A column discussing climate change and nuclear energy.

More than just a number

Today anti-nuclear activist Dr Jim Green published an opinion piece on InDaily with his view on the death toll of Chernobyl:

If we use the IAEA’s collective radiation dose estimate, and a risk estimate derived from LNT (0.1 cancer deaths per Sievert), we get an estimate of 60,000 Chernobyl cancer deaths. Sometimes a risk estimate of 0.05 is used to account for the possibility of decreased risks at low doses and/or low dose rates ‒ in other words, 0.05 is the risk estimate when applying a “dose and dose rate effectiveness factor” or DDREF of two. That gives an estimate of 30,000 deaths.

Which was later followed up by a response from nuclear activist Ben Heard in which he takes aim at Greens methodology and “indefensible” underlying purpose:

But Green seems disinterested in helping people understand the numbers, the science, the epidemiology, the uncertainty, the impacts or the relevance on our decision-making. What he seems interested in is making a suite of commentators look like science-deniers to keep people as frightened as possible of nuclear power. The sick irony is that the biggest residual harm of Chernobyl, about which there is no uncertainty, stems from the psychological trauma wrought by this fear itself. His tool is their pain.

This, for me, is indefensible.

With today being the 30th anniversary since the Chernobyl accident, and the 5th since the Tōhoku earthquake which caused the Fukushima disaster, it is a salient but somber time for discussion. Greens disregard for scientific rigour and outright denial of the international reviewed literature gives him little to no credibility to stand on with the claims made. Which leads to the question: Why?

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David Robert Grimes: Why it's time to dispel the myths about nuclear power →

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, and the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl incident. Together, these constitute the two greatest nuclear accidents the world has ever seen.

Even now, widespread confusion over these disasters still blights rational discussion on energy production; too often the debate becomes needlessly acrimonious, reliant on rhetoric in lieu of facts. Yet as climate change becomes an ever-encroaching factor, we need more than ever to have a reasoned discussion on nuclear power. To this end, it’s worth dispelling some persistent myths.

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