- A Nuclear Street Book Review by Randy Brich -

In my piece last week, Three Mile Island – Facts Not Fears, I may have left the impression that antinuclear activists are incapable of reason and/or learning.  To dispel that notion, consider that several prominent antinuclear activists now embrace nuclear power as a solution to today’s energy dilemma, notably, Patrick Moore – ex co-founder of GreenPeace, Stewart Brand – founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and James Lovelock – postulator of The Gaia Hypothesis.  RFB

Power to Save the World is the perfect book for anyone trying to understand nuclear energy.

After reading Power To Save The World:  The Truth About Nuclear Energy by Gwyneth Cravens it is apparent that miracles do happen and with the proper mentoring, antinuclear activists can be persuaded. Cravens, a self-proclaimed nuclear skeptic, helped prevent a reactor from opening on Long Island way back when.  Today, she condenses her 8-year journey to nuclear knowledge into a captivating chronology that spans the entire fuel cycle – from uranium mining to deep geologic disposal.  Together with her trusty mentor, Rip Anderson, a probabilistic risk assessment expert from Sandia National Laboratory, they see firsthand that nuclear energy is clean, safe and environmentally friendly. 

Cravens first met Rip at a New Years Eve party in Albuquerque and was surprised to learn that many of her assumptions about nuclear energy were incorrect.  After several of these once-a-year New Years Eve discussions Rip finally asked her, “Why don’t you just see for yourself?” 

That simple suggestion led Cravens on a journey that kicked the tires of the entire nuclear fuel cycle.  All along the way she finds that her previous conceptions, especially regarding the waste issue, were seriously in error.  She was simply misinformed and unable to fathom a way to the truth alone.  She needed a guru.  If not for Rip she might still be wandering in the wilderness -- forever a prisoner of her fears and the fact-lacking sound bites of the antinuclear movement.

Instead, she is at the forefront of a nuclear resurgence, providing answers to questions and overturning assumptions she had been harboring for most of her adult life.  Armed with facts and first-hand knowledge, she has been transformed from a skeptic to a supporter with a story to tell; and, she tells it remarkably well.

Travel with her and Rip across the country as they tour facility after facility representative of the key stages of the nuclear fuel cycle.  Marvel at his patience and succinct answers to Cravens’ typical antinuclear questions.  Smile when you read Cravens’ account of what it was like to tour a dirty, noisy coal fired power plant compared to a clean, quiet nuclear power plant.  Feel good when you see Rip say in closing:

One day God could say to us:  I gave you the brainiest men and women in human history to come up with an understanding of the atom and its nucleus.  I gave you enough uranium and thorium to last you thousands of years.  I gave you an understanding of how when uranium decays it releases energy.  You didn’t need to invent anything else.  You had everything you needed to provide energy for yourselves and your descendants without harming the environment. What else did you want?

The proverbial picture really was worth a thousand words and Cravens came away from the journey a believer.  A believer in the only existing technology that has the power to save the world -- nothing else comes close.  

Gwyneth Cravens
439 pp. Knopf $27.95 (2007)

Randy BrichAbout Randy Brich
Randy graduated from South Dakota State University in 1978 with a M.S. in Biology.  After developing the State of South Dakota’s environmental radiological monitoring program, he became a Health Physicist with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, eventually transferring to the Department of Energy where he specialized in environmental monitoring, worker protection, waste cleanup and systems biology.  Later in his career he published a multi-sport adventure guide book and became a regular contributor to The Entertainer Newspaper’s Great Outdoor section. 

Since then he has retired from the federal government and, after taking time out to build an energy efficient house near the Missouri River, has formed Diamond B Communications LLC.  Diamond B Communications LLC uses a multimedia approach to explain complex energy resource issues to technical and non-technical audiences.  He also guides for Dakota Bike Tours, the Relaxed Adventure Company, offering tours of the Badlands National Park, the Black Hills and Devils Tower National Monument.

If you have questions, comments, or know of a book that you think Randy should review Email Randy Brich>> randy@nuclearstreet.com

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