Paul Dainton, an anti-pollution campaigner in Wakefield, opposes fracking and intensive power generation because he believes that it will only lead to pollution and catastrophe. He has argued that regulation is no real protection for people pr the environment. Paul has given the example of the most regulated industry in the world, nuclear power, and cited accidents in the USA, Japan and Russia.
I understand that Paul has campaigned on pollution issues and his passion is understood. However, we need to consider the pros and cons. We should also be honest with the facts.
The largest nuclear catastrophe in the past three decades took place in Fukushima in 2011. Nearly 16,000 people were killed by the destructive power of the tsunami and three of the six nuclear reactors failed and went into meltdown.
How many people were killed as a result of the nuclear meltdown? None. In 2013, two years after the incident, the World Health Organisation reported that the residents of the area who were evacuated were exposed to so little radiation, that radiation-induced health impacts were below detectable levels.
So, an unpredictable natural catastrophe created a massive nuclear meltdown and no-one died. The evacuation and well-implemented precautionary measures after the accident shows that we can mitigate the risks, even in the face of un-precedented natural devastation. This compares with the poor engineering design and lack of safety controls which led to the accident at the Soviet-run Chernobyl power plant – which is the best example of what not to do.
So, we must ensure that there is well-thought through and effective regulation and disaster-recovery planning for all energy production. However, if we reject new power technology and new forms of energy extraction, we will have to live with the real consequences. Our entire lives are dependent on affordable, abundant energy. When energy is cheap and plentiful, it makes life easier, product prices fall and new industries become possible.