Simon Dowdeswell (Letters, October SR) notes that a recent government committee report into the effects of nuclear radiation did not suggest a causal relationship between the Sellafield reprocessing plant and cancer rates.
He neglects to mention its highly dubious theory that the increased incidence of childhood cancer in the vicinity of the plant is a 'blip' caused by a virus.
This is a committee answering to a government now seemingly hell-bent on new nuclear build. The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently drew very different conclusions. In a 700-page report it found that the risk of getting cancer from US nuclear reactors was approximately a third greater than current risk estimates allow. It surmised that even very low doses of ionising radiation can cause cancer, and that there is no safe level of exposure. It also found a causal relationship with other health risks such as heart disease and strokes.
Simon also implies that the Chenobyl disaster and the recent Sellafield leak were exceptional events caused by worker negligence. Yet since Chernobyl there have been 22 major accidents at power stations, of which 15 involved radiological release.
I can't believe that Simon has never experienced the pressure to speed up his work, to cut corners and minimise costs, as these forces are inherent in capitalist production.
When put together with a hazardous, highly centralised power source like nuclear, they can be deadly. To blame the workforce would be misguided and counterproductive, and let the corporate criminals off the hook.