This week, Boris Johnson restated the UK government’s commitment to nuclear power. But of six sites identified for replacements for the country’s ageing nuclear reactors, three have now been abandoned, two are waiting approval and just one is under construction. So is it time to reassess our attitude to nuclear power? As the UK anti-nuclear power pressure group no2nuclearpower says, “there is no such thing as an absolutely safe level of radiation: all exposures no matter how small entail some risk – even background radiation.” So, the question is how do the risks of low doses of radiation compare with other risks. Let’s start with the seminal report on Chernobyl’s legacy produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) – another very reputable body – in 2005. It predicted that some 9,000 people were likely to die from low level radiation exposure as a result of the accident. If we were a bit less concerned about the risks of low levels of radiation then maybe we could make a more balanced assessment of nuclear power. Especially given that coal-fired power stations routinely release more radioactivity into the environment than nuclear power stations, thanks to the traces of uranium and thorium found in coal. And, since we are talking about worrying about the right things, let’s not forget the environment. Taking a more balanced view on the risks of radiation might help all those anxious climate scientists I mentioned at the start of this piece sleep a bit easier in their beds at night.
BBC 27th Sept 2020 read more »