I was quoted in the Herald this morning (5th June) warning that a nuclear accident on the scale of Chernobyl is not impossible in the UK.
The Herald pointed out that I had recently warned Hunterston could cause a Chernobyl after The Ferret’s investigative journalism team, revealed operator EDF had found 350 graphite cracks in Reactor 3 (It’s now up to 370). I told the newspaper “That we don’t have this kind of reactor in the UK was always the get-out clause of the British industry. But that does not mean we cannot have another kind of accident.”
People are talking about nuclear power and the possibility of an accident all because of the latest TV drama – the last episode of which was screened on Tuesday 4th June.
Without fanfare, Chernobyl has become unmissable TV, according to Sky. The show is harrowing and unrelentingly bleak, with some complicated science to get to grips with. It is a western-made drama about a disaster that occurred in the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago, and we already knew the ending. But seemingly from nowhere, this five-part mini-series is now the show that everyone is talking about. (Sorry, Game Of Thrones). After just three episodes, Chernobyl topped film and TV database IMDB’s list of the greatest 250 TV shows of all time – quite an accolade.
When there was still one episode to go The Economist said it was the highest-rated television series of all time.
Dr Ian Fairlie says overall the drama is remarkably truthful and reliable in its depictions. Perhaps the most important aspect, he says, is that it informs a new generation about the potential dangers of nuclear reactors. The UK still has 15 of them operating, with 2 more under construction and the Government thinking about more. Another aspect is that they educate people about the dangers of radiation, a subject on which most people are very poorly informed, and which the Government and its agencies takes great pains to avoid discussing honestly. He says an accident like Chernobyl is unlikely here, but not out of the question. For example, UK reactors do not have positive void coefficients, which means the potential for runaway-reactivity type of accidents is very low. But 14 of the UK’s reactors still use graphite as a moderator and Chernobyl’s 8-day graphite fire was perhaps the single most important contributor to the massive effects of the Chernobyl disaster across Europe.
The author of a new book called Chernobyl “Manual for Survival” which has also been receiving many rave reviews is coming to Edinburgh on 19th July. Dr Kate Brown is the author of Plutopia, which has won seven awards, including the Dunning and Beveridge prizes from the American Historical Association for the best book in American history. She is the first historian of the Soviet Union to be nominated to the honorary Society of American Historians, and her research has been funded by the American Academy in Berlin and by Carnegie and Guggenheim fellowships. She teaches environmental and nuclear history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and lives in Washington, DC.
Come and hear her speak on Friday 19 July 2019 15:00 – 17:00. Room 1.20, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AD
Free Admission but booking is required.
Dr Ian Fairlie will also be at the meeting and will be able to update us on development at Hunterston. EDF Energy is currently hoping to re-open Reactor 4 on 24th June and reactor 3 on 31st July.
Pete Roche 5th June 2019