10 Misconceptions about nuclear power

  • “Nuclear power is a Government ploy to manufacture weapons”: No, not any more, there are conditions laid down in the Euratom Treaty safeguarding the proliferation of civil nuclear fuel.
  • “People died at Fukushima from radiation”: No-one died from radiation but many people died as a result of the nocebo effect and stress of being relocated away from their homes.
  • “Chernobyl is the worst disaster ever”. A reactor meltdown is not a bomb. The accidents at Chernobyl killed 54 people – far fewer than have died in either the fossil fuel or renewables industry year on year. The Chernobyl accident may well eventually result in a total of 16,000 excess thyroid cancer cases, of which only 1% (160) across 3 countries would be predicted to be fatal [1]. Had iodine pills been issued in the aftermath, this number would be much lower.
  • “My foetus will develop an abnormality if I am exposed / eg the fish in the sea at Fukushima will grow three eyes”: No. Cells can heal after levels radiation exposure orders of magnitude higher than deemed safe (think of the massive doses people get in radiotherapy). Research has shown that if genetic mutations of this sort could occur in humans, this would require doses larger than those actually required for it to be fatal. Likewise, inheritable human genetic mutation by the kind that people worry about has never been detected. There is a discussion of the ICRP adopted LNT model which many scientists have discredited for low level exposures [2]. Atomic advocates UK have created a video here.
  • “Renewables are better for the environment” Not really. Biomass has been considered a large component of ‘renewables’ and as such emits CO2. Wind, solar and tidal fluctuate and need fossil fuel back up so they support fossil fuel generation. Neither are massive banks of batteries ‘renewable’. Unfortunately a lot of land and mineral resources are necessary for a relatively small output [3] [4].
  • “Fusion will be better.” Maybe, but we need to decarbonise now, not 20 years time (weren’t we told this 20 years ago?).
  • “What about the waste?” Yes it’s sealed and contained, and high level waste is vitrified so that it doesn’t leach into the environment. Incredibly well managed just like any other waste stream. Also very small in volume compared to that from any other energy industry.
  • “Terrorists will get hold of the waste and make a bomb”: This is nigh on impossible. Even if someone, somehow, managed to obtain radioactive elements from a hot reactor core, then the technology to separate out and weaponise the Pu would need to be incredibly sophisticated, and the process very hazardous.
  • “High costs”: At present this is only due to ‘first of a kind’ construction costs and delays. Cost comes down with more plants being manufactured. Chinese & Korea are deploying nuclear power at half the cost of that in the UK because they are committed to it [5].
  • “Plutonium is the most toxic chemical on the planet”: Although there are hazards associated with being a heavy metal, people generally overestimate the risk. The hazards associated with burning coal are a million times more of a problem [6].

CREDIT DUE TO Professor Wade Allison: Author of Radiation and Reason and Nuclear Is for Life


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