Book Review: Uranium

Joanna Schroeder

58265186_a2“Man’s most carnal tendencies are inflamed by the most modern of elements, uranium.”

War, terrorism, treason, energy, and renaissance — the basic elements of uranium as vividly described in the new book, “Uranium: War, Energy, And The Rock That Shaped The World” by Tom Zoellner. This is a fantastic true tale of the quest for “nuclear fission,” the devastation it caused, its role as an “energy savior,” the worldwide frenzy to develop nuclear bombs, and the “nuclear renaissance” on the horizon.

In the 40s and 50s nuclear energy was going to save the world. People couldn’t get the word “atomic” into their lives fast enough incorporating “atomic” into the names of towns, businesses and sandwiches. The Atlantic Monthly wrote in the article, “The Control of Energy,” in 1955, “Reactors to produce electric power from nuclear fuels are now being built both here and abroad, and some soon to be designed should give enough power to fill the needs of the largest city. All of the electrical power now used in the United States could in theory be produced from 60 tons of uranium.”

Well, uranium has not saved the world. In fact, many would argue that its wrecked more hell than help. The US government conspired for decades to deny that nuclear fallout caused life-threatening health issues, and environmentalists can’t agree on whether nuclear energy is “green”. “One of the manifest ironies of the “nuclear renaissance,” though, is that it relies on image of atomic power as a green technology,” writes Zoellner.

nuclear-power-plantMany thought the debate over nuclear energy was cooled but in fact its as heated as ever. There is a vocal worldwide debate about the fate of nuclear energy and its role as a green alternative to coal. Uranium is one of the most abundant elements in the world and ours for the taking. The United States is working on bringing several new nuclear facilities online, the first in more than two decades, and while France is adding more nuclear plants Germany is shutting all their nuclear facilities down citing environmental issues. Yet a handful of countries trying to build nuclear facilities are being denied access to the technology citing “terrorism” concerns.

No one knows how this story is going to end, but I’m certain of two things. First, the movement to clean, domestic renewable energy is not an option. Second, you must read this book.

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