Thursday, December 22, 2005

Going Critical

Owing to space constraints, my recent TCS article on nuclear power in Britain didn't mention Chernobyl. In part, I wanted to keep this until the twentieth anniversary of the accident in April next year. Also, I had read in the press of a recent scientific consortium report(WHO press release is here, via Wikipedia) painting a less apocalpytic view of the consequences, but I hadn't followed the debate around this.

"As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident but others who died as late as 2004."
The other obvious issues left out are Sellafield and the performance of the British nuclear industry, both of which need a great deal more research before I'd feel comfortable in commenting on them in any detail. I suspect that nuclear weapons manufacturing rather than the civilian energy programs may have been a greater source of waste and accidents.

Also, the financial health of the British nuclear industry - including British Nuclear Fuels Limited and British Energy - which owns the power stations - has been fragile, to put it politely.

For my part, I suspect that most of the hostility in Ireland to Sellafield is a combination of the environmentalist scare-mongering together with "green" politics of a more traditional sort, namely that if our wicked colonial overlords across the water are doing it, it must be immoral. After the Good Friday Agreement, this gives a rare opportunity for Brit-bashing while remaining politically respectable.

If you're really interested in the whole subject, the Westminster Energy Forum is running a conference on the regulation of the nuclear power industry in London on January 19th.

Nevertheless, the question remains to be answered: Given this safety-obsessed, nappies-within-nappies society that they've done so much to foster, why aren't Greenpeace being held to account for their publicity stunts, given that they're more dangerous than the nuclear power industry? Feel free to discuss among yourselves....