Introductory speach given by Bruno Comby, President founder of EFN1 and Honor Chairman of the congress, to the 20th ATSR2 congress "Radio-protection and environmentalism" from December 15th to 17th 1999 at the City of Sciences and Industry in Paris.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome you at this 20th congress of ATSR.
I would first like to underline the opportunity of this congress which associates nuclear sciences and environmentalism.
At a time in history when pollution and the protection of our environment have become, rightly so, a major concern in all aspects of social life : scientific, industrial, economical, political and even journalistical, reducing the gap between the nuclear community and the rational environmental community is more than ever necessary, it is indispensable.
In fact, the two words "nuclear" and "environmentalism" have been too rarely been associated until now.
It is still quite common, all it takes to check by yourself is to watch your favorite TV program or to listen to a few street conversations, to oppose environmentalism and technical progress, and as a consequence to oppose environmentalists to nuclear workers and nuclear science specialists.
Evidently, scientists in general, and in particular in the field of civilian nuclear electricity and of the medical applications of nuclear sciences (leaving aside the military aspects), are aimed at improving the living conditions on the planet, and environmentalism just as well aims to respect, protect or even improve the conditions for life on the planet.
Those two approaches therefore meet in their final aim, and rather than opposing them, it would be quite relevant to bring together environmentalism and nuclear, which both share a common view and a common concern about respecting life and the well-being of all living species.
In my sense, radio-protection is at the core of the reunification process between science in general, and environmentalism.
At the beginning of the century, radio-protection was still mumble. Marie Curie and many others, by not taking elementary precautions to protect themselves against harmful high doses of radiation , have paid with their life this excessive and thoughtless optimism.
In a second period of nuclear history, as a reaction to that, and usefully so, the radio-protection science has considerably developed, to ensure a better protection of the public and of the environment, as well as of nuclear workers, doctors, patients, searchers, and the environment from the harmful effects of high doses of radiation. To a such extend, that we now sometimes observe an excessive fear of radiation effects, a hunt to the last lonely Becquerel (which can be called radiophobia), ridiculously exagerated, often without any rational justification, at the very opposite of the total lack of precaution at the beginning of the century.
Time is now arrived to discuss these topics in a balanced and reasonable way, for an objective approach linking nuclear sciences and environmentalism, leaving dogmas and irrationality aside.
I would like to draw your attention especially on the many theoretical advances which occured recently and are shaping the future of our world. One event, to my opinion, has initiated this year an important turn for the future of radio-protection : it is the questioning to the "linear-no threshold theory" on radiation effects. This point seems to me of particular importance, because this theory is at the basis of much of the present reasoning, as well by ecologists as by scientists, and is used for many radio-protection calculations, especially to evaluate risks for a population which may be submitted to exposition at low, or very low, doses of radio-activity. This theme shall, within others, be discussed during this congress.
Nuclear installations, as long as they are carefully built and operated, contribute to save numerous human live in hospitals. Beside, that, especially when compared wither other sources of energy in use, nuclear energy requires very little nuclear fuel (example of the high energetic density of nuclear fuel : 1g of U235 produces as much energy as one ton of oil or coal). Nuclear energy produce very few wastes which are possible to confine almost totally. Those wastes have a limited life time and their radioactivity is mainly important at the beginning, and then reduces rapidly, in an exponential manner.
Legitimately, one may question himself to know if nuclear, well conceived and exploited, to the contrary of received ideas, is not an energy which might be, correctly conceived and exploited, particularly clean and respectful of the environment, at the service of life.
It therefore seems to me that now the time has come for more exchanges and honest interactions between the nuclear workers and environmentalism.
Of course these questions should be delt with on the basis of a global and rational approach. I insist on these two words : global means taking into consideration all aspects of the questions, and RATIONAL, means based on facts and solid demonstrations, excluding ideological
It is the aim of this congress, which gathers 20 highly qualified speakers.
It is also the aim of the association of " Environmentalists For Nuclear" (EFN), to improve knowledge, education, and more generally contribute to better inform public on nuclear and environment.
I wish you an excellent congress and shall conclude with this quote of Andrei Sakharov in introduction to Grigor Medvedevs book "The truth about Tchernobyl" :
"I am convinced that nuclear energy is a necessity for humanity. It is absolutely necessary to develop it, but only with an absolute safety".
Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bruno Comby, President of the Association EFN
1- EFN : association of Environmentalists for Nuclear energy
2- ATSR : Association of Technical Sciences for Radio-protection