Megawatts and Megatons

A Turning Point in the Nuclear Age?

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

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Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Nuclear Energy

For nearly sixty years the menace of nuclear war has hung over humanity, while at the same time the promise of nuclear energy has enticed us. In Megawatts and Megatons, two of the world's most eminent physicists, Georges Charpak and Richard L. Garwin, assess with consummate authority the benefits of nuclear energy and the dangers of nuclear weaponry.

Garwin and Charpak begin by elucidating the discoveries that have allowed us to manipulate nuclear energy with increasing ease. They clearly and concisely explain complex principles of fission and fusion pertaining to nuclear weaponry and the generation of nuclear electric power. They also make a strong and eloquent argument in favor of arms control. The "nuclear club" of nations is growing, with India and Pakistan its latest members and Iran and North Korea striving for admission. Even the possibility of a single weapon in the hands of a terrorist group—or a lone terrorist—poses a threat that cannot be ignored.

Meanwhile, nuclear power already provides one-sixth of all electrical energy in the world—France, for instance, derives 80 percent of its electricity from reactors—but nuclear power has met with great resistance in the United States, where the specter of the Three Mile Island breakdown still looms in the public's consciousness. Garwin and Charpak take a temperate, rational tone in evaluating the benefits of nuclear energy. They show how it can provide an assured, economically feasible, and environmentally responsible supply of energy in a way that avoids the hazards of weapons proliferation. Cogently written, passionately and carefully argued, Megawatts and Megatons is a thoughtful and important primer on two of the central issues of our time.


Reviews and Endorsements

Megawatts and Megatons is a marvelous and original book—partly a lively and readable physics text, partly a crucially important policy analysis. It is hard to find two more important interrelated issues than nuclear energy and nuclear power—and impossible to find two better minds to address them.

Michael O'Hanlon, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, author of Technological Change and the Future of Warfare and Defense Policy Choices for the Bush Administration: 2001 to 2005

This is a comprehensive overview of the first nuclear era. Drs. Garwin and Charpak are to be congratulated on writing a tightly-reasoned account of nuclear energy that challenges both pro- and con views.

Alvin Weinberg, former director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Institute for Energy Analysis, winner of the Fermi Award

Two of the world's leading experts on nuclear power, weapons, and policy choice have pooled their formidable talents in an authoritative and readable analysis of these important issues. This is a timely book that will be of great value to anyone seeking a better understanding of what is at stake in the current nuclear policy debates on arms control, reactors for civilian power, and ballistic missile defense.

Sidney Drell, Fermi Award winner, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Professor Emeritus at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

This excellent book gives an up-to-date, quantitative and lively description of nuclear power and weapons. The biological effects of nuclear radiation and fossil sources of energy are discussed. Will there be a turning point in the nuclear age, i.e. a truly severs reduction of nuclear weapons, and a friendlier attitude to nuclear power?

Hans Bethe, Nobel Laureate, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Cornell University

Garwin and Charpak have created an important and hopefully influential book that explains complex issues in rational terms using language that will be accessible to the general reader. These two prominent physicists remind us that clear thinking is needed when analyzing nuclear issues and their potential impacts on the environment, the economy, public health and world peace. This book challenges our preconceived ideas.

William C. Sailor, nuclear engineer and physicist, Los Alamos National Laboratory

From reactors to hydrogen bombs, from the world's energy needs to security in the nuclear age, the facts and figures necessary for an understanding of these vital issues are lucidly expounded in this remarkable volume. Whether or not we agree with all the authors' conclusions and recommendations, the book provides the data on which to base a rational assessment of the problems. The book is a must for anyone concerned about the fate of our planet.

Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat, Nobel Peace Laureate, Emeritus President of Pugwash

Drs. Garwin and Charpak have produced a superb analysis of the interlinked futures of nuclear energy and nuclear weaponry—elegantly written, beautifully argued, deeply instructive. Novice and expert alike will come away from this book with new insights and a sounder basis for participating in the fateful nuclear choices before us in the twenty-first century.

John P. Holdren, Chairman, Committee on International Security & Arms Control, National Academy of Sciences

This book will be of great value to readers at all levels of knowledge of nuclear matters. It provides a very readable introduction to the basic facts and concepts of nuclear power and nuclear weapon technologies, together with sophisticated, if simply presented, discussions of the major policy issues that arise from their constructive and destructive potentials.

David Bodansky, Professor of Physics, University of Washington