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(7/10)

Nuclear is for Life: A Cultural Revolution

Is nuclear the answer to carbon-free energy? There is every  reason to welcome it and none to reject it. Life has evolved  protection against radiation, and high doses are used to cure  cancer. Nuclear radiation is rarely life-threatening: for  example, at Fukushima there was no radiation casualty at all.  The evidence from such accidents, from medicine, from the  physical and biological sciences - these all tell us that the  increased use of nuclear should be safe and beneficial to life on  an over-crowded planet. Current radiation regulations are not  based on science: they come from 70 years of social reaction to  a phobia. How did this happen, historically? This book provides  explanations and answers to many questions. With an open  informed culture, it concludes, nuclear energy could supply  carbon-free electricity at low cost. Nuclear power should be  freed from science-blind restrictions and so help save the  planet as we know it.  I was sent a review copy of this book by the author (@radiationreason),  which was very much appreciated. This book is essentially an update of  his previous book ‘Radiation and Reason’ (which I did buy), so if you were  to buy one, just get the update. I really enjoyed reading this. It gives a good overview of some of the  issues surrounding nuclear power, human exposure to ionising radiation,  and, what I found best about this book, a very detailed description of  what happened during the well-known Fukushima Daiichi incident and its  impact on human and environmental health vs. the reported disaster and  impact. These chapters are very detailed and informative, and nicely  dewscribe the problems of real impact vs. perceived impact.  The author is a very enthusiastic proponent of the use of nuclear power  for energy generation, and proposes this as one of the solutions to future global warming problems. By and large I agree with his assessment and  with his argument to invest in more nuclear power. However, a large part of the book is dedicated to the discussion about a  threshold before human biological defence mechanisms cannot copy with  radiation anymore, and which can then result in health effects (i.e.  cancer), and why therefore the linear-no threshold (LNT) currently being  used in radiation projection model is wrong. Although such a threshold is  very likely, it was unclear to me whether Professor Allison is a proponent  of hormesis, or whether he also beliefs this is one step too far. Prof Allison is Emeritus Professor of Physics, and this is quite obvious  from the book. In radiation research, including non-ionising, there is  sometimes a sharp contrast between physicists and the biological  sciences, and indeed where non-ionising radiation is referred to in the  book, Prof Allison argues there cannot possibly be any biological effects  since only tissue heating would be of relevance. This, in my opinion, has  by now been clearly shown to be incorrect, with a wide array of  biological effects having been observed (albeit not necessary resulting in  health effects). A similar reasoning is used with respect to effects of  ionising radiation, and indeed the possibility of more subtle effects, such  as for example cardiovascular effects as a result of chronic, low-dose  exposures are not mentioned. Having said that, although we could have  some points of discussion, I agree with the overall thesis, but would  suggest the following update of this book should be co-written with a  (radiation) epidemiologist………..but I would say this, wouldn’t I....  With respect to the book itself, I gave it 7 out of a possible 10; the  reason being that in my opinion it could have done with a bit more  reshuffling and combining of paragraphs. I felt (well I know) I was  reading the same arguments in several chapters, making for frequent  deja-vu’s. Having streamlined this, the book would have also been a bit  shorter, which would have made it more accessible to the general reader. Had the LNT model and the implications of its use also been discussed in  detail and in lay terminology this would have made it even more  accessible to a general audience; and this kind of book it needed. So I would definitely recommend this book. The whole nuclear power  debate could do with the infusion of a bit more science…   
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