It has, unfortunately, become the modern witchcraft, providing excitable media coverage as well as power for pressure groups and unscrupulous (or worse, well-meaning but badly misinformed) politicians.
I cite a recent so-called nuclear incident on a Fife beach, which in reality had a risk level so small as to be beyond assessment.
The Japanese tsunami of 2011 killed 20,000 plus, but it was the nuclear aspect – which killed none – that got the publicity. Chernobyl – an incident which all experts agree is beyond conceivable repetition, – 30 years later still induces shudders. Coal and oil disasters are still of frequent occurrence. Energy provision will always have risks attached. Even our wind installations have accounted for more deaths at home and abroad than our previous 50 years of nuclear energy.
Any unbiased research will reveal that nuclear energy, by some stretch, is the safest means of producing reliable large-scale electricity supplies at reasonable cost. It is also ecologically friendly, and I am not just thinking of carbon dioxide. Chernobyl is, I believe, now a thriving wildlife park and I can hardly imagine that waste disposal following the nuclear accident was anywhere near as meticulously thought out as that proposed for this country.
The anti-nuclear lobby is evidently ideologically rather than rationally driven. Ideology is part of human nature, but in this instance is not even followed by the ideologues. I am unaware that any have declared their non-use of nuclear electricity or anything derived from it, refusal to accept nuclear-based medical treatments ,etc. Indeed, a nuclear-free existence is now virtually impossible. They may say that they are only against nuclear reactors in Scotland, but don’t mind importing and using their products. Really?
The Scottish Government has prevented the building of new, modern, reactors here but has instead, in effect, furnished us with two aged ones for the next decade or so (Torness and Hunterston extensions). From this, could we conclude that perhaps the renewables actuality does not match the political puff?
Dr A McCormick
Alex Orr’s letter (2 February) indicates the lack of knowledge generally present about nuclear power. He naively considered it reprehensible that some unthinking person suggested that current UK “nuclear waste” be dumped in Scotland without realising that what is called “waste” is extremely valuable. When used in the appropriate reactors, this waste would generate 500 years-worth of free electricity and, of course, will be entirely carbon free.
Most people are not aware that because uranium is reasonably abundant, governments use the cheapest reactors that only abstract less than 1 per cent of the uranium and store the remainder as waste. In a fast-breeder reactor, 60-fold higher amounts of electricity are generated from the same amount of uranium and the waste is correspondingly tiny. Fast-breeders are more expensive to build, but now that uranium reserves on land are beginning to run down, a number of countries are commencing construction. There is, of course, 1,000-fold more uranium in the oceans than on land and Japanese and US experiments have shown it can be mined from this source. This could provide for millions of years of sustainable and completely reliable electricity.
Wind energy requires a 1,000-fold higher land area than a nuclear power station to generate on average equivalent amounts of electricity and suffers problems of intermittency. Nuclear power leaves the countryside unspoiled for future generations, current wind technology does not. Time to rethink anti- nuclear attitudes?
Prof Anthony Trewavas
Scientific Alliance Scotland
North St David Street,
Unlike Alex Orr, I was not offended by the remark on Question Time regarding dumping nuclear waste in Scotland because like, I imagine, most people, I thought it was A JOKE. Can we assume that prior to the independence referendum that Mr Orr, or one of his fellow Nationalists, will issue a list of the subjects we will be allowed to laugh about?