Synopses & Reviews
In this timely book, Gwyneth Cravens takes an informed and clarifying look at the myths, the fears, and the truth about nuclear energy.
With concerns about catastrophic global warming mounting, it is vital that we examine all our energy options. Power to Save the World describes the efforts of one determined woman, Gwyneth Cravens, initially a skeptic about nuclear power, as she spends nearly a decade immersing herself in the subject. She teams up with a leading expert in risk assessment and nuclear safety who is also a committed environmentalist to trace the path of uranium (the source of nuclear fuel) from start to finish. As we accompany them on visits to mines as well as to experimental reactor laboratories, fortress-like power plants, and remote waste sites normally off-limits to the public, we come to see that we already have a feasible way to address the causes of global warming on a large scale.
On the nuclear tour, Cravens converses with scientists from many disciplines, public health and counterterrorism experts, engineers, and researchers who study both the harmful and benign effects of radiation; she watches remote-controlled robotic manipulators unbolt a canister of spent uranium fuel inside a hot cell bathed in eerie orange light; observes the dark haze from fossil-fuel combustion obscuring once-pristine New Mexico skies and the leaky, rusted pipes and sooty puddles in a coal-fired plant; glimpses rainbows made by salt dust in the deep subterranean corridors of a working nuclear waste repository.
She refutes the major arguments against nuclear power one by one, making clear, for example, that a stroll through Grand Central Terminal exposes a person to more radiation than a walk of equal length through a uranium mine; that average background radiation around Chernobyl and in Hiroshima is lower than in Denver; that there are no cancer clusters near nuclear facilities; that terrorists could neither penetrate the security at an American nuclear plant nor make an atomic bomb from its fuel; that nuclear waste can be, and already is, safely stored; that wind and solar power, while important, can meet only a fraction of the demand for electricity; that a coal-fired plant releases more radiation than a nuclear plant and also emits deadly toxic waste that kills thousands of Americans a month; that in its fifty-year history American nuclear power has not caused a single death. And she demonstrates how, time and again, political fearmongering and misperceptions about risk have trumped science in the dialogue about the feasibility of nuclear energy.
In the end, we see how nuclear power has been successfully and economically harnessed here and around the globe to become the single largest displacer of greenhouse gases, and how its overall risks and benefits compare with those of other energy sources.
Power to Save the World is an eloquent, convincing argument for nuclear power as a safe energy source and an essential deterrent to global warming.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this eye-opening work that is certain to spark debate and influence policy decisions that will affect generations to come, Cravens examines both sides of the controversial debate over nuclear energy, and seeks answers from a host of experts in radiation effects, nuclear medicine, reactor accidents, and risk analysis.
About the Author
Gwyneth Cravens has published five novels. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, where she also worked as a fiction editor, and in Harpers Magazine, where she was an associate editor. She has contributed articles and op-eds on science and other topics to Harpers Magazine, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. She grew up in New Mexico and now lives on eastern Long Island.