Weighing up the cost of nuclear power

The Guardian29 March 2011:

I have every sympathy with George Monbiot, and his wish to abandon fossil fuels, but embracing nuclear power may not be the best solution. He claims that only 43 people died as a result of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. In fact, in 2006, the BEIR VII committee of the US National Academy of Science estimated that Chernobyl was responsible for an extra 4,000 cancer deaths among evacuees and workers involved in the clean-up, and 5,000 extra cancer deaths among the population of Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Federation. Furthermore, if one accepts the linear no-threshold model of ionising radiation, then, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) , there will be a total of 16,000 excess cancer deaths worldwide as a result of this nuclear disaster.

Of course, these figures are dwarfed by the likely deaths resulting from climate change which will threaten millions through drought, famine and disease. So the current paradigm for the world community is to continue burning fossil fuels with the certainty of widespread environmental destruction, or to rely on nuclear power and risk the possibility of widespread radioactive contamination. Personally, I cannot think of a stronger argument in favour of renewable energy.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

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