Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Nuclear Renaissance

Nuclear Renaissance: Technologies and Policies for the Future of Nuclear PowerBy W J Nuttall

'Nuclear Renaissance' is not a plea for or against a nuclear revival, but explores technological evolutions that would facilitate a nuclear revival. With its focus on future technology, the book complements 'Megawatts and Megatons', since it continues in a way where the other ends (though there is no link between the 2 books).

'Nuclear Renaissance' covers the waste issue based on the UK, US and Finnish experience. It does not offer a complete and satisfactory solution, but the Finnish approach, based on participation and trust seems to provide a model for the future, as opposed to the approach of a 'nuclear priesthood' from the past.

Technological developments such as high temperature gas-cooled reactors, waste burners, Generation IV reactors and nuclear fusion are covered in depth. But possibly the main merit of the book lies in its careful consideration whether a nuclear renaissance will, needs to or should happen.

In an afterwords, the author offers a thought experiment of a world where nuclear fission as a physical phenomenon would not exist, speculation how such a world would have evolved over the past 70 years. Such a world would have seen quite a different end game to the 2nd World War. The Cold War would surely have occurred, we would not see magnetic confinement fusion and threats to climate would be even worse than we actually face today.

On balance, the author concludes that 'it would seem prudent for the developed world to maintain a civil nuclear power industry on at least its current scale.'

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