The Soviet Union embraced nuclear power not simply as a source of military strength but as a symbol of scientific and economic prowess. This work traces the development of the nuclear power program that ultimately spawned such spectacular disasters as Chernobyl and appalling problems of nuclear contamination, which are growing worse over time as old reactors are junked and radioactive wastes spew into the sea, air, and land. The high quality of Soviet science was not enough to counteract the slovenliness and even recklessness of the Soviet bureaucracy. One of the author's shrewdest observations is that Soviet "nuclear culture" reflected some of the fundamental characteristics of communism. Unfortunately, the material legacy of that ideology will remain long after its adherents are gone.