When fear kills: the case of nuclear energy

The protection of life is statistical on two levels, those of cells and individual organisms. Selection has determined that protection against the effects of radiation damage is devolved to the cellular level and at moderate dose is essentially complete. Micromanagement of radiation protection by society then presents failures of public health with disastrous consequences in areas from mental health to the acceptance of beneficial energy sources of power to replace carbon. This social paralysis is sustained by fear and the man-made obstructions of over-regulation and its consequential cost. An intense programme of public education is the only way forward.

Wade Allison is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Fellow of Keble. He is an experimental and theoretical particle physicist by background who later moved into Medical Physics, publishing “Fundamental Physics for Probing and Imaging” (Oxford, 2006). Since then he has devoted himself to countering nuclear phobia, not only in the public, but among engineers, physicists, doctors and other scientists whose views are often hampered by the contrast between the physical and biological sciences. “Radiation and Reason” (2009) and “Nuclear is for Life” (2015) engage the problem in rigorous but accessible terms. He has visited Fukushima four times to see for himself.