THE perceived risks and costs associated with nuclear power are out of proportion with its benefits (“Nuclear debate” Brenda Holroyd, Mailbag January 21). The converse applies regarding the perceived potential of renewal power generation schemes.
I was a nuclear chemist at Sellafield (previously Windscale) for just under five years, and subsequently at the Gloucester Design Offices of the CEGB for over 20 years, where I was involved in the design of, among other things, the Sizewell B power station. During my training and subsequent career I handled radioactive materials for many years and I have been exposed to much more radiation than most people.
In addition to the radiation exposure I experienced in my career I was exposed to much radiation as a child. I had many chest X-rays when I was around four to seven years old because of tuberculosis and X-ray treatment to my head for ringworm when I was about nine. Considering that I am now almost 66, have enjoyed generally good health, am a father of a perfectly healthy son and a grandfather of a perfectly healthy grand-daughter I think I can claim with some justification to be a living demonstration that the radiation risks to the public are not as bad as some might think.
On the matter of nuclear waste, it is not “lethal” and its lifespan is not “ad infinitum”. It is the radiation from the nuclear waste that might be dangerous if people were exposed to very high levels of radiation. The fact that nuclear waste decays very slowly is not important, provided the nuclear waste is contained in such a manner as to prevent exposure of people to the associated radiation. I believe that this is not an insoluble matter and may have been solved already.
Personally, I would much rather live beside a nuclear facility, as we did for just under five years in Seascale (about two miles from Sellafield), than beside a chemical plant, a petroleum plant or an oil refinery.
Every industry, and everything we do, carries a risk; driving a car is probably the riskiest thing that most of us do on a regular basis. The risks associated with the nuclear industry are, in my opinion, acceptable, given that there is, at the moment, no viable alternative except perhaps coal, or oil, fired power stations, with which there is the associated climate-change problem.
Turning to renewable power sources, none can compete, in my opinion, with nuclear power at the moment.
Solar power cannot produce sufficient power, nor can wind schemes, nor can tidal schemes. Constructing a tidal barrage scheme in the Severn Estuary would have so many engineering problems as to make it impracticable. The cost of producing electricity from these schemes is not zero and, at the moment, is much higher than the cost associated with nuclear power.
Unless, and until, we are prepared to use much less electricity, then there is really no alternative to nuclear power and the sooner we accept this the better for everyone.