Friday, May 04, 2007

Remember the China Syndrome?

It was the An Inconvenient Truth of its day:

While doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources, an opportunistic reporter Kimberly Wells witnesses an accident at a nuclear power plant. Wells is determined to publicise the incident but soon finds herself entangled in a sinister conspiracy to keep the full impact of the incident a secret.

But, actual nuclear power plant accidents turn out to be somewhat less dramatic:

The risk of survivors of the Chernobyl accident dying early is far less than supposed, ranking about the same as exposure to air pollution or passive smoking, according to new research published on Tuesday.

The human toll from the world’s worst civil nuclear accident has been hotly debated ever since the Ukrainian power station’s No. 4 reactor blew up on April 26, 1986, spewing radioactive dust across Europe.

Now a top British scientist has evaluated the comparative risks and concluded that for those most affected by the disaster —- emergency workers and people living nearby —- the increased risk of premature death due to radiation is around 1 percent.

That is roughly the same as the risk of dying from diseases triggered by air pollution in a major city or the effects of inhaling other people’s tobacco smoke, said Jim Smith of Britain’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

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