Nuclear energy in Japan (after the Mihama accident)


Letter to the editor, published by the International Herald Tribune on Tuesday August 17th, 2004



by John Ritch, London director general, World Nuclear Association


Leading the paper with the headline "4 are killed at nuclear power plant in Japan" (Aug. 10) is a classic case of hype and incitement of public concern in the name of reporting a story.

The prominent display implies that nuclear technology is dangerous. But the accident occurred in a non-nuclear part of the plant from a leakage of high-pressure steam. The same accident could happen in a plant that uses fossil fuel. Would the International Herald Tribune give such prominence to a story about a fatal accident in a coal plant?

Only few readers know that no death has ever occurred from the operation of any of the 52 nuclear reactors that are used to generate electricity in Japan.

If deaths in making energy deserve a headline, the Tribune might consider reporting on the the thousands of coal miners who die each year around the world in explosions, collapses and floods.

In producing 16 percent of the world's electricity, nuclear energy is clean, boasts an unparalleled safety record compared to all other major forms of power generation and is the world's main expandable clean-energy resource.

Misleading "news" about nuclear power exacerbates an already profound irrationality in public discourse and is a serious disservice at a moment when the most crucial global challenge is achieving a transformation to clean energy technology.


John Ritch