Letter: Campaign exaggerates Thorp dangers

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The Independent Online
Sir: You report (29 September) that 'the Thorp reprocessing plant in Cumbria will cause 200 fatal cancers worldwide and 10,000 non-lethal skin cancers in its first 10 years of operation'.

When it is operating, Thorp will emit minuscule amounts of radiation, much less than the natural radiation to which we are all exposed. The effects of such small additional amounts of radiation are unknown; estimates such as the one quoted above are obtained by assuming that the damage is proportional to the dose, and then using the results of studies of the effects of very much larger doses. The figures thus rest on a dubious hypothesis; there is even some evidence that small doses of radiation are beneficial.

It might, however, be argued that it is wise to be on the safe side. If one adopts this view, one should also be concerned about the many other causes of additional radiation dose, such as having a holiday in Cornwall (where the background radiation is about twice the national average), taking an airplane flight, which leads to increased exposure to cosmic radiation, or living near coal power stations, which emit more radioactivity than nuclear power stations. Since there is no evidence that the increased irradiation from these activities is remotely dangerous, no one in their senses would bother about any of them.

Why then is attention relentlessly drawn to the dangers of Thorp? The answer is that it is part of a highly orchestrated campaign against a facility that has been approved after extensive public hearings and more recently by a parliamentary vote supported by members of all parties.

Yours faithfully,


Corpus Christi College

Oxford University

(Photograph omitted)