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How to Drive a Nuclear Reactor - Colin Tucker ****

How To Drive A Nuclear Reactor does exactly what it says on the tin. The book is a general overview of nuclear reactors. From the basic principles that make them work through to what buttons to press in what order (and of course how and why they can go wrong).

Nuclear power could be a good step on the path to a greener energy future, but there is a lot of understandable fear. This book can give some idea of what an incredible feat of both science and engineering one of these machines is and, hopefully, make anyone reading it feel far more comfortable about them.

The book presents information about everything, almost down to the literal nuts and bolts, giving you a near complete understanding of how a nuclear works. From putting in the fuel to getting out the power and down from the control panel to the construction material. Everything you could ever want to know is here. By the end you'll likely feel ready to walk into a control room and get started (do not try doing this, nuclear reactors are highly secure facilities and at best you'll be arrested).

How to Drive a Nuclear Reactor also doesn't shy away from the challenges that nuclear power presents. Not just the occasional headline-grabbing disasters but also the more mundane but no less threatening issues of nuclear waste, security risks and decommissioning. Whilst decidedly pro-nuclear power, this book makes no attempt to hide the negatives and looks to discuss them openly in light of the full facts.

Perhaps the book's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The author doesn't shy away from using detailed diagrams, equations, graphs and technical language where appropriate. This makes the book far more in-depth and overall more interesting that a lot of others. It does mean however that it's not necessarily a light read. Pretty much anyone should be able to comfortably follow along and enjoy the detail. Though, in reading be prepared for the occasional paragraph you need to reexamine, having to stop and think to get it all straight in your head.

Overall, the book is great with the perfect mid-point of useful technical detail and easily understandable explanations. An excellent read for anyone interested in something a bit more in-depth than most popular science books, just so long as you go in with your brain switched on.

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Review by James Lees


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