Tritium and the Times: How the Nuclear Weapons-Production Scandal Became a National Story

By William Lanouette

A paper by William Lanouette, spring-fall 1988 fellow, provides a case study on the role of the press in nuclear weapons policy. For more than a decade, pieces of a nationwide scandal had surfaced from the vast and sprawling system that produces the U.S’s nuclear weapons as health, safety and environmental stories in local papers across the country. Lanouette surveys press coverage of nuclear facilities beginning in 1980, and traces how it took eight years before the dots were connected to generate a nationwide story in 1988, led by a New York Times series of front page articles about topics such as the coverup of severe nuclear accidents and the failure to implement safety procedures.

Download the paper (PDF).