Acknowledgments

I wish to thank Dr. Don S. Harmer, retired Professor Emeritus from the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Physics, an old friend from the Old School who not only taught me much of what I know in the field of nuclear physics but also did a thorough and constructive technical edit of the manuscript. Thanks also to Dr. Douglas E. Wrege, a physicist, a teacher, and a friend from Georgia Tech, who also read the manuscript, finding exotic errors that apparently only he could detect. Special credit is due Frank K. Darmstadt, my editor at Facts On File, who helped me at every step in making a coherent book out of a massive jumble of myths, rumors, and anecdotes. Franks semi-infinite patience and his love of cor­rect writing result in a very satisfying product. Credit is also due to Alex­andra Simon, copy editor at Facts On File, for her superlative job of finessing and polishing the manuscript. The support and the editing skills of my wife, Carolyn, were also essential. She held up the financial life of the household while I wrote, and she tried to make sure that everything was spelled correctly, all sentences were punctuated, and the narrative made sense to a nonscientist.

 

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Nuclear Power is a multivolume set that explores the inner workings, his­tory, science, global politics, future hopes, triumphs, and disasters of an industry that was, in a sense, born backward. Nuclear technology may be unique among the great technical achievements, in that its greatest moments of discovery and advancement were kept hidden from all except those most closely involved in the complex and sophisticated experimen­tal work related to it. The public first became aware of nuclear energy at the end of World War II, when the United States brought the hostilities in the Pacific to an abrupt end by destroying two Japanese cities with atomic weapons. This was a practical demonstration of a newly developed source of intensely concentrated power. To have wiped out two cities with only two bombs was unique in human experience. The entire world was stunned by the implications, and the specter of nuclear annihilation has not entirely subsided in the 60 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The introduction of nuclear power was unusual in that it began with specialized explosives rather than small demonstrations of electrical­generating plants, for example. In any similar industry, this new, intrigu­ing source of potential power would have been developed in academic and then industrial laboratories, first as a series of theories, then incremental experiments, graduating to small-scale demonstrations, and, finally, with financial support from some forward-looking industrial firms, an advan­tageous, alternate form of energy production having an established place in the industrial world. This was not the case for the nuclear industry. The relevant theories required too much effort in an area that was too risky for the usual industrial investment, and the full engagement and commitment of governments was necessary, with military implications for all develop­ments. The future, which could be accurately predicted to involve nuclear power, arrived too soon, before humankind was convinced that renewable energy was needed. After many thousands of years of burning things as fuel, it was a hard habit to shake. Nuclear technology was never developed with public participation, and the atmosphere of secrecy and danger sur­rounding it eventually led to distrust and distortion. The nuclear power industry exists today, benefiting civilization with a respectable percentage

of the total energy supply, despite the unusual lack of understanding and general knowledge among people who tap into it.

This set is designed to address the problems of public perception of nuclear power and to instill interest and arouse curiosity for this branch of technology. The History of Nuclear Power, the first volume in the set, explains how a full understanding of matter and energy developed as sci­ence emerged and developed. It was only logical that eventually an atomic theory of matter would emerge, and from that a nuclear theory of atoms would be elucidated. Once matter was understood, it was discovered that it could be destroyed and converted directly into energy. From there it was a downhill struggle to capture the energy and direct it to useful purposes.

Nuclear Accidents and Disasters, the second book in the set, concerns the long period of lessons learned in the emergent nuclear industry. It was a new way of doing things, and a great deal of learning by accident analy­sis was inevitable. These lessons were expensive but well learned, and the body of knowledge gained now results in one of the safest industries on Earth. Radiation, the third volume in the set, covers radiation, its long­term and short-term effects, and the ways that humankind is affected by and protected from it. One of the great public concerns about nuclear power is the collateral effect of radiation, and full knowledge of this will be essential for living in a world powered by nuclear means.

Nuclear Fission Reactors, the fourth book in this set, gives a detailed examination of a typical nuclear power plant of the type that now pro­vides 20 percent of the electrical energy in the United States. Fusion, the fifth book, covers nuclear fusion, the power source of the universe. Fusion is often overlooked in discussions of nuclear power, but it has great poten­tial as a long-term source of electrical energy. The Future of Nuclear Power, the final book in the set, surveys all that is possible in the world of nuclear technology, from spaceflights beyond the solar system to power systems that have the potential to light the Earth after the Sun has burned out.

At the Georgia Institute of Technology, I earned a bachelor of science degree in physics, a master of science, and a doctorate in nuclear engi­neering. I remained there for more than 30 years, gaining experience in scientific and engineering research in many fields of technology, includ­ing nuclear power. Sitting at the control console of a nuclear reactor, I have cold-started the fission process many times, run the reactor at power, and shut it down. Once, I stood atop a reactor core. I also stood on the bottom core plate of a reactor in construction, and on occasion I watched the eerie blue glow at the heart of a reactor running at full power. I did some time in a radiation suit, waved the Geiger counter probe, and spent many days and nights counting neutrons. As a student of nuclear technology, I bring a near-complete view of this, from theories to daily operation of a power plant. Notes and apparatus from my nuclear fusion research have been requested by and given to the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution. My friends, superiors, and competitors for research funds were people who served on the USS Nautilus nuclear sub­marine, those who assembled the early atomic bombs, and those who were there when nuclear power was born. I knew to listen to their tales.

The Nuclear Power set is written for those who are facing a growing world population with fewer resources and an increasingly fragile envi­ronment. A deep understanding of physics, mathematics, or the special­ized vocabulary of nuclear technology is not necessary to read the books in this series and grasp what is going on in this important branch of science. It is hoped that you can understand the problems, meet the challenges, and be ready for the future with the information in these books. Each volume in the set includes an index, a chronology of important events, and a glossary of scientific terms. A list of books and Internet resources for further information provides the young reader with additional means to investigate every topic, as the study of nuclear technology expands to touch every aspect of the technical world.

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