Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Yellowcake

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Yellowcake

A Novel

by Ann Cummins

Yellowcake by Ann Cummins
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2008, 320 pages

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Did you know?
According to the Uranium Information Center:

  • Over half of the world's production of uranium is from mines in Australia and Canada.
  • 8 mining companies account for almost 80% of production.
  • Nuclear energy supplies over 16% of the world's electricity.
  • 31 countries use nuclear energy to generate electricity.
  • 80% of France's electricity is from nuclear power.
  • Over 12,000 reactor years of operational experience have been accumulated since the 1950s by the world's 440 nuclear power reactors (and nuclear reactors powering naval vessels have clocked up a similar amount).
  • The Chernobyl meltdown was in a reactor that lacked the basic engineering provisions necessary for licensing in most parts of the world. When the reactor at the Three Mile Island plant in Harrisburg, PA, suffered a similar malfunction in 1979 the effects were contained and no-one suffered any harm or injury.
  • In terms of cost, it is often still cheaper to mine and burn coal, but if carbon dioxide emissions are built into the equation, nuclear energy is cost efficient.
  • Waste management is built into the cost of producing nuclear energy.
  • Generating enough nuclear energy for 100 people in the western world for a year creates about 3 kg of spent fuel.
  • Spent fuel is transferred to a large storage pool where it remains for up to 50 years.
  • After 40 years, the spent fuel has only one thousandth of its initial radioactivity remaining, making it very much easier to handle and dispose of.
  • Many homes have smoke detectors which depend on a tiny amount of americium, derived from plutonium made in a nuclear reactor.
  • In the developed countries, it is estimated that about one half of all people will be treated with nuclear medicine at some stage of their lives.

    This article was originally published in March 2007, and has been updated for the April 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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