At a time of concern over untruths in politics, Jonathan Ford’s recent piece on a supposed “irrational fear of nuclear power” plumbs new depths. In asserting that the 1986 Chernobyl disaster “caused 50 to 60 confirmed deaths — much less than feared”, the picture caption is particularly shocking (Financial Times, 4th November).
This refers only (and also highly misleadingly) to acute effects. It entirely ignores chronic effects, which are the main issue with elevated low level exposures to ionising radiation. The vast bulk of such deaths are delayed and masked by background statistics. Each individual case is real and tragic, but attributable only probabilistically.
Even with a near industry monopoly over the modelling of such effects, the scope of currently biased dispute lies only in how many thousands (at very least) of Chernobyl deaths occurred this way. That it be implied that no additional deaths occurred at all is an extremely serious misrepresentation.
There is legitimate scope for argument over the pros and cons of different energy strategies. But for such overtly partisan untruths to be perpetrated with the claimed authority of ‘rationality’, is undermining equally of science and democracy alike. Ford, the FT and their supposed ‘expert’ sources should withdraw this propaganda.
- Professor Andy Stirling (Sussex University, former member of the DEFRA Science Advisory Committee)
- Councillor David Blackburn (Chair of the UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities)
- Professor Andrew Blowers OBE (Former member of the UK Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee)
- Professor Kate Brown (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
- Tim Deere-Jones (Marine Radioactivity Research and Consultancy)
- Dr Paul Dorfman (UCL Energy Institute)
- Dr Ian Fairlie (Former member of Government’s Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters)
- Dr Philip Johnstone (University of Sussex)
- Dr David Lowry (Institute for Resource and Security Studies)
- Professor Maggie Mort (Lancaster University)
- Pete Roche (Former member of UK Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters)
- Dr David Toke (University of Aberdeen)