The following is an unabashed, hopefully dignified, plug for my new book, The Kingfishers:
Today’s bitter politics ensures that many of the country’s problems go unaddressed. Arguments about government, culture, the economy, all seem intractable, but none is more critical than the fierce debate over nuclear energy. Issues surrounding climate change, fossil fuels and the inability to quickly bring alternative energy sources on line have given rise to calls for the enhanced use of nuclear power to meet our energy needs. See, for example, http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/01/is-nuclear-power-the-future-obama-backs-gop-call-for-more-plants/1#.UrrckPRDs3R My new novel, The Kingfishers, explores the politics of the nuclear option, and the human frailties of the people who produce nuclear energy.
In March, 2011, several reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan melted down after an earthquake and tsunami wreaked havoc with the systems designed to prevent such a disaster. Radioactive elements that cause radiation disease in the short term, and multiple cancers affecting every part of the human body in the long term, were (and still are) released into the air, the groundwater and the ocean. Estimates and predictions about the impact on plant, animal and human life have been made, but the truth is that no one really knows. Mortality arising out of the Chernobyl (1986) catastrophe is still being accounted for.
Conflagrations like Fukushima and Chernobyl, however, are not necessarily the most troublesome aspects of nuclear power. “Accidents” at nuclear facilities occur every day, and grow more problematic as the plants age. In the United States, where the nuclear genie was first loosed, most of our plants are operating well past their design age. In addition, at the time they were built little or no thought was given to disposal of the waste – which also carries enormous potential for death and disease – resulting from the process (See J. Samuel Walker’s The Road to Yucca Mountain for an excellent history of nuclear power in the U.S.). Fifty million gallons of the virulent by-products of plutonium production still fester in waste pools at Hanford, Washington, and thousands of tons of solid waste – some with heat or radiation that lasts for millions of years – are stored a few feet away from each of the country’s 104 reactors, most of which are located east of the Mississippi, many near large population centers. We continue to add a few tons every day, and we’re rapidly running out of places to store it, and our leaders do nothing.
The reasons for this neglect are many and varied, and I address some of them in The Kingfishers. Politicians greedy for power, and businessmen greedy for cash, figure prominently. The milieu is the salons and drawing rooms of Georgetown, Washington’s most privileged enclave, and the story is all too credible. The hero, a bitter man who comes to the nation’s capital looking to make trouble, comes away transformed by what he finds. The Kingfishers is a fast-paced adventure that reflects today’s headlines, and tomorrow’s as well. It can be found, in e-book and paperback, at all the usual places.