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Nuclear risk


The debate held by ICE and IMechE (News 13 July) reflected the Department for Trade and Industry's energy review and the ICE's energy paper that to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and secure our energy supplies we need a mix of energy sources, and must reduce energy demand.

Neither the speakers, nor ICE's paper, acknowledged the much greater risks associated with nuclear energy.

The paper states: 'There are no technical or safety reasons for excluding it from the energy mix.' At the debate we were told a 'Chernobyl-type' event could never happen again.

It also states: 'The UK's nuclear reactors have been developed and operated safely for over four decades, and that the industry's record is very good when compared to other industries. . . it has been proved that it is possible to store spent fuel, or else recycle it, and condition the waste arising into safe forms for storage over many decades (and arguably over centuries).'

But how can we be certain that a nuclear plant, a vehicle transporting nuclear fuel or a spent fuel store will not be subject to malicious attack?

The consequences will be catastrophic.

As professionals accustomed to assessing and managing risk, engineers must show they can address this issue sensibly.

Jane Wernick, Jane Wernick Associates, London, E2 7PR

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