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Why We Need Nuclear Power: The Environmental Case

  • A complete scientific analysis of nuclear power as an environmentally sound source of energy
  • Written by a radiation biologist, who understands the scientific details of the issue and is able to avoid conjecture and misconceptions
  • Addresses many conceptions and misconceptions surrounding the nuclear-power issue, using science and facts

By: Michael H Fox(Author)

336 pages, 55 illustrations

Oxford University Press

Hardback | May 2014 | #209267 | ISBN-13: 9780199344574
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £22.99 $30/€25 approx

About this book

The issue of nuclear power has become a polarizing one, especially in light of the increasing need for sustainable energy sources, and events like the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan. The public has been largely wary and even fearful of a reliance on nuclear power, pointing to the reactor meltdown in Chernobyl or the Three-Mile Island accident as evidence that nuclear power is an unfeasible and dangerous source of energy. However, with these fears come misconceptions about the science behind nuclear power, and many arguments made against it lack the scientific grounding needed to contribute to the debate. At the same time, clean-energy sources like wind and solar have failed to prove that they can be used on a large enough scale to be relied upon.

In Why We Need Nuclear Power: The Environmental Case, experienced radiation biologist Michael H. Fox replaces the misconceptions about nuclear power with real science, and argues that it may be the best source of energy both for large-scale use and slowing the effects of global warming. Fox relies on thirty-five years of experience studying the biological effects of radiation to explore the issues surrounding nuclear power, addressing which of the public's concerns on the issue are valid, and which are unsupported by science. He shows that nuclear power has crucial strategic importance in reducing the large amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. This is the first book to lay out clearly what we know about the biological effects of radiation, and what science we use to know it. Why We Need Nuclear Power: The Environmental Case is a critical resource for anyone looking to understand the facts of the nuclear power issue, and what role nuclear power could play in reducing the environmental impact of the world's energy consumption.



Part 1 Global Warming and Energy Production
1 Global climate change: Real or myth?
What is the debate about?
The IPCC and International Conventions
The greenhouse effect
Skeptical politicians and pundits
Skeptical scientists
Historical temperature and greenhouse gas record
Last 10,000 years of climate - the Holocene
Recent changes in temperature and CO2
Melting glaciers and rising seas
Response to Singer and Avery
Predictions of future global warming and consequences
Sea level and acidification
Global weirding

2 Where our Energy Comes From
A brief history of energy
Oil and natural gas
How much energy do we use and where does it come from?
World energy usage
What can be done to reduce our carbon-intensive energy economy?

3 The Good, Bad and Ugly of Coal and Gas
Anatomy of a coal-fired plant
Carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants
Mining and health hazards
How much is there? 50
Carbon Capture and Storage
Natural Gas
How much is there?
Greenhouse gas emissions

4 The Siren song of renewable energy
Photovoltaic (PV) solar power
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
Solar heating
Limitations of solar power
Limitations of Wind Power

5 Back to the Future: Nuclear Power
Anatomy of a reactor
Advantages of nuclear power
Baseload power 82
Greenhouse gas emission
Location and footprint
Subsidies for nuclear and renewables
Advanced Reactor Technology
Can nuclear replace coal?
Arguments against nuclear power

Part 2 Radiation and its Biological Effects
6 The world of the atom
What is radiation?
Black body radiation - the quantum
The nuclear atom
The quantum atom
The nucleus
Radioactivity: decay processes

7 How dangerous is radiation?
Interactions of Radiation with Matter
Electromagnetic radiation (photon) interactions
Charged particle interactions
Neutron interactions
What is a dose of radiation?
Effects of radiation on DNA and cells
How does radiation cause cancer?
What are the risks?
Death from radiation
Cancer from radiation
Hereditary effects of radiation
How bad is plutonium?
Summing up

8 What comes naturally and not so naturally
Natural Background Radiation
Cosmic radiation
Primordial terrestrial radiation
Medical exposure

Part 3 Risks of Nuclear Power
9 Nuclear Waste
What is nuclear waste?
The long and the short of waste storage
Yucca Mountain
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)
Recycling spent nuclear fuel
Making new fuel from recycled "waste"
Summing up

10 About those accidents
The Scare, March 16, 1979
Three Mile Island, March 28, 1979
How the accident happened
Consequences of TMI
Chernobyl, April 26, 1986
How the accident happened
The hazardous radioisotopes
Health consequences
Environmental consequences
A trip to Chernobyl
Consequences for nuclear power
Fukushima, March 11, 2011
How the accident happened
Health and environmental consequences
Consequences for nuclear power
Public perception of risks from nuclear power

11 The Quest for Uranium
Mining for uranium
In Situ Recovery
Fuel fabrication
World resources of uranium
Megatons to Megawatts
Is there enough uranium for a nuclear renaissance?
Breeder reactors

12 Now What?
Myth 1: Radiation is extremely dangerous and we don't understand it
Myth 2: There is no solution to the nuclear waste produced by nuclear power
Myth 3: Nuclear power is unsafe and nuclear accidents have killed hundreds of thousands of people
Myth 4: Uranium will run out too soon and mining it generates so much carbon dioxide that it loses its carbon-free advantage
Myth 5: Nuclear power is so expensive it can't survive in the marketplace


Appendix A: Global warming
Earth's energy balance:
Radiative forcing
The emission scenarios of the IPCC special report on emissions scenarios (SRES)
Appendix B Glossary of terms, definitions and units
Appendix C Glossary of acronyms and abbreviations
Appendix D Selected Nobel prizes


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Michael H. Fox is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences at Colorado State University. He has been a radiation biologist for 35 years.

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