The Nuclear Energy Option: An Alternative for the '90s

The Nuclear Energy Option: An Alternative for the '90s
by Bernard L. Cohen

C, T, GA **


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Cohen begins this book with the statement on page 1 that "In the mid-1980s, nuclear power seemed to be an idea whose time had come and passed. The public seemed to have rejected it because of fear of radiation." Cohen thinks that nuclear power's time has now come again and marshals some very convincing arguments for his case. He says we need more power plants and discusses extensively the environmental problems of nonnuclear sources: the greenhouse effect, pollution, acid rain, mine safety, land-use difficulties, and others. He details the problems with and the public's fear of radiation, devoting a chapter each to the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. There are extensive discussions on radioactive waste, plutonium and bombs, the costs of nuclear power, and the next generation of nuclear power plants. Perhaps the key chapter in the book is the one entitled "Understanding Risk." In many ways, the public has let its fear get in the way of a careful analysis of the issues. Cohen makes a strong case that a properly managed nuclear plant saves many lives in comparison with an equivalent coal plant; indeed, mining deaths and deaths from pollution are much higher for coal than for nuclear plants. He also thinks that science and engineering can handle the waste disposal problem adequately, albeit not to many people's satisfaction. The Nuclear Energy Option is a very good book that will be sure to spark discussion. My only criticism of it is that Cohen's advocacy of nuclear power may sometimes obscure the case against nuclear power. But Cohen states his case forcefully and honestly. If you disagree with his arguments and conclusions, be well prepared to argue against him--he has thought long and hard on the issues.

--Reviewed by John Dowling in Science Books and Films, 27/2 (March 1991), p. 36.