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Too Hot to Touch


  • 47 b/w illus. 2 tables 23 exercises
  • Page extent: 0 pages
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 (ISBN-13: 9781139848459)

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  • Printed version published November 2012
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Today, the issue of waste management is as prominent as reactor safety in the controversies surrounding nuclear power and is particularly topical in the US since the 2010 closure of the Yucca Mountain repository project. William M. and Rosemarie Alley provide an engaging and authoritative account of the controversies and possibilities surrounding disposal of nuclear waste in the US, with reference also to other countries around the world. The book tells the full history from the beginnings after World War II up to today, bringing to life the pioneering science, the political wrangling and media drama, and the not-in-my-backyard communities fighting to put waste elsewhere. Written in down-to-earth language, by an expert with key involvement in the Yucca Mountain project, this is a timely book for public interest groups, affected communities, policymakers, environmentalists and research scientists working in related fields and anyone interested in finding out more about this important issue.

• Provides an enjoyable synthesis of the scientific, political and social elements of the problem of high-level nuclear waste • Presents an in-depth, accessible explanation of the Yucca Mountain project, enabling readers to understand its strengths and weaknesses, and providing a substantive discussion for future proposed geologic repositories • Includes an international perspective on the difficulties and progress other countries are experiencing compared to the US with regard to high-level waste management


Acknowledgements; List of units; List of abbreviations; Introduction; Part I. The Problem: 1. The awakening; 2. Brainstorming; 3. The ocean as a dumping ground; 4. Radioactivity and atomic energy; 5. The Cold War legacy; 6. The peaceful atom and its wastes; 7. Recycling; 8. Dry cask storage; 9. Interim storage; 10. A can of worms; 11. WIPP; Part II. The Mountain: 12. The search for a geologic repository; 13. Nevada wins the lottery; 14. The Nevada test site; 15. Yucca mountain; 16. How long is long?; 17. Leaving almost no stone unturned; 18. Surprise; 19. Shake and bake; 20. The project gets into hot water; Part III. No Solution in Sight: 21. A new president, new policies; 22. Nuclear waste and our energy future; Appendix: discussion questions; References; Index.


'… a very thorough overview of the nuclear waste issue. The book is level-headed, in-depth, and logical … Too Hot to Touch … [is] more about the fight between politics, science, stupidity and apathy (and bribery). But one of the problems with managing nuclear waste is the scope of the problem. [It] makes it clear that there are no good solutions to the problem of nuclear waste.' Media with Conscience (

'I encourage anyone remotely interested in the topic to buy a copy … this is a very affordable book. The authors have done a remarkable job of making the scientific information accessible to lay persons … Treatment is fair: you get the sense that the authors tried hard to present the facts and all sides of the story. This book would be ideal for using in a seminar class. Overall a fascinating read!' Pierrette Tremblay, Managing Editor, Elements

'… well-written, informative and substantive [with] many fun facts woven into the history … an excellent book and a nice technical review for anyone wanting to comprehend why the task of dealing with this trash has been so mired in obstacles.' Physics World

'This book offers a well-written, sober account of this sorry, continuing chapter in the development of the U.S. nuclear industry.' Natural Hazards Observer

'William and Rosemarie Alley weave a powerful and compelling narrative … The book is both enlightening and enjoyable to read … The relevance of hydrogeology to such a globally critical issue makes Too Hot to Touch a worthwhile and highly recommended read for all hydrogeologists, as well as for a much broader audience with an interest in radioactive waste disposal.' Leonard F. Konikow, Hydrogeology Journal

'This excellent book reviews the never-ending search for a safe, durable solution for storing or disposing of high-level nuclear waste … well documented … Highly recommended.' R. M. Ferguson, Choice

'… [a] masterly account by the former Chief of the Office of Groundwater of the US Geological Survey and his spouse. Bill and Rosemarie Alley's tale … documents how politics, litigation, and self-interest can interfere with a technical task of the highest importance.' Richard Jackson, The Geological Society of America

'… a fascinating and well-told tale spanning six decades from the immediate post-World War II era to the present day … It serves as a primer on the scientific issues and terminology that the reader requires to make sense of the issue …' E. M. Kwicklis, Geofluids

'… a thorough history of nuclear waste generation and disposal … both engaging and insightful. It is enriched by numerous anecdotes and biographical sketches that are frequently amusing or disconcerting … reasonably priced and should be of interest to a broad audience.' Alan E. Fryar, Groundwater

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