Skip to main content

Nuclear Power: a very short introduction – Maxwell Irvine ***

The ‘very short introduction’ series from OUP is decidedly variable in its content. Some are really readable pocket popular science books. This one isn’t. However I would say it is an absolutely essential little book for anyone who wants to get the facts straight in a discussion of the pros and cons of nuclear power.
In effect it’s a fact book on nuclear. And being a collection of facts it isn’t always incredibly readable (not helped by the industry’s delight in acronyms). The pages on different reactor types in various countries, for example, provide little more than a long, detailed list. Yet it’s all valuable  information. The way, for example, in the UK pretty well every reactor is a prototype, so we never got the benefits of scale that France did from mass production.
The book is modern enough to cover the 2011 Japan tsunami disaster and its impact on the power plants, though doesn’t mention the painful knee-jerk political reaction in countries like Germany. It is clear and factual on costs (remarkably similar to coal/oil when everything is factored in, though longer term hence the investment problems), on risk and on the world’s need to have conventional nuclear to keep us going until fusion comes online (which it explains very well).With the best will in the world, that isn’t going to be until the 2050s at the earliest. It doesn’t dismiss renewables, but highlights the way they just aren’t and can’t be enough to get us into cleaner energy soon enough.
Overall then, in terms of value of content, this is probably a five star book, but I can only give it three stars because it’s not much of a read.
Paperback:  
Also on Kindle:  
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Einstein's Greatest Mistake - David Bodanis ****

Books on Einstein and his work are not exactly thin on the ground. There's even been more than one book before with a title centring on Einstein's mistake or mistakes. So to make a new title worthwhile it has do something different - and David Bodanis certainly achieves this with Einstein's Greatest Mistake. If I'm honest, the book isn't the greatest on the science or the history - but what it does superbly is tell a story. The question we have to answer is why that justifies considering this to be a good book.
I would compare Einstein's Greatest Mistake with the movie Lincoln -  it is, in effect, a biopic in book form with all the glory and flaws that can bring. Compared with a good biography, a biopic will distort the truth and emphasise parts of the story that aren't significant because they make for a good screen scene. But I would much rather someone watched the movie than never found out anything about Lincoln - and similarly I'd much rather someon…

Four Way Interview - Tom Cabot

Tom Cabot is a London-based book editor and designer with a background in experimental psychology, natural science and graphic design. He founded the London-based packaging company, Ketchup, and has produced and illustrated many books for the British Film Institute, Penguin and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Tom has held a lifelong passion to explain science graphically and inclusively ... ever since being blown away by Ray and Charles Eames’ Powers of Ten at an early age. His first book is Eureka, an infographic guide to science.

Why infographics?
For me infographics provided a way to present heavy-lifting science in an alluring and playful, but ultimately illuminating, way. And I love visualising data and making it as attractive as the ideas are.  The novelty of the presentation hopefully gets the reader to look afresh. I love the idea of luring in readers who might normally be put off by drier, more monotone science – people who left science behind at 16. I wanted the boo…

A Tale of Seven Scientists - Eric Scerri ***

Scientists sometimes tell us we're in a post-philosophy world. For example, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in The Grand Design bluntly say that that philosophy is 'dead' - no longer required, as science can do its job far better. However, other scientists recognise the benefits of philosophy, particularly when it is applied to their own discipline. One such is Eric Scerri, probably the world's greatest expert on the periodic table, who in this challenging book sets out to modify the philosophical models of scientific progress.

I ought to say straight away that A Tale of Seven Scientists sits somewhere on the cusp between popular science and a heavy duty academic title. For reasons that will become clear, I could only give it three stars if rating it as popular science, but it deserves more if we don't worry too much about it being widely accessible.

One minor problem with accessibility is that I've never read a book that took so long to get started. First t…