The Chernobyl Accident and Its Implications for the United Kingdom

The Chernobyl Accident and Its Implications for the United Kingdom

The Chernobyl Accident and Its Implications for the United Kingdom

The Chernobyl Accident and Its Implications for the United Kingdom

Excerpt

There can have been few occasions when an accident to a major work of engineering of any kind was of such immediate concern to governments and peoples throughout the world as was the nuclear power-plant accident at Chernobyl. The collapse of a bridge or a fire in a coal mine, for example, may win headlines in many countries and cause more immediate casualties, but neither civil accidents like these nor natural disasters like earthquakes and famines are likely to be major stories everywhere for so long. For the ordinary man and woman, nuclear power is incomprehensible and horrifying, even if it is possible to distinguish it from the nuclear weapons issue; even for professionally qualified readers, some half million of whom, in the United Kingdom, are represented by the professional institutions constituting The Watt Committee on Energy, understanding is often difficult and opinions range right through the spectrum from enthusiasm for nuclear power to outright opposition.

The Watt Committee Executive, when it met soon after the accident occurred in April 1986, saw at once that the implications of what had happened, both immediately and over a period of perhaps years to come, would be far-reaching: perhaps more so because the possible benefits and dangers of nuclear power were already a matter of fierce public controversy, in the United Kingdom as in many other advanced countries, and it was appreciated that important national decisions were being made and could be affected. The importance of these decisions was not limited to the few thousands who would construct a nuclear power station, work in it and live near it; they would have an impact on the technological base, and therefore on the economic prosperity, of the whole country, and on the consumers of energy-specifically of electric power which, in the United Kingdom, means virtually everybody; and these effects will be with us for as long as anyone can foresee.

The attitude of The Watt Committee on Energy to the civil nuclear power question was stated in a Report entitled Nuclear Energy: a Professional Assessment, published in March 1984. The then Chairman of the Watt Committee, Dr Jack Chesters, in his foreword to that Report, explained how I had been made Chairman of the Working Group that . . .

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