IT WAS a pleasure to read Mr C Feetenby's sensible and wellreasoned letter (March 13). This is the level at which the nuclear debate should be conducted, and so seldom is. He presents some of the key issues clearly and cogently, and further progress can be made only by careful statistical evaluation of the risks he describes.
Whether or'not to use nuclear energy, or indeed any form of energy, is a question that cannot be decided in the abstract. The best choice is different for each country, depending on the natural resources and other factors. Presumably Mr Feetenby was thinking of this country, well-endowed as it is with coal and, for a time, with oil. We could, if we wish, survive on coal alone, plus some oil, but that would increase pollution and push up the cost of energy.
Already we can import French nuclear-generated electricity at a cost of 20 per cent less than we can generate it ourselves from coal. So if we relied on coal all our energy costs would rise, our industries would become increasingly uncompetitive, and unemployment would increase. This has to be balanced against the extremely small risk of a nuclear reactor accident.
Other countries are not so fortunate. France has no oil and little suitable coal, and so has no alternative but to develop nuclear power on a large scale. This has now been done so successfully that about 70 per cent of French electricity is now generated by nuclear reactors, at a cost very significantly less than that from coal. This gives them a great economic advantage over neighbouring countries.
Those who are opposed to nuclear power should be prepared to describe in detail how they would provide the energy needs of a developed country like France and also a developing country like India. That would convince them of the magnitude of the problems faced by the world today, and the contribution that nuclear power can make towards solving them.
Your other correspondent, Mr J Bailey, would do well to think about these problems, and not to try to reach conclusions from a few facts considered in isolation.
Peter Hodgson Corpus Christi College, Oxford • I SYMPATHISE with Dr Rosalie Bertell's frustration at being misquoted, despite her going on to commit precisely the same fault (March 13) in crediting me with the fatuous notion that radioactive material from Chernobyl was natural.
My actual words (January 9) were that "most radioactive material loose in the world, even after Chernobyl, is natural" — a very different proposition, as I should have thought obvious to anyone especially with Dr Bertell's experience. By this misrepresentation she herself demonstrates beyond dispute, if in a small way, the tendency apparent elsewhere towards twisting facts to suit her own ideas.
It is true that there are continuing political and to some extent technical uncertainties in disposing of contained radioactive waste, as I understand there are also with desulpherisation wastes and toxic ash from coal. There is however room to doubt Dr Bertell's claim about actual discharges of radioactive material from different types of power station. To say the least, it seems hard to reconcile with the fact that a coal-fired replacement for the aging Calder Hall reactors would cause the discharge limits for the nuclear site to be exceeded.
Dr Peter D Wilson