By Valerie Gardner

Joseph Mariathasan makes an important point in an article published in Investment & Pensions Europe (IPE), called “Nuclear Power – An Update.” In it he reflects on the problems associated with exaggerations about the health risks of radiation associated with nuclear energy, as described by Dr. Wade Allison, Oxford University emeritus professor of physics and Anton van der Merwe, a professor at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in Oxford, who together wrote a letter published in the Financial Times on October 29 called “Policy makers should focus on building nuclear plants.”  Allison is also scheduled to give a public talk at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology entitled “When fear kills: the case of nuclear energy.”  When unscientific standards force the nuclear industry to jump through unreasonably high (ie expensive) hoops to protect people from a risk that isn’t material, it hurts the economics of the nuclear power industry, it hurts investors and it hurts the climate.  Mariathasan writes: “The problem for nuclear power is that unjustified fear of radioactivity has resulted in onerous regulations, which in turn have made nuclear energy unnecessarily expensive. Society’s attitudes to acceptable levels of radiation are massively out of kilter with the reality of the risks and the behaviour of radiation damage on living things.”

When, as Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the FT has argued, humanity needs to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions rapidly to zero in order to minimise the risk of catastrophic climate change, we cannot afford to make energy investment decisions based on science fiction. What this tells us, according to Mariathasan, is that the “arguments that [Allison] and Van der Merwe raise in their letter are so important to future energy strategy and the control of global warming that there needs to be a much wider appreciation of the true risks of nuclear power, and hence an appreciation of what the implications of the wider use of nuclear power would be. For investors, that means nuclear power should not be written off as an investment opportunity. But before any investment can become attractive, there first needs to be a complete reappraisal of nuclear safety requirements in the light of actual scientific knowledge rather than post-war nightmares.”

Please click here to read Mariathasan’s IPE article: Nuclear Power – An Update.

Please click here to read Allison and van der Merwe’s FT letter: Policy makers should focus on building nuclear plants.