Red Planet Bound

Book Recommendation: The Case for Nukes by Robert Zubrin

Book Review by James Burk, Executive Director of the Mars Society

Dr. Robert Zubrin’s latest book, The Case for Nukes, provides a sweeping history of energy technology advances and presents a compelling and detailed defense of one of humanity’s most promising yet misunderstood sources of energy. Many positive reviews are coming in, such as this one from Reason magazine, and I want to join those who are hailing this as an influential and thought-provoking work.

In addition to promoting nuclear power as a solution to some of society’s problems, Zubrin’s broader thesis discusses the relationship between energy abundance and freedom, arguing that energy technology “is the foundation for freedom.” He posits that free societies are better able to produce energy, and access to more energy liberates mankind. Zubrin also shows the urgency of unleashing energy abundance, arguing that a future of bountiful energy could help preserve the liberty that scarcity often imperils.

Zubrin also discusses the potential benefits of nuclear power beyond Earth. He argues that nuclear power is essential for space exploration and settlement and has the potential to provide a clean and reliable source of energy that can accelerate human space exploration of the solar system. He discusses technologies for nuclear space propulsion and explores the critical role of both fission and fusion surface power to enable Mars settlement.

Also mentioned by Zubrin is one of the most audacious space propulsion concepts ever developed: Project Orion. This concept, developed in the early days of the space era, would use pulsed nuclear explosions to propel a large spacecraft to explore the solar system, and potentially even send it to another star! There is even a part of the book where he explains, somewhat tongue-in-cheek but also in detail, how you can build your own fusion reactor. That section made me smile when I read it for the first time.

The book presents plenty of food for thought and is already stimulating meaningful discussions about the future of nuclear power and its potential impact on the world we live in. Therefore, if you’re interested in nuclear power, innovative solutions to some of our world’s most pressing problems, or simply want to learn more about the topic, The Case for Nukes is must-read.

Dr. Zubrin has been kind enough to donate a supply of the books to the Mars Society, and you can purchase it directly from our updated online store. That means 100% of your purchase will go directly to the Mars Society to support our mission and goal of bringing humans to Mars. Order your copy today! 

Reader Comments

Here’s what some readers have to say about The Case for Nukes

The Case for Nukes is absolutely a work of genius. It takes the vast complexities of the workings of and history behind nuclear energy and explains it all in a most interesting, page-turning manner. It is rare when I learn something new on every page, but I did in Zubrin’s The Case for Nukes. This Providence-given energy source can allow our civilization to not only survive but go on to a wonderful and most marvelous expansion while maintaining our beautiful planet.  I thoroughly endorse this book.”

– Homer Hickam, Author Rocket Boys/October Sky

“The Case for Nukes is a terrific book. Zubrin pulls no punches showing that we already have the technology to provide human civilization with unlimited and clean energy.”

– Marian L. Tupy, Editor Human Progress

“The Case for Nukes is the best book I’ve read on how to harness the incredible promise of nuclear energy. Robert Zubrin clearly explains why the skyrocketing costs of nuclear are unnecessary—the product of crippling, irrational regulations imposed by badly-motivated environmental activists. Most importantly, he offers a clear blueprint for liberating nuclear so that it can provide low, cost-reliable energy for billions of people for centuries and millennia to come.”

  • Alex Epstein, Author of Fossil Future and The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

“Robert Zubrin’s exposition of the history and science of nuclear power is fascinating. His account of the malicious and sustained campaign of disinformation, distortions, and fear that has denied humanity nuclear power’s enormous benefits is infuriating. This book needs to be sent to every American and European old enough to vote.”

– Claire Berlinski, Editor The Cosmopolitan Globalist

Publisher Summary

The Case for Nukes is a unique book. In it, world-renowned nuclear and aerospace engineer Dr. Robert Zubrin explains how nuclear power works and how much it has to offer humanity. He debunks the toxic falsehoods that have been spread to dissuade us from using it by variously the ignorant, the fearful, the fanatical, and by cynical political operatives bought and paid for by competing interests. He tells about revolutionary developments in the field, including new reactor types that can be cheaply mass produced, that cannot be made to melt down no matter how hard their operators try, that use a new fuel called thorium far more plentiful than uranium, and still more advanced systems, employing thermonuclear fusion – the power that lights the sun – to extract more energy from a gallon of water than can be obtained from 300 gallons of gasoline.  He tells about the bold entrepreneurs – a totally different breed from the government officials who created the existing types of nuclear reactors – who are leading this revolution in power technology.

But there are broader issues involved in the nuclear debate than technology alone, and Zubrin is not shy about addressing them. He makes clear the critical difference between practical environmentalism, which seeks to improve the environment for the benefit of humanity, and ideological environmentalism, which seeks to use instances of human insult to natural environment as evidence for a prosecutorial case against human liberty.  He shows how the latter school of thought is wrong, not only with respect to the catastrophic harm it would do to humanity, but to nature as well. He also exposes the masters of mercenary environmentalism, who deploy troops of dupes to shut down companies or whole industries in order to eliminate competition in return for being suitably rewarded by the beneficiaries of such efforts. He shows that when it comes to environmental improvement, freedom is not the problem; freedom is the solution. He makes clear both the possibility and necessity of a nuclear-power-enabled revolution in the human condition by putting it in a broader historical context of the overall process of development of civilization, whereby new technologies create new resources and new knowledge, which in turn make possible still more technological advance.

Finally, Zubrin brings all this to bear to address the greatest threat facing humanity today – which is the possibility that we will turn on each other, as we did in the 20th century, under the spell of the false idea that resources are finite.

Only in a world of unlimited resources can all men and women be brothers and sisters. Only in a world of freedom can resources be unlimited.

That is the world we can, and must, create. In The Case for Nukes, Zubrin shows us how.