Among the countless and careless errors throughout this book, as attested to by several other reviewers, the one that bothers me the most is the author's horrendous misunderstanding of the terms "contamination" and "radiation." Being an ex nuclear submariner and nuclear engineer, I have always been impressed by the accuracy of Tom Clancy's research, whether it was the details of nuclear submarine operations or his insights regarding interactions among members of the officers and crew. Tom Clancy was a meticulous researcher. Tom Clancy understood the difference between "contamination" and "radiation" and never would have written a book based on such a misapplication of science.
Lee Tong, the "radiation man" who sets off the entire story, conceivably could have been irradiated by gamma rays from the nuclear cargo on his target ship but that exposure, no matter how intense, would in no way have made him radioactive. There would be no need for a lead shield as described in his hospital room. If on the other hand he became contaminated with radioactive material from the target boat as a result of the explosion, then the target ship and many of its crew members would also have been contaminated. But they weren't. You can walk away from a radiation source, but if you are contaminated with radioactive particles, it goes with you.
For those of us who have been conditioned to read anything with Tom Clancy's name on it, and who do so because we have learned to trust the authenticity of his work, this book is extremely disappointing. We used to read Clancy because we trusted him and because of this trust we had confidence that the technology described in the story was accurate, not science fiction. Apparently, that is no longer so, a sad finding for thousands of Clancy fans.
Much of the public fear about nuclear power comes from misunderstandings, such as Jeff Rovin's misunderstanding of contamination and radiation. Also, co-creator Steve Pieczenik, having a Ph.D. from MIT, would have easy access to the science that is at the heart of The Sea of Fire. He has no excuse to get it so wrong. For a ready reference, the difference is very clearly described on the Internet at:
Definitions Related to Radiation
or go to: [...]
If you are looking for fairly good science fiction read, and don't care about its technical accuracy, or how big Australia really is, this book might do it for you. Otherwise don't be misled, find another book.