NUCLEAR RENEWAL by Richard Rhodes


Common Sense About Energy
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 Rhodes (Making Love, 1992; The Making of the Atomic Bomb, 1987, etc.) turns his talent for historical analysis to the volatile issue of nuclear power, asking: Is it safe? Is it clean? What went wrong with the industry's development in the US? Can it be redesigned and resold to a fearful American public? ``Nuclear power isn't dead,'' Rhodes says. ``It runs France and will soon run Japan.'' The blame for the US industry's troubles goes mostly to strikingly poor management, whose technological ignorance, lack of involvement, and complacency, Rhodes charges, led to extremely uneven performance and profitability among the country's plants--though needlessly ``adversarial'' governmental regulations, rising interest rates, a misinformed antinuclear movement, and disasters like Three Mile Island didn't help. The result is tragic, Rhodes claims, since nuclear power remains the cleanest, most practical source of energy--less damaging to the environment than hydroelectric dams, less polluting than oil, less lethal to humans than coal, and without natural gas's contribution to the greenhouse effect. Examining successful nuclear-power programs in Japan and France, Rhodes notes the benefits gained by centralization of the industry: cooperation between regulators and utilities; incentives for communities who allow construction of plants; and the establishment of a ``nuclear culture'' in which nuclear power isn't treated as ``just another way to boil water'' but as a sophisticated technology requiring highly trained employees, constant vigilance, and a committed, informed management. Rhodes suggests that America can also take advantage of new innovations in reusing ``dirty'' (non-weapons-grade) fuel, shortened toxicity of radioactive waste, and new breeder reactors that are passively safe, low-waste, and economically competitive. ``There are overtones in this development [of nuclear power],'' physicist and statesman J. Robert Oppenheimer commented in 1957, ``... of pride and terror, of mystery and hope.'' Rhodes's thorough presentation helps to quiet these overtones--and to demystify the nuclear-power industry.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-670-85207-4
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993


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