Long Half-Life by Ian Lowe [7/10]

Veteran environmentalist and antinuclear campaigner, Ian Lowe has written about the nuclear power industry and the nuclear arms race a number of times. Why now again? “Long Half-life: The Nuclear Industry in Australia” is Lowe’s riposte to a recent surge of pro-nuclear rhetoric and sentiment in Australia, a blip on the attention span of Australians that, he believes, might not allow for the history and the facts. Lowe is a cogent stylist with an easy manner, and this book is indeed a useful introduction to the history of nuclear power in Australia, from the days of nuclear testing in remote places, with unrealistic aspirations for nuclear energy, through the peak in interest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, through the two decades of political mayhem around uranium mining towards the end of last century. Lowe is a reasonably fair interlocutor, quite happy to give nuclear technology its due when it deserves it, but it is very hard to argue with his overall conclusion for the nation in 2021. As the only continent without a single power reactor, Australia is too far behind in terms of capability and infrastructure, and in any case, the nature of the nation’s dispersed, privatized utility system means that no firm could ever finance the huge upfront cost of a modern reactor. Long Half-Life is recommended as a skating introduction to its chosen topic.

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