Review: SuperFuel

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

SuperFuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future by Richard Martin. Palgrave Macmillan. 272 Pages.

Review by Richard Pachter
As a kid, I loved science fiction. Approaching teen-hood, reading SF (never "Sci Fi" — ugh!) seemed like a natural sequé from the comic books, I'd devoured since I was about six. I also enjoyed my father's Popular Science magazines and even had my own subscription for a while. I liked science in elementary school, too, but as I got older, I found it to be a challenging subject and lost interest. Blame Chemistry (and chemistry, i.e. raging hormones) if you like. Oh well.

But I've always enjoyed speculative fiction, as some SF was called, and even though my interest and grasp of the facts upon which the conjectures are based may be precarious or nonexistent, the "hard" science fiction of Heinlein, Asimov and Clark made my early membership in the Science Fiction Book Club a thoroughly rewarding experience. It was also not too hard on my allowance, which helped, too.

I don't read very much of that these days, as the cheery utopias and grim futures are less appealing in context with our current reality.

But the old SF fan in me might have been the trigger that led me to SuperFuel.

Richard Martin takes a very serious, complicated and highly technical subject and spins a very readable and entertaining text. You can read and/or download an excerpt here.

His premise — that Thorium would be a cleaner, safer and more efficient fuel for nuclear power — is presented in a convincing and lucid manner. The science and specifics are above me. My fault, since Martin does his best to avoid unnecessary jargon and math, instead focusing on the macro, rather than the micro. Though I suspect that if you have a more solid grounding in science, you will come away with a much deeper and meaningful experience and insights.

In addition to his explanation and advocacy, Martin looks at the political and commercial landscape and offers solid suggestions for dealing with any potential roadblocks with "next steps."

I have no clue as to whether or not Thorium is, indeed, the answer to our fuel problems but Martin does a fine job of making its case. SuperFuel is an interesting and entertaining book — even for old SF fans and Popular Scientists.


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