Radiation risks have been exaggerated – Oxford professor

An Oxford professor has published a book claiming that the view that radiation presents an extreme health hazard is out of date and based on Cold War paranoia.

Prof Wade Allison, a nuclear and medical physicist, argues that the health risks associated with low-level radiation have been massively over-played and are, in fact, minimal.

He says that ionising radiation is “about a thousand times less hazardous than suggested by current safety standards” and that high doses of radiation are used in hospitals every day to bring marked health benefits – such as in the treatment of cancers.

He also uses examples such as thriving wildlife in Chernobyl and minimal increases in cancer rates in Nagasaki and Hiroshima since their bombing at the close of the Second World War.

“I have no axe to grind, I have no links with the industry, I just want to see the truth out there. So many people have been under a misapprehension for so long,” he said.

He argues that his book, Radiation and Reason, gives a balanced account and brings good news – that we needn’t fear nuclear power.

“It is based on recent scientific data that is now established, and it brings good news – but are the people of the world ready to re-examine past assumptions in the light of current science?

“It is important that they do, because, without nuclear energy, the future for mankind looks bleak.”

The response of the scientific community has been mixed, with several academics sticking their heads above the parapet to disagree with him, though there does appear to be a consensus that discussion of the issue to date has been tinged with hysteria and assumptions.

Sam Bond

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