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Nuclear Roulette

The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth

By Gar Smith
Foreword by Ernest Callenbach and Jerry Mander

Nuclear power is not clean, cheap, or safe. With Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, the nuclear industry's record of catastrophic failures now averages one major disaster every decade. After three US-designed plants exploded in Japan, many countries moved to abandon reactors for renewables. In the United States, however, powerful corporations and a compliant government still defend nuclear power-while promising billion-dollar bailouts to operators.

Each new disaster demonstrates that the nuclear industry and governments lie to "avoid panic," to preserve the myth of "safe, clean" nuclear power, and to sustain government subsidies. Tokyo and Washington both covered up Fukushima's radiation risks and-when confronted with damning evidence-simply raised the levels of "acceptable" risk to match the greater levels of exposure.

Nuclear Roulette dismantles the core arguments behind the nuclear-industrial complex's "Nuclear Renaissance." While some critiques are familiar-nuclear power is too costly, too dangerous, and too unstable-others are surprising: Nuclear Roulette exposes historic links to nuclear weapons, impacts on Indigenous lands and lives, and the ways in which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission too often takes its lead from industry, rewriting rules to keep failing plants in compliance. Nuclear Roulette cites NRC records showing how corporations routinely defer maintenance and lists resulting "near-misses" in the US, which average more than one per month.

Nuclear Roulette chronicles the problems of aging reactors, uncovers the costly challenge of decommissioning, explores the industry's greatest seismic risks-not on California's quake-prone coast but in the Midwest and Southeast-and explains how solar flares could black out power grids, causing the world's 400-plus reactors to self-destruct. This powerful exposé concludes with a roundup of proven and potential energy solutions that can replace nuclear technology with a "Renewable Renaissance," combined with conservation programs that can cleanse the air, and cool the planet.



"Journalist Smith (editor emer., Earth Island Journal) has responded to the Fukushima disaster with an avalanche of condemnation of everything nuclear with zeal and sometimes enthusiastic overkill. Nuclear power advocates will be challenged and opponents will be encouraged by the documented hazards related to nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. Many major oversights and bad decisions have contributed to health concerns and loss of life. Smith vividly demonstrates that nuclear power plants require NASA-type engineering and well-trained operators. He discusses how the military's use of uranium-235 left a legacy of high-level nuclear waste and a proliferation of plutonium for weapons. He also addresses the problems of nuclear waste storage … . Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations."

"It will be an auspicious start to our new century if we can encourage a revitalized movement to stop all nuclear production and immediately close down every nuclear facility-military and civilian. Then we can dedicate our skills and resources to finding true solutions to the real challenges of our time: evolving a sustainable, energy-wise, and peaceful society."--from the foreword by Jerry Mander

Nuclear Roulette is an act of love and reason for Mother Earth. We’ve had five decades of poisonous decision making in the face of millennia of life. Now is the time to safeguard our generations yet to come. Gar Smith’s powerful writing tells the stories that inform our good work.”--Winona LaDuke, indigenous rights activist and author of All Our Relations and Recovering the Sacred 

Nuclear Roulette by Gar Smith is a timely and necessary book. Nuclear energy is  unaffordable by every measure—by the measure of financial costs, of safety, and of the destruction of democracy. We are witnessing this in India where the US-India nuclear agreement is imposing a ‘nuclear renaissance’ by creating a police state in Koodankulam and in Jaitapur. Nuclear Roulette should be in the hands of everyone who cares for life and freedom.”--Dr. Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science Technology & Ecology

"This powerful solartopian screed leaves no doubt that the experiment with atomic energy is the most dangerous and expensive technological failure in human history. Gar Smith writes with extraordinary power and clarity on an industry whose failure threatens the future of our species—ecologically, economically, and in terms of biological survival. Nuclear Roulette is a strong signpost pointing straight to a green-powered world, where we get our energy cheaper, safer, cleaner, community-owned, and quicker. Take this book with you next time you’re out shutting a nuke or opening a wind farm."--Harvey Wasserman, author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, and editor of

“A thoroughly brilliant work. Extraordinary! Gar Smith cuts through the lies of the nuclear promoters to document the deadliness of atomic power.”--Karl Grossman, professor of journalism, State University of New York College at Old Westbury, and author of Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know about Nuclear Power

"If ever there was a book that people need to read at this moment in the history of the world it is Nuclear Roulette. Comprehensively referenced, it is not only an encyclopedia of the nuclear age related specifically to nuclear power, it is a potent warning of the almost incomprehensible dangers that lie ahead, as well as the damage that has already contaminated portions of our beloved planet beyond repair. I highly recommend this wonderful book to all who care about our children, future generations, and the thirty million other species that cohabit this earth with us."--Dr. Helen Caldicott, pediatrician, founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and author of Nuclear Madness and Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer

Kirkus Reviews-
An impassioned case against the use of nuclear power. 
In his debut, Earth Island Journal editor emeritus Smith gathers together several arguments against nuclear power into a concise yet detailed package. He forcefully asserts that nuclear power plants are not only unsafe—with severe accidents at nuclear plants in the United States, Russia and Japan serving to ‘illustrate the ultimate insanity of the nuclear option’—but also polluting, costly and inefficient. He gives several examples of nuclear-plant and government officials downplaying potentially serious risks to the public, and, in a compelling chapter, enumerates the failings of what he calls ‘five of the worst U.S. reactors.’ He examines a host of health and safety issues at plants all over the country, including the much-criticized Indian Point plant north of New York City. Smith concludes with several recommendations for alternatives, advocating for heightened energy efficiency and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal power. The author comes at his subject from an environmentalist point of view, with an explicit desire to ‘pull the plug on this dangerous technology,’ and some readers may be skeptical of his concluding vision of a ‘sustainable compassion economy.’ Many of the arguments will also be familiar to veterans of the nuclear-power debate. Nonetheless, Smith lays out an impressively researched narrative, drawing on facts from a wide range of sources, and makes a strong case that will be hard for even nuclear-power advocates to dismiss out of hand. For casual readers, the book presents a well-written introduction to the anti-nuclear-power position. 
A penetrating argument against today's nuclear age.


  • Runner-up - ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award (Ecology & Environment)


Gar Smith

Gar Smith

Gar Smith is editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal, a Project Censored award-winning investigative journalist, and cofounder of Environmentalists Against War. He has covered revolutions in Central America and has engaged in environmental campaigns on three continents. He lives a low-impact, solar-assisted lifestyle in Berkeley, California.


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Nuclear Roulette: Countdown to Extinction

Nuclear Roulette

Pages:320 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Hardcover: 9781603584777
Pub. Date October 25, 2012
Paperback: 9781603584340
Pub. Date October 25, 2012

Available In/Retail Price

Hardcover, 320 pages, $29.95

Paperback, 320 pages, $19.95