Please stay with me, as I consider myself an environmentally-conscious individual, who has, through my work with the Joan Pye Project and previously in the nuclear industry, come to the conclusion that we are being prejudiced by our fears and the general ‘hype’ around the subject of nuclear power. Unless you are a specialist on radiation, a lot can be left to the imagination, and as we cannot sense radioactivity, our fear comes from the unknown.
I have discovered from some careful reading around the subject, that the collective agreement as to what makes a ‘safe’ level of radiation, are somewhat biased. Currently, the ICRP (International Commission for Radiological Protection)’s dose-response safe radiation limits are based on a straight line graph called a hypothetical ‘linear no threshold’ ‘LNT’ model.
I personally find this a little misleading as it assumes that no cancer risk means absolutely no exposure to any sort of radiation.
The truth is that low level radiation is not only unavoidable, but can also be beneficial, e.g. sunlight exposure to produce vitamins vital for healthy growth. This LNT model doesn’t account for this.
So it is argued that real life dose-response relationships are not linear and this is an out-dated model.
By way of example… to call the release of radiation from the nuclear plant in Fukushima 2011 a ‘disaster’ because of a breach in ‘safe’ levels – based on a controversial LNT model – seems not only extreme, but dangerous in itself. In truth, it was the fear and stress of evacuation and relocation that caused premature deaths. Not one person died as a result of radiation exposure.
At nuclear facilities, limits are currently extremely low and it doesn’t take much to breach a safety limit. Huge amounts of money go into proving, by way of nuclear safety reports on regulated sites, that they are fail-safe and a miniscule chance of death can result to anyone near or far. In fact, the nuclear industry is the safest of all the energy producers if you look at the statistics.
We have data to suggest that cells can tolerate and even repair themselves now after exposure to radiation at levels of magnitude much higher than the safe suggested levels within which industry are expected to operate.
If anything, the PPE (personal protective equipment) that people have to wear in nuclear facilities – being the answer to majority of breaches of safe working dose limits – can be cumbersome and dangerous.
I am not saying nuclear is without risk but we can make bad decisions by being too cautious.
It is time to re-evaluate if we are to continue to feed our voracious consumer appetites for energy; even more so of we wish to do this without so much dependence on fossil fuels.