NUCLEAR LESSONS by Richard & Elizabeth Hogan with Sheldon Horowitz & Richard E. Webb Curtis


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With chapter titles like ""The Thousand-Year Curse,"" and ""From Fissile to Fizzle,"" we are clearly in the company of anti-nuclear-energy advocates. Indeed, Curtis and Hogan wrote Perils of the Peaceful Atom ten years ago, and the current volume represents an updating in the light of Three Mile Island and the ongoing nuclear debate. The updating factor is both a minus and a plus: the minus is that much of the text relates to events and personalities of the late 1960s when the AEC was still the AEC, so the reader must make frequent time leaps back and forth as the commission evolves into the NRC, ERDA, and the Department of Energy. The plus is that many of the arguments are still cogent, perhaps more so because there are more and bigger reactors and more incidents. The authors deal with major accidents: the Fermi breeder reactor which suffered a partial meltdown; the Browns Ferry, Alabama, candle accident; and, of course, Three Mile Island. The text focuses not so much on what happened where, however, as on the nature of the danger: the many unknowns of design, safety, and operation; the human error and sabotage potential; the unresolved waste disposal problem; the shortage of uranium; the lack of insurance (money) or assurance (safety) for the public; and, in general, the legal and moral issues raised when government agencies both promote and regulate activities. Readers familiar with anti-nuclear texts will have heard most of the arguments before, but this does not vitiate their force. Especially valuable here is the afterword by expert Richard E. Webb which provides a succinct if technical summary of events at Three Mile Island. Safety features, he notes, are designed to cope with the failure of a single element; at Three Mile Island, however, there were at least five different kinds of failure--combined with such a general lack of experience and knowledge that questions remain about what happened (and is happening) inside the core. A dramatic conclusion to a provocative text.

Pub Date: March 28th, 1980
Publisher: Stackpole