We would be better off listening to the experts at the Nuclear Energy Study Center in Mol than to the fueling of green ministers and their militants. Nuclear power stations are a valuable contribution to sufficient energy in the coming years and a barrier against Putin’s poker game with gas and oil.
The fear of a nuclear accident is alive and being manipulated. Anyone who hears Minister Tinne Van der Straeten about the Belgian fission plants understands that she does not sleep because of them and finds these incidents very suitable for preaching green extremism. The situation at Zaporijia, where Russians are misusing Europe’s largest nuclear power plant as a shield and kidnapping and harassing Ukrainian workers, is nerve-wracking but nothing more than that. An overview of the nuclear accidents that have already happened shows, for those who remain rational and not hysterical, that strict safety measures are necessary, but also that the short and medium term impact (there is no long term for nuclear energy yet) of these disasters can be processed.
Three Mile Island and Chernobyl
The first major nuclear disaster was Three Mile Island in the US in 1979. A cooling system became sulky, causing the core of Unit 2 to partially melt and destroy the reactor. No one was hurt but the fear of greater disaster, boosted by the international press, and the movie ‘The China Syndrom’ with Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda. The film about a melting reactor, which ran in cinemas during the troubles of Three Mile Island, added to the inconvenience. Seven years later, it was Chernobyl’s Unit 4 prize. Steam and explosions blew the roof of the reactor and a large amount of radioactive material flew out. Thirty plant employees and firefighters died and approximately 300,000 people were permanently evacuated.
Serhii Plokhy just published “Atoms and Ashes: From Bikini to Fukushima” in which he collects the testimonies that followed on Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. In Fukushima (2011), no deaths are immediately linked to the melting of three cores of the plant. However, 110,000 people were immediately relocated and 49,000 people followed voluntarily.
Little reason to evacuate
Philip Thomas discusses the book in the new issue of the British literary monthly Literary Review. Thomas’ choice as reviewer is excellent, as he led a team of university experts in Great Britain, a year after Fukushima, on the question of how best to respond to a major nuclear accident?
Philip Thomas: “As we studied more and more data about Chernobyl and Fukushima, we understood that there is no clear-cut answer. We were surprised to discover that there is almost never a serious reason to remove people permanently from the contaminated zone after a major nuclear disaster.’
Thomas’s team used the “judgment-value” method that strikes a balance between the cost of safety and the resulting gain in life expectancy. Fukushima and Chernobyl were evaluated that way. Turns out far too many local residents in Chernobyl have been evacuated, and in Fukushima it was wrong to evict residents there, certainly not 100,000 and more.
The overall health impact of staying on site is no greater than that of those living in a polluted metropolis like London
Thomas: “The message of our research is: stay calm and move on. This conclusion is confirmed by two other teams with their own research methods. Those who remain at the site of the accident (in situ) may lose several months of life and have a slightly greater risk of cancer than those who leave. The general health impact of staying on site is no greater than that of those living in a polluted metropolis like London.” Specifically, the Thomas Committee found that among those who had to leave with the second wave (220,000 people) the 900 most irradiated would have lost only three months of life by staying. Londoners are currently losing 4.5 months of life expectancy due to urban pollution.
For author Serhii Plokhy, nuclear energy and nuclear weapons industry are two sides of the same coin. The “atoms for peace” would only be part of the production of nuclear weapons. Philip Thomas: “That vision conflicts with what I experienced during my 16 years working in the British civilian nuclear sector.” He was involved in the decommissioning of the Windscale nuclear power plant, among other things, and there was never any contact with them in the 16 years. something or someone who was involved in the production of nuclear weapons.’
Coincidence or not, Plokhy makes it appear as if no one has ever removed a nuclear power plant from the energy chain, which is not true. Windscale’s so-called ‘decommissioning’ was done r more than 10 years ago and the British Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has drawn up a program to phase out every nuclear power plant at the end of its production time.”
Philip Thomas: ‘Where Sergii Plokhy calls nuclear power by nature unsafe, and so wants nuclear power plants closed, even if they contribute to curb global warming, I don’t follow him, nor where he says it is proprietary to nuclear power plants to cause accidents. There’s no evidence for that. If our 2017 findings are correct that for residents living near a nuclear power plant, a massive incident is no worse than the damage from the industrial pollution that many of us face every day, wouldn’t it be wise to change our view of nuclear energy? ‘