- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 14, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307385876
- ISBN-13: 978-0307385871
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 92 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy Reprint Edition
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Gwyneth Cravens on Why Going Green Means Going Nuclear"Most of us were taught that the goal of science is power over nature, as if science and power were one thing and nature quite another. Niels Bohr observed to the contrary that the more modest but relentless goal of science is, in his words, 'the gradual removal of prejudice.' By 'prejudice,' Bohr meant belief unsupported by evidence."
--Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Rhodes, author of the introduction to Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy by Gwyneth Cravens "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."
My book is fundamentally about prejudice based on wrong information. I used to oppose nuclear power, even though the Sierra Club supported it. By the mid-1970s the Sierra Club turned against nuclear power too. However, as we witness the catastrophic consequences of accelerated global temperature increase, prominent environmentalists as well as skeptics like me have started taking a fresh look at nuclear energy. A large percentage of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, that thaw Arctic ice and glaciers comes from making electricity, and we rely upon it every second of our lives. There are three ways to provide large-scale electricitythe kind that reliably meets the demands of our civilization around the clock. In the United States:
- 75% of that baseload electricity comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels, mainly coal, and emit carbon dioxide. Toxic waste from coal-fired plants kills 24,000 Americans annually.
- 5% comes from hydroelectric plants.
- Less than 1% comes from wind and solar power.
- 20% comes from nuclear plants that use low-enriched uranium as fuel, burn nothing, and emit virtually no CO2. In 50 years of operation, they have caused no deaths to the public.
- Nuclear power emits no gases because it does not burn anything; it provides 73% of America's clean-air electricity generation, using fuel that is tiny in volume but steadily provides an immense amount of energy.
- Uranium is more energy-dense than any other fuel. If you got all of your electricity for your lifetime solely from nuclear power, your share of the waste would fit in a single soda can. If you got all your electricity from coal, your share would come to 146 tons: 69 tons of solid waste that would fit into six rail cars and 77 tons of carbon dioxide that would contribute to accelerated global warming.
- A person living within 50 miles of a nuclear plant receives less radiation from it in a year than you get from eating one banana. Someone working in the U.S. Capitol Building is exposed to more radioactivity than a uranium miner.
- Spent nuclear fuel is always shielded and isolated from the public. Annual waste from one typical reactor could fit in the bed of a standard pickup. The retired fuel from 50 years of U.S. reactor operation could fit in a single football field; it amounts to 77,000 tons. A large coal-fired plant produces ten times as much solid waste in one day, much of it hazardous to health. We discard 179,000 tons of batteries annually--they contain toxic heavy metals.
- Nuclear power's carbon dioxide emissions throughout its life-cycle and while producing electricity are about the same as those of wind power.
- Nuclear plants offer a clean alternative to fossil-fuel plants. In the U.S. 104 nuclear reactors annually prevent emissions of 682 million tons of CO2. Worldwide, over 400 power reactors reduce CO2 emissions by 2 billion metric tons a year.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Novelist and science reporter Cravens (The Black Death) begins this journey of discovery "through the Nuclear world" dubious of nuclear power's safety and utility: "I'd participated in ban-the-bomb rallies" but "never considered the fate of a retired weapon." Her trip begins with a casual conversation with nuclear physicist Dr. Richard "Rip" Anderson on the hidden warheads being dismantled outside Albuquerque, N.M.; as it turns out, the nuclear "pits" were to be used for fuel in nuclear reactors. Curiosity, and Rip's conviction that no other large-scale energy source is as "safe, reliable, and clean," drives Craven to spend 10 years with the scientist traveling to national laboratories, uranium mines and nuclear waste sites; reviewing accounts of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island; and examining modern reactor designs, the life cycle of uranium and studies on radiation's effects since 1945. Gradually convinced that "uranium is cleaner and safer throughout its shielded journey from cradle to grave than our other big baseload electricity resource, fossil fuel," Craven has submitted a thorough, persuasive report from the front lines of the world's energy and climate crises, illuminating for general readers the pros and cons of a highly misunderstood resource.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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From her childhood in the outskirts of Albuquerque, to her life as an anti-nuclear campaigner, to her education at the hands of some of the world’s top scientists, we follow Ms. Craven’s personal journey and share in the details of her transformation and education. She has an amazing ability to translate arcane, technical concepts into beautiful prose that lays bare the magic and mystery.
I listened to the Audible version of the book and the narration by Christine Williams was simply sublime. I highly recommend this important book and in particular, recommend the audio version for it’s beautiful narration.
Before I read it, I was certain that I knew that nuclear energy was highly risky and a threat to all. I now understand that I actually knew very little. Despite every good intention, I had been pulled into a mindless groupthink about Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and by the very green movement I love. What I learned by reading Cravens, for example, is that as a species we evolved at a time of far greater radiation than now occurs and that one gets more radiation from eating a single banana, or crossing Grand Central Station once, than one gets living next door to a nuclear plant for a year. We are swimming in a sea of radiation, and always have been, but effectively none of it comes from the use of nuclear power plants constructed in the West. And interestingly, radiation turns out to be one of those things for which dosage is crucial. Radiation at certain low doses appears even to produce positive effects.
This book is a pleasure to read because it brims not with opinions, hyperbole or hysteria, but refreshingly, with scientific facts. There are no conspiracy theories and no bad guys (except maybe for coal producers). New, fresh, interesting information appears on every page. As Cravens points out, at one time not that long ago, people feared the dangers of bringing electricity into their homes. And they weren't completely wrong. Dangers accompany electricity, fire and other powerful yet beneficial forms of energy. The key to benefitting from them lies in overcoming fear and learning how to use the proper precautions with each.
I suppose that much of my own negative reaction to all things nuclear stems from my complete antipathy to nuclear weaponry. What is clear, however, is that if we want to provide electrical energy on the massive scale we consume, we already have the technology to do it cleanly. It turns out that to produce the kind of base load energy we need to have 24/7/365, we really have two choices: coal, on which we primarily rely, and nuclear energy. Cravens makes the irrefutable case that coal is by far the more dangerous, more polluting, more greenhouse-gas-producing choice. And its use is nearly unregulated.
Nuclear energy is THE green alternative for producing the quantities of electrical power we need now. No other current alternative produces abundant energy at low cost while producing NO greenhouse gases. The future we must move to if we want to save the planet, is available now. We can act to save the world if we overcome prejudice and fear.
Thank you, Gwyneth Cravens for producing such a timely, reasonable and well documented book!
It is written from the perspective of a curious non-technical person (the author) on her quest to learn on the benefits and risks of nuclear technology, the style which I find quite refreshing. The book is divided into six chapters, called: 1. Origins, 2. The Invisible Storm, 3. The Hidden World, 4. The Kingdom of Electricity and 5. Closing the Circle. The first chapters gives a light introduction to nuclear physics, the second focuses on radiation, both natural and man-made, and its health hazards and impact on environment. Third chapter, my favorite, outlines the history of nuclear technology, starting from Marie Currie to the development and extensive testing of light water reactors, which took place in the States in the fifties of the last century. Fourth chapter gives merits of nuclear power as compared to fossil fuels (oil and gas), and to "renewables". Fifth chapter, as the title suggests, talks about nuclear waste repository, and final chapter wraps the book with conclusions and outlook.
The first-person approach to the subjects Gwyneth writes about, gives this book a personal touch, the reader gets involved as if it were a novel. But it's not, it is a technical book, based on strong scientific facts, which even comes close to be useful as a reference. No claim she makes comes out of thin-air, all can be traced in peer-reviewed literature. I admit I spent many hours underlining sentences I found particularly important and interesting, and following the references she gives. The "Notes" she gives in the book's appendix, proved to be very useful in that regard.
Although I can say without hesitation that it is one of my favorite books (I am sorry it doesn't come with hardcover, but I am hopeful for the next editions) I must say that it tends to be lengthy in some parts, and repetitive on occasions. Many topics covered in the book (like radiation hazards, Chernobyl disaster, green-house gas emissions from conventional sources, impact of different sources on environment) spread over many chapters, making it a bit more tricky to use the book as a reference. But then again, it is merely my personal opinion, I am pretty sure Gwyneth composed the book this way to make each chapter more self-contained.
Strongly recommended to any environmentally-conscious individual, be it a technical person or not. Gwyneth's book is accessible, involving and interesting enough to everyone.
P.S. Although I don't have a habit to criticize other's review's, for this book I must make an exception, because it is plain obvious that reviewers who rated the book with one star didn't even read it.
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