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  1. Unlike the first two Sylvia Jensen mysteries in which the story of a murder is told within the context of a social issue, in Nuclear Option the social issue (nuclearism) is the story. What are your thoughts and concerns about the nuclear threat today? When and how did you first become aware of the threat? How concerned are you about it? 

  2. Nuclear Option tells the story of how Norton Cramer, and the members of the group his son Corey joined, were impacted by atomic testing. How and when did you first learn that atomic veterans in this country were used as nuclear guinea pigs? Do you think the program was justified? Why or why not?

  3. In the Prologue and in chapter nine, reference is made to the Mar- shallese people who were evacuated from Enewetak island prior to the nuclear testing. When and how did you first learn about the impact of the testing program on them, both then and now? 

  4. Norton Cramer’s son Corey is the epitome of the maxim that “hurt people hurt people.” How does Sylvia try to help him heal and what do you think about her approach? 

  5. Corey joins a group of people who are atomic veterans or family members of atomic veterans. How is his motivation (need for revenge) different from the other group members? How would you characterize the others? As good-hearted people whose pain makes them vulnerable, as Sylvia does? Or as terrorists, as the media does? 

  6. Vince, the self-appointed leader of the group, stood out from the beginning as different from the others. Who do you think he really was? What do you think J.B. Harrell knows about him that the others don’t know? 

  7. During a meeting of the group Vince argues that social change has never been and can never be accomplished without violence and gives examples like the Civil War and the civil rights movement and Corey struggles with whether his father was truly nonviolent or not. Do you believe violence is necessary to bring about change? What historical changes inform your opinion?

  8. In Nuclear Option people protest the Nectaral Corporation’s role in the arms race, both in the present and thirty-five years ago. What corporations can you name that are profiting from the current escalation of the nuclear arms race?





Atomic soldiers. Rosenberg, H. (1980). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.


GI Guinea pigs: How the pentagon exposed our troops to dangers more deadly than war. Uhl, M. & Ensign, T. (1980). New York, NY: Wideview Books.


No place to hide: 1946/1984. Bradley, D. (1948). Hanover, NH: Uni- versity Press of New England. Includes quotes from Alan Cranston (for- mer CA Senator), Helen Caldicott MD (former President of Physicians for Social Responsibility), John Kemeny (former Dartmouth College President), Eric Chivian (former president International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War) and Father Theordore Hesburgh, (former president of Univ. of Notre Dame) that speak to addressing the conse- quences of nuclear capability, medical consequences of nuclear war.




Atomic Veterans Were Silenced for 50 Years. Now, They’re Talking. (May 27, 2019).


Original Child Bomb, a 2004 documentary about the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The title of the film was inspired by Thomas Merton’s poem of the same name, which is quoted throughout the film. The documentary employs color footage that had previously been labeled top secret by the US government. Directed by

267Carey McKenzie and produced by Holly Becker. title/tt0415193/




Ground Zero Center for NonViolent Action


National Association of Atomic Veterans, Inc. Founded in August, 1979, to give voice to the U. S. Atomic Veter- an Community’s inability to get a fair hearing about their developing radiogenic health issues related to their exposure to “ionizing” radiation during a nuclear weapon test detonation or a “post-test” event.


UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

As of July 7, 2017, 122 nations adopted this landmark agreement to ban nuclear weapons. While the nuclear nations are not among the nations supporting the treaty, it strengthens the global norm against the posses- sion and use of nuclear weapons and establishes a legal standard aimed at stigmatizing nuclear weapons and compelling nations to take steps toward disarmament.


WPSR Statement of Support for Health Justice for the Republic of the Marshall Islands -- September 11, 2019 for-health-justice-for-the-republic-of-the-marshall-islands.  This Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility statement acknowledges the profound health impacts experienced by the people of the Marshall Islands as a direct result of U.S. nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War, and calls for support of the Marshallese people in their efforts to establish adequate healthcare for their communities, particularly cancer care.


Union of Concerned Scientists. On January 23, 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight—which is closer to an apocalyptic end of civilization than ever before. https://thebul

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