Nuclear Power or a Promise Lost

A Policy Maker's Guide for a Future of Carbon Free, Sustainable Energy

by Edward T. Burns, Ph.D.


View First 25 Pages: (free download)


This book captures the status of current electrical energy markets including the principal forces affecting decisions on selecting an energy source. It represents a seminal work that lays out the electrical energy decision tree for selecting an energy source in a world that is on the verge of catastrophic global warming because of the choices that have been made in the name of cheap energy. The impetus for this book includes the dire need to mitigate continued anthropogenic causes of global warming by turning to carbon free energy sources.

Nuclear energy represents such a carbon-free energy source and could be a partial solution to the existential threat facing future society---the threat of a warming planet and its consequential, catastrophic effects on future generations. The world is at a crossroads in human interaction with their environment. The effects of radiation and the relationship of nuclear power to nuclear weapons are both discussed in an understandable and compelling manner. Nuclear energy is contrasted with other energy sources including fossil fuels and renewable energy sources regarding the risks and benefits imposed by each. Important personalities and world events that shaped nuclear power's development are recounted.

The historical origins of nuclear power are outlined and the continued impetus to include nuclear power as part of the electric grid energy mix is assessed exposing the obstacles and road blocks to the continued use of nuclear power. Specific attention is paid to revealing the causes and lessons learned from the three severe accidents in commercial nuclear plants: TMI-2, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. An extensive discussion of nuclear waste disposal is provided as part of the decision tree for energy selection.

The context for the future of nuclear power as a viable energy source is illuminated by the current battle between economic growth and the harm created by burning fossil fuels. The status of the world's climate and projections for the disruptive effects of global warming on future populations, migration, economics, and world strife are debated against the backdrop of an increasing world population and the drive by developing nations to achieve economic parity with the industrialized nations. Within the context of increased world strife, the quest by nations to obtain nuclear weapons is also discussed. The steps taken by the world to limit nuclear weapons proliferation are examined with emphasis on potential links between nuclear power generation and access to nuclear weapons.The final chapter discusses the moral responsibility of current generations with respect to future generations, specifically, the applicability of "intergenerational equity" in political and social decision-making regarding the actions that add to global warming and those risk averse actions that can be taken to minimize global warming.

About the Author

Dr. Burns has served the nuclear industry as an engineer for more than 50 years. This experience spans his time from nuclear computer code developer, to reactor designer, and then, risk management consulting engineer. His legacy includes the practical application of his expertise in developing appropriate procedural guidance for nuclear power plant operators, in addition to reformulating Emergency Operating Procedures and Severe Accident Guidelines to incorporate critical insights from severe accident analyses into appropriate operator actions for the prevention and mitigation of severe accidents.