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Review of "Nuclear Power is Not the Answer"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 15, 2006) The book "Nuclear Power is Not the Answer", written by Helen Caldicott, provides a highly readable overview of why it is important to oppose the current push which is occurring in the USA, UK and many other countries for a resurgence of nuclear power. For people who are new to the issues, it provides a very good general introduction, while for people with more experience campaigning against nuclear energy, it gives a good global update of developments. The book includes in depth discussion about a number of important issues, as well as providing useful information on original sources and wide use of footnotes.

The book includes a discussion of how the nuclear industry is able to reap large profits for private companies, whilst at the same time socializing the costs and risks associated. Importantly, the book provides an in depth discussion of the US Energy Bill passed in 2005. This includes updating the notorious Price-Anderson Act, a longstanding act which virtually exempts companies from any responsibility for insurance, pushing almost all the burden on to the state and public finances. The new bill also includes provisions which make it much more difficult to get a public debate on specific nuclear power stations, and easier planning processes for the companies.

The book also has well synthesized historical information about the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters, as well as about a number of "near misses", examining their cumulative effects since the accidents occurred. Also included is an important discussion about aging reactors. While this has always been a concern in the abstract, now it is becoming a concrete problem - there are an increasing number of very old reactors all over the world, and the question of how to deal with them is, quite literally, burning hotter than ever, with no real solutions presenting themselves.

Also included is a terrifying account of Yucca Mountain, a site intended to store the entire volume of radioactive waste for the whole USA. Another alarming piece of information provided concerns a law that effectively prohibits, or at lease severely constrains, the World Health Organization's ability to carry out research and studies concerning the health impact of atomic energy and real or potential nuclear accidents.

While clearly written from a campaigns perspective, and by a committed anti-nuclear fighter, the book is nonetheless slightly weaker when it comes to providing concrete suggestions as to how to fight the nuclear industry and build up a renewable energy based energy system. Nor is there either any description or analysis of anti-nuclear struggles which are occurring throughout large parts of the world. There is also next to no analysis of the role of nuclear energy within the capitalist world economy as a whole - and why the industry is coming back so forcefully at the current moment specifically. Nonetheless, the book offers a good factual basis for anyone wanting to go further with these themes, and to organize actively against the industry.

"Nuclear Power is Not the Answer". By Helen Caldicott, New Press 2006