, and had close contact with Rickover himself. He also interviewed former U.S. presidents, secretaries of the navy, chiefs of naval operations, AEC chairmen, and legislative leaders who kept tabs on the projects but were removed from daily activities. Never once, the author says, did the admiral attempt to interfere with his research, nor did Rickover read the manuscript.

While the focus here is on the nuclear program, not the man, this book does provide fascinating insights into Rickover's personality and his efforts to maintain standards of excellence that would assure the program's safety and its ultimate success. Using one of the admiral's favorite terms, "the discipline of technology," to demonstrate the method of technological application advocated by Rickover, Duncan effectively balances technical detail with astute analysis and even drama. Filled with information not found elsewhere, his study is a valuable chronicle of the development of submarine propulsion reactors, the loss of the Thresher, the struggle over the application of nuclear propulsion to surface fleet, and the use of the Shippingport Atomic Power Plant to illustrate the feasibility of a light-water breeder reactor.

About the Author

Francis Duncan was a historian for the Department of Energy's Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) from 1962 to 1987. During these years he coauthored, with Richard G. Hewlett, Atomic Shield, the second volume of the AEC, and Nuclear Navy, 1946‒1962. He holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of Chicago. Dr. Duncan first met Adm. Hyman Rickover in 1969 while completing work on the AEC history. In 1974 he was assigned to the admiral's office to begin research for this study, and for the next eight years he watched Rickover and his "Naval Reactors" at work and engaged in frank discussions with a variety of people associated with the nuclear propulsion program. Now retired, Dr. Duncan lives with his wife in Bethesda, Maryland.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780870212369
ISBN-10: 0870212362
Publisher: US Naval Institute Press
Publication Date: December 13th, 1989
Pages: 242
Language: English