Science and Technology

Professor Bruno Gonçalves launches book that demystifies nuclear power

The book "Fusão Nuclear na era das alterações climáticas" ("Nuclear Fusion in the Age of Climate Change") can be downloaded for free.

Science moves the world forward and Science communication takes it to people, simplifying and demystifying it. The book “Fusão Nuclear na era das alterações climáticas” (“Nuclear Fusion in the era of climate change”) by professor Bruno Gonçalves – Department of Physics (DF) and President of the Institute for Plasmas and Nuclear Fusion (IPFN) – fulfils this mission. The book was recently released and can be downloaded for free. It promises to contribute to the informed discussion on energy and nuclear fusion, and decarbonisation strategies.

Professor Bruno Gonçalves used a simple language and included simple illustrations, which made the book more accessible for a general audience. “My view is that I have an obligation to provide data and a scientific perspective, but above all, I have an obligation to encourage curiosity about the subject”, stresses the professor.

The book includes extremely relevant data, such as: China has increased its nuclear power by 400% since 2011 and is planning to build 150 new reactors by 2035; France derives over 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy; 10% of the world’s energy comes from nuclear fission; 80% of energy consumption still results from burning fossil fuels.

According to the president of IPFN, the population must be well informed about decarbonisation. “It’s very important to combat misinformation and I believe that the population is now more receptive to an informed dialogue. There are many risks associated with several energy systems. The problem is our perception of these risks,” he says. “A nuclear disaster has an immediate impact. But we rarely hear about the effect of the emissions from burning coal over time, or the radioactive wastes from coal-fired power plants, or what happens to the populations upstream when a dam fails, or the risk of fire in the event of a catastrophic accident in wind turbines. These risks exist, to a greater or lesser extent, but the big difference is the perception we have of them. Nuclear power scares people! It is up to us to demystify this idea” says professor Bruno Gonçalves.

The author’s trigger came a few weeks ago, when the extraordinary result of the JET tokamak was announced, and the world record for fusion energy was broken. “Almost at the same time the European Commission expressed its intention to include natural gas and nuclear fission in the clean energy package and the French government announced investment in more nuclear power plants”, recalls the Técnico professor.

“It occurred to me that perhaps what was actually needed was to write what I have been presenting for several years in my lectures”, shares the physicist. “Many secondary school teachers praised my work and stressed the importance of making the book available for free. The Portuguese Physical Society (SPF) contacted me saying that they were going to announce the book on SPF website and distribute it in the next edition of “Gazeta da Física”, the Union of Physicists of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (UFPLP) also announced the book in its website. The “Exame Informática” magazine published a very complimentary article about the book”, says the Técnico professor.

As of yesterday, March 2, the book has been downloaded over 3,200 times. “The book surpassed my expectations and makes me wonder why it never crossed my mind”, says the Técnico professor.