David Robert Grimes: This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, and the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl incident. Together, these constitute the two greatest nuclear accidents the world has ever seen. Even now, widespread confusion over these disasters still blights rational discussion on energy production; too often the debate becomes needlessly acrimonious, reliant on rhetoric in lieu of facts. Yet as climate change becomes an ever-encroaching factor, we need more than ever to have a reasoned discussion on nuclear power. To this end, it’s worth dispelling some persistent myths. Of course, the fact that the health impact of Chernobyl is far less than people tend to believe should not detract from the tragedy: at least 43 people died as a direct consequence of the disaster and up to 4,000 others exposed in 1986 might yet exhibit some ill effect. Moreover, the scale of disruption in the wake of the incident was enormous, with around 115,000 people evacuated by the authorities from areas surrounding the reactor in 1986. To this day, a 30km exclusion zone around the reactor has been maintained for precaution, despite the radiation level in this boundary being far below that which would cause damage. Unmolested by human hands, the Chernobyl exclusion zone has become an incredible natural wildlife habit and a growing tourist attraction. But for ideological opponents of nuclear power, this reality is largely ignored; a Russian non-peer-reviewed report garnered headlines with the claim 985,000 died as a result of the accident, a number subsequently exposed as baseless by the Radiation Protection Dosimetry journal. The scientific evidence also undermined Greenpeace, who had long used the spectre of Chernobyl (and more recently, Fukushima) as a prop in their anti-nuclear narrative. They and European Greens scrambled to counter this by releasing “The other report on Chernobyl (Torch)” in 2006 as a counter to the Chernobyl forum. In it, they reported that more than 200,000 deaths might be attributable to the disaster. This figure too is devoid of merit, a transparent attempt to circumvent the scientific consensus. Such empty hyperbole and stubborn insistence on projecting ideology over reality isn’t merely intellectually vapid, it’s actively damaging to the psychological health of survivors.Nuclear energy is complicated, has drawb acks, and like any form of energy production it has risks. But it is also clean, safe and hugely efficient. If we truly want to have a rational discussion on how best to power our world, we need to confine ourselves to facts rather than fictions and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages without recourse to ill-founded ideological radiophobia. Our very future depends upon it.
Guardian 11th April 2016 read more »