Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know

Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know

Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know

Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know

Synopsis

Originally perceived as a cheap and plentiful source of power, the commercial use of nuclear energy has been controversial for decades. Worries about the dangers that nuclear plants and their radioactive waste posed to nearby communities grew over time, and plant construction in the United States virtually died after the early 1980s. The 1986 disaster at Chernobyl only reinforced nuclear power's negative image. Yet in the decade prior to the Japanese nuclear crisis of 2011, sentiment about nuclear power underwent a marked change. The alarming acceleration of global warming due to the burning of fossil fuels and concern about dependence on foreign fuel has led policymakers, climate scientists, and energy experts to look once again at nuclear power as a source of energy.

In this accessible overview, Charles D. Ferguson provides an authoritative account of the key facts about nuclear energy. What is the origin of nuclear energy? What countries use commercial nuclear power, and how much electricity do they obtain from it? How can future nuclear power plants be made safer? What can countries do to protect their nuclear facilities from military attacks? How hazardous is radioactive waste? Is nuclear energy a renewable energy source? Featuring a discussion of the recent nuclear crisis in Japan and its ramifications, Ferguson addresses these questions and more in a book that is essential for anyone looking to learn more about this important issue.

Excerpt

Why should people care and learn about nuclear energy? The world faces growing concerns about a changing climate that most likely has come about largely from increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions. While no single energy technology will solve the problem of climate change, nuclear energy has a significant role to play because it produces very low greenhouse gas emissions. Though today, nuclear power generates only a relatively small fraction of the world’s electricity, it offers the potential for providing a tremendous amount of commercial electrical power as long as its production is cost-competitive. In addition, nuclear energy can buffer people’s increasing concerns about the security of the world’s energy supplies. By diversifying the mix of electricitygeneration sources, we reduce our reliance on vulnerable fuel sources.

These benefits are substantial, but nuclear energy does present risks. Although safety at plants has improved significantly since the 1979 Three Mile Island and the 1986 Chernobyl accidents, the aging nuclear plants in countries with established nuclear-power production, and the emerging interest of other countries in acquiring their first nuclear . . .

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