Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change / Edition 1

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How much will nuclear energy cost relative to other means of getting rid of carbon dioxide emissions? What will be the risks of catastrophic accidents if we build reactors at the rate of one a week or more, cookie-cutter style, around the world? What about the risks of proliferation and terrorist attacks and nuclear waste?

This book provides a meticulously researched analysis of the risks of using nuclear energy to combat global warming. Were there no alternative, the severity of the threat facing humankind and other species from global climate change might warrant serious consideration of the risks of nuclear energy. But as Insurmountable Risks convincingly shows, there are far safer economical alternatives.

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What People Are Saying

Arjun Makhijani
Arjun Makhijani, President Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
Before buying into the idea that nuclear energy is going to save us from global climate change because of its theoretical potential for low carbon dioxide emissions, read this book and then work for the alternatives.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781571431622
  • Publisher: RDR Books
  • Publication date: 8/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

BRICE SMITH is a Senior Scientist at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma Park, Maryland. He has authored or coauthored works on nuclear weapons policy, nuclear waste management, uranium enrichment technologies, and the economics of wind power in the western United States. He received a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003.
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Table of Contents

Foreword: The return of the nuclear messiahs iii Acronyms and Abbreviations xi Chapter 1 The World of Tomorrow and Yesterday 1 Section 1.1 From Peaceful Panacea to Environmental Necessity 2 Section 1.2 The Realities of Climate Change 12 Section 1.3 Case Study: the MIT Nuclear Power Report 26 Chapter 2 The White Elephant 29 Section 2.1 The Projected Cost of Nuclear Power 34 Section 2.1.1 Lowering the Capital Cost and Construction Time 37 Section 2.1.2 Reducing the Financial Risk Premium 44 Section 2.1.3 Impact of Potential Cost Improvements 52 Section 2.1.4 Summary of Nuclear Power Economics 53 Section 2.2 The Economics of Nuclear Power as a Carbon Mitigation Strategy 54 Section 2.2.1 "Carbon-Free" Portfolios 54 Section 2.2.2 Direct Taxation of Carbon Emissions 55 Section 2.3 Alternatives for the Near-Term (2006 - 2020) 60 Section 2.3.1 The Economics of Efficiency 61 Section 2.3.2 The Power of Wind 65 Section 2.3.3 Summary of Near-Term Options 71 Section 2.4 Alternatives for the Medium-Term (2020 - 2050) 72 Section 2.4.1 Liquefied Natural Gas and Fuel Switching 73 Section 2.4.2 Increased Use of Wind and Other Renewable Energy Resources 79 Section 2.4.3 Coal Gasification 86 Section 2.4.4 Carbon Capture and Storage 89 Section 2.5 Conclusions 96 Chapter 3 Megawatts and Mushroom Clouds 100 Section 3.1 Uranium Enrichment 105 Section 3.2 Reprocessing and the Plutonium Economy 114 Section 3.3 Tritium Production 124 Section 3.4 Strengthening Non-Proliferation Efforts 126 Section 3.4.1 Enhanced Inspections under the IAEA 130 Section 3.4.2 Restricting Access to Fuel Cycle Technologies 138 Section 3.4.3 Increased Consequences for Suspected Proliferators 148 Section 3.4.4 Disarmament andNonproliferation 155 Section 3.5 Conclusions 160 Chapter 4 A Culture of Safety? 165 Section 4.1 The Record of Safety 168 Section 4.1.1 The Problems of Youth 171 Section 4.1.2 The Problems of Aging 173 Section 4.1.3 The Problems of New Reactors 182 Section 4.2 The Impacts of A Catastrophic Accident 184 Section 4.2.1 Human Consequences of an Accident 188 Section 4.2.2 Economic Consequences of an Accident 192 Section 4.2.3 The Risks from the Nuclear Fuel Cycle 196 Section 4.2.4 Safety and Public Opinion 200 Section 4.3 Probabilistic Risk Assessments 202 Section 4.3.1 The Rasmussen Report and the History of the PRA Methodology 205 Section 4.3.2 Issues of General Completeness 208 Section 4.3.3 "Human Factors" 214 Section 4.3.4 Computers and Digital Control Systems 216 Section 4.3.5 Expert Judgment and Uncertainties of Methodology 221 Section 4.4 Safety of an Expansion of Nuclear Power 224 Section 4.5 Conclusions 229 Chapter 5 The Legacy of Nuclear Waste 233 Section 5.1 Disposal of "Low-Level" Nuclear Waste 235 Section 5.2 Geologic Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Waste 237 Section 5.2.1 General Uncertainties Regarding Geologic Disposal 241 Section 5.2.2 The History of Geologic Disposal in the United States 245 Section 5.2.3 Ready, Fire, Aim... The DOE Strategy at Yucca Mountain 250 Section 5.2.4 Engineered Barriers at Yucca Mountain, the Changing Focus 262 Section 5.2.5 The "Technical" versus "Legal" Limit at Yucca Mountain 268 Section 5.2.6 Additional Concerns Regarding Yucca Mountain 272 Section 5.3 Transportation of Spent Fuel 274 Section 5.4 Alternative Waste Management Strategies 280 Section 5.4.1 Monitored Retrievable Storage (MRS) 282 Section 5.4.2 Separation, Transmutation, and MOX Fuel 284 Section 5.4.3 Deep Boreholes 287 Section 5.5 Conclusions 290 Chapter 6 Looking Back, Moving Forward 295 Appendix A Uranium Supply and Demand 307 Section A.1 Estimates of Uranium Resources 308 Section A.2 Estimates of Uranium Production Capacity 312 Section A.3 Stretching Uranium Resources 316 Section A.4 Estimates for Cumulative Uranium Demand 318 Section A.5 Impacts of Uranium Supply and Demand on Proliferation 321 References 325 Endnotes 377 Index 417
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