Blowups Happen

Publication date:1940.09
Genre:Science fiction short story
Series:Future History
Preceded by:Coventry
Followed by:Magic, Inc.
Wikipedia page

“Blowups Happen” is a science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein was first published in “Astounding Science‐Fiction” September 1940, before any nuclear reactors had ever been built, and for its appearance in the 1946 anthology The Best of Science Fiction, Heinlein made some modifications to reflect how a reactor actually worked. In omnibus “The Past Through Tomorrow” “Blowups Happen” is referred to as a 1940 story. However, it refers for Hiroshima and Nagasaki therefore the 1940 reference cannot be correct. These additions may be part of the 1946 modifications.


The story describes the tensions amongst the staff of a nuclear reactor. Nuclear reactor was one of a barely contained explosion, not the radiothermal generators developed later. As a consequence the work is dangerous, and the slightest mistake could be catastrophic.One of the by‐products of the reactor is a more stable nuclear fuel which can also be used as the basis for a rocket engine. Armed with their theories and the new fuel, the protagonists undertake a campaign to have the reactor shut down, moved into space, and used as a source for the fuel, which will supply the needs of Earth and take humanity into space.