4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

When it was first put forward as a source of power for the new age, nuclear seemed to offer almost limitless energy. It had begun to go out of favour until there was a resurgence after people realised that it did not emit as much carbon as coal and gas plants. Sadly the reality was much different. Sadly the enormous power plants only had a limited life span and the ones that were built in the 1960s are mostly decommissioned now.

And it turns out it wasn’t clean energy either.

It isn’t the carbon, rather the problem that humanity is going to have with the nuclear industry is the masses of radioactive waste that was generated in the production of uranium for power generation and plutonium that was needed for the weapons industry. Some of the materials are going to be deadly for thousands of years and the cost of decontamination mounts exponentially.

So where are we with it? And what can be done?

These are two of the questions that Fred Pearce sets about trying to answer in this enlightening book on the nuclear industry. He travels to some of the places that have suffered the worst nuclear accidents, Chernobyl is of course one, but there are others that very few people know about. He visits the places that are trying to make these materials safe for our grandchildren and their decedents who will follow. What he also finds is an industry that is struggling to manage the situation and find places where the long term storage facilities are starting to leak into the environment.

It is to be completely frank, quite scary stuff.

Even though this is three years old, the subjects that Pearce brings to light are deeply troubling. Namely, what are we to do with the gargantuan amounts of waste that the nuclear industry generates and the long term (i.e. thousands of years) solutions to neutralizing it or storing it in a safe and secure place. This is a very readable book that is understandable by the layperson too. Read this and be very troubled indeed.

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