Patrick Gray is an economist with a special interest in science-based business development and job creation. In 2001-2202, he led the United Nations study “Human Effects of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident: A Strategy for Recovery” (http://chernobyl.undp.org/engish/). Since 2002, he has served as Programme Leader for British Government funded Closed Nuclear Cities Programme, which assists former nuclear weapons scientists and engineers to create sustainable civil sector businesses and employment in Russia and other countries in the Former Soviet Union. Pragoti publishes an exclusive interview on nuclear issues with him over a wide range of topics from nuclear energy, proliferation, weapons, management, etc.
- Could you share with us the highlights of your experience of working on Chernobyl?
The United Nations study which I led in 2001 and 2002 explored the effects of the accident on the population of the area of Belarus and Ukraine that surrounds Chernobyl What we found was moving and disturbing, but also very different from what we had expected.
In particular, there was an enormous gap between public perceptions of the effects of the accident and the reality on the ground. Undoubtedly, radiation released after the accident has had, and will continue to have, very serious effects on the physical health of thousands of people who were living in the area around Chernobyl at the time of the explosion. Some dozens of individuals died during, or shortly after, the accident from radiation exposure and burns. Some thousands of young people have since been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and are receiving treatment, which will need to continue for the rest of their lives. Some of the recorded increase in thyroid cancers will have been a result of increased screening, but many cases certainly resulted from exposure to radioactive iodine released during the Chernobyl fire.
In addition, the United Nations Special Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has calculated (by modelling of the amount of radiation released and relating this to the known effects of other cases of exposure), that in the region of 10,000 people will eventually die prematurely from a variety of cancers – mainly in middle and old age. These additional deaths will not be individually attributable to Chernobyl radiation. Because they will be spread over many decades and across much of Europe, they will not show up in the statistics of mortality, but that does not mean that they will be any the less real for those concerned. It is also possible that evidence of other effects will emerge with the passage of time, but this picture is likely broadly to remain the authoritative view of the most important direct effects of the accident on physical health. The accident itself, the remediation measures that followed and the various claims and counter claims made as to its likely effects also had a profound and generally negative effect on the psychological and economic wellbeing of a very large number of inhabitants of the surrounding area. These effects, however, are much more difficult to quantify and it is unlikely that a consensus will ever be arrived at as to their full scope and nature.
Beyond that, an enormous and often surreal debate has raged ever since 1986 between the nuclear industry, which has sought to play down the effects of the accident (for example, denying for a long time the link with thyroid cancer), and, on the other hand, political groups and anti-nuclear pressure groups. These have sometimes given astonishing estimates of the number of fatalities, either with a view of obtaining resources for their supporters or as a lever in a broader campaign against nuclear power. This effect has been multiplied by the fact that after the accident some five million people were give the official status of “Victims of Chernobyl”, not because of any evidence that they had actually suffered as a result of exposure to radiation but simply because of where they were at the time of the accident. In the difficult years after 1986, the financial and non-financial benefits that came with this status were often a lifeline for those concerned, and, not unnaturally, they and their representatives are quick to attribute any illness or other misfortune they face to the effects of Chernobyl radiation.
The impact of the accident itself, of the economic crisis and disruption that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union, and of the evacuation of several hundred thousand people were soon conflated in the public mind. Country people throughout the former Soviet Union suffered appallingly from the collapse of the Soviet system of agricultural production and welfare support. As well as the direct effects of the accident, those who lived in the vicinity of Chernobyl were also forced to abandon their homes and carried the burden of fear and despair caused by misleading information on the likely effects of radiation exposure on themselves and their families. There are lots of lessons to be drawn from the Chernobyl accident. The challenge now is to make sure that those lessons are properly understood and are acted on to make sure that a disaster of this scope never happens again.
- What are the major lessons to be drawn from your work on Chernobyl?
The first thing to say is that the Chernobyl accident was a very peculiar event and was about as bad as a nuclear power station accident could be. It is true that a major steam explosion could theoretically have blown the whole reactor apart, had the fire burnt its way through the concrete foundations to the water table. That would have doubled the amount of radiation released, but at the same time would have ended the fire, with the result that the surrounding area would have suffered much higher levels of contamination, but less radioactive material would have been distributed further afield. In addition, the reactor itself was designed to produce as much plutonium as possible and was full of graphite, which, at very high temperatures, burns. Radioactive material was carried into the upper atmosphere by the heat from the fire, which burnt for eleven days, and was then spread by the wind over a very wide area of the western Soviet Union, Scandinavia and Western Europe. The accident was caused by a foolhardy experiment, which involved turning off the safety systems in the middle of the night, and it also occurred just before the fuel rods were due to be replaced, when the inventory of dangerous radioactive material was at its highest.
It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that an accident quite like Chernobyl is unlikely to occur again. However, with over 800 reactors around the world, and many more in prospect, it is virtually certain that other serious accidents will occur in future. The question then is what can be done to reduce the frequency of such events and to minimize the effects when they do happen.
Recognising that, even apart from the risk of terrorism or war, nuclear power generation will always entail risks is the first step. Beyond that, the risk of accidents and of nuclear proliferation needs to be balanced against other risks that society faces, for example global warming and the possibility of severe economic disruption resulting from dependence on potentially unreliable, or hostile, oil and gas producing states.
As far as the lessons are concerned, the first, I think, is that a free press is the most important safeguard against gross breaches of proper safeguards, such as happened at Chernobyl. It is hard to believe that politicians or management would have acquiesced in the risks that were taken had they had to reckon with the possibility that probing journalists would find out what was going on and hold them to account.
A second lesson is that a nuclear world can only be in any sense secure in the context of active international collaboration and strong international institutions and regulation. At first the authorities tried to deny that the accident had happened, which increased the risks that local people were exposed to. Later, the absence of internationally agreed procedures led to decisions being taken that could not really be justified in terms of the best scientific knowledge. Heroic efforts were made during and after the fire to contain the problem and the Soviet authorities, and later the Governments of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, put enormous resources into addressing the consequences of the accident. Indeed, at one point the Government of Belarus was spending 18% of its entire budget on addressing the consequences of Chernobyl. But it is also clear that in some respects the strategy adopted was misguided and made matters not better but worse for the inhabitants of the affected areas.
For example, the authorities adopted a threshold for acceptable exposure to radiation that was stricter than the level recommended by the international community. This meant that more people were forced to leave their homes, often with dire consequences for their well-being. In a democratic society, many of the people who were evacuated would have simply refused to move. Informed specialists now generally agree that many of them would have better off if they had stayed in their own homes. In the event, hundreds of thousands of people were transported to hastily constructed re-settlement villages with little or nothing in the way of social infrastructure, or to flats in cities where they had no alternative but to live off welfare, with little real chance of ever finding satisfactory employment.
A third conclusion is that much more needs to be done to understand and to document the medical consequences of the Chernobyl accident. After the bombing of Hiroshima a long term international study of the effects was set up involving Japanese and American scientists, and this provides the basis of much of what we now know about the effects of radiation on health. The only good thing that could have come out of the Chernobyl disaster was a deeper understanding of the risks involved in nuclear power generation and, in particular, of the long term effects of exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation. Unfortunately, much of the data and insights that could have been gleaned from the accident have now been lost for ever.
Of course, many studies have been carried out and the exposed population has been subjected to extensive screening, (with negative as well as positive results for those concerned). But without an impartial arbiter to verify the methodology and compare results, these have often increased anxiety without producing any reliable new knowledge. An example of this is a widely reported study which purported to show that the educational development of rural children in the exposed areas had been retarded by exposure to radiation, where the control group was the children of the academics who carried out the study!
A number of studies have also suggested dramatic increases in the incidence of a range of diseases not normally associated with exposure to radiation. Anti-nuclear lobby groups have jumped on these findings to claim that radiation has a much wider range of harmful effects than has hitherto been admitted. A more likely explanation, however, is that the authors have ignored the possibility that their findings are simply an artifact of increased screening. In other cases, researchers have attributed to Chernobyl increases in reported disease that have actually occurred throughout the Former Soviet Union – whether as a product of heightened awareness or simply as a result of the deprivation that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet welfare state and the dramatic decline in living standards that occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
What is needed is an impartial, comprehensive, well funded and internationally accredited long term study to discern possible subtle effects which may only emerge many decades into the future. Unless such a study is established and funded, evidence which could be of great importance for humanity in future will simply disappear.
Finally, we should not forget the importance of technology. Progress in reactor design has often failed to live up to expectations, with big advances being announced with a fanfare, only to be followed by disappointment as unexpected problems emerge. Nevertheless, designs have improved since the era of Chernobyl and it is essential that this process continues, driven by a combination of competition and an increasingly well-informed and ever more demanding regulatory framework.
- From your working experience, could you summarise the major social and political consequences of Closed Nuclear Cities? What are the likely fallouts in the case of such situations arising in countries like India, for example in Tarapur or Kalpakkam, two of the seats of nuclear power in India, where the life of inhabitants of the towns are structured around the nuclear industry, and these are close to urban agglomerations?
Closed Nuclear Cities, as opposed to closed research establishments or nuclear weapons factories, were created in Russia and in China as a product of the Cold War within a system which was all-powerful, obsessed with spying and unfamiliar with the concept of opportunity costs. Obviously, where nuclear weapons are concerned, security is of paramount importance, but there are other equally effective systems for protecting nuclear secrets and nuclear materials that are far less expensive and burdensome than fencing in whole cities. In view of the economic costs involved, and the implications for civil liberties, I think that it is very unlikely that any democratic country would try to replicate such a system today.
Could you tell us the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of nuclear power and nuclear safety around the world based on the trajectories of European countries, the USA, Canada and Russia (including erstwhile USSR)?
The benefits of nuclear power are obvious. It offers an additional source of energy that can be almost carbon free and is independent of finite and perhaps undependable supplies of coal, oil and gas. All things being equal, any increase in the range of available energy sources is to be welcomed. The negative side is also clear: possible damage to human health and the environment, and the risk of facilitating nuclear proliferation, and terrorism. There is also the danger that the associated security measures will impinge on civil liberties and create a state within a state that is less accountable than it should be to the media and the democratic process. Public concerns, whether justified or not, are also a factor that needs to be taken into account.
In societies that are technically advanced, have strong safety cultures and strong democratic processes, or alternatively strong technologies and an effective authoritarian system of control, it should not be impossible to manage these problems. One should never be complacent, but to that extent, the situation is at least under control in countries such as the United States, France, Canada, and Britain. Russia too appears to have effective systems for minimizing the risk of nuclear accidents and the loss of nuclear materials. I don’t know enough about the situation in India or China to comment, but I imagine that here too, appropriate safeguards have been established.
Much greater risks will arise should nuclear power stations be established in countries where science and technology are at a low level, decision taking is non-transparent, the media weak, and safety culture poorly developed. Nuclear safety and security are expensive and demanding and require constant effort and vigilance. It will never be possible to isolate the nuclear sector from the rest of society and to that extent the risks will be greatest in countries which are unstable or have failed to develop discipline in terms of industrial procedures and a high level of education and openness. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) once published a plan which foresaw nuclear power stations being established in many small countries around the world. Several of these countries have since descended into civil war and chaos. It is frightening to think what might have happened to the fissile materials concerned if this plan had ever been realized.
- It is often argued that nuclear energy is ‘clean’ and a viable substitute to ‘fossil fuels’ in light of global warming. How much truth is there to it?
This depends on the relative risks that one attributes to, on the one hand, ionizing radiation and, on the other, accelerated global warming – and on what other energy sources are available. Waste of course is not peculiar to nuclear energy production. Fly ash, which is produced by coal fired power stations, contains a whole cocktail of poisonous chemicals many of which, unlike radioactivity, will not decay with the passage of time, but will remain in the environment effectively for ever. The production of solar panels too involves the use of highly toxic solvents, which are likely to pose a growing environmental challenge with the soaring demand for solar energy.
Anti-nuclear pressure groups dispute the claim that nuclear energy is low carbon on the grounds that building nuclear power stations and extracting, processing and reprocessing uranium consume huge amounts of energy, which is mainly carbon generated. But the extent to which this is true depends on what sources of energy are available. In a future world, which we must all hope for, where transport and minerals extraction and construction are fuelled by carbon free or neutral sources, such as solar or wind power, biofuels using cellulose as feedstock, or hydrogen itself generated using power from solar or nuclear power, nuclear energy would indeed involve the release of very little carbon dioxide.
The other weakness in this claim, of course, is that it also applies to hydro power, wind turbines and any other source of power generation which involves up-stream and down stream activities fuelled by carbon generated energy.
A related argument against nuclear power that is sometimes heard is that nuclear power stations only produce electricity, which accounts for only about 20% of all energy consumed, and hence can only play a small part in reducing total carbon emissions. As an argument against nuclear power, this case fails because it also applies to all of the alaternatives, including solar and wind power. It is also ill-founded because, just as the sun is the ultimate source of wind and, through photosynthesis, biological material and hence coal, oil and gas, so in the final analysis any form of energy can eventually be converted into any other. For example, electrical energy generated from wind, solar radiation or nuclear fission could be used to extract hydrogen from water, which could then be used directly as fuel for aircraft or vehicles, or as a feedstock for fuel cells.
- What is the structure of the global nuclear industry? How powerful is it in driving energy policy wherever it is commercial?
At present, there is no such thing as a global nuclear industry. Because of the links to the military and the structure of electricity generation and distribution, which are largely organized on a national basis and in government hands, the nuclear sector has been slow to cross national boundaries. There are signs that this may be beginning to change, with France, Russia and the United States, in particular, beginning to look to expand abroad. How far and how fast this process will develop will depend on the pace of privatisation and deregulation, and on the extent to which fears over climate change and the price of oil and gas overcome fears of weapons technology proliferation and the protectionist instincts of the governments concerned.
Increased globalization could pose a threat if it leads to the industry acquiring an even greater hold over bodies such as the IAEA, where its influence is already a matter of concern. But influence over public policy is not just a problem where commercial companies are concerned. State owned enterprises can also develop a strong hold on policy, especially in nuclear weapons states where a culture of secrecy exists and there is a strong interface between the nuclear sector and the military – as in France for example.
On the other hand, globalization is also likely to accelerate the dissemination of the best technologies and management practices, which could be of great benefit in terms of knowledge transfer, the efficient use of resources, and safety. One of the dangers involved in the current revival of interest in nuclear power is that competition between national champions in third markets may lead to low cost, sub-optimal, and possibly unsafe reactors being sold to developing countries. By acting as a vehicle for knowledge transfer and increasing the range of reactor designs available, increased globalisation in the industry could help to limit this problem.
In general, however, the astonishing thing to me is not the power of the nuclear industry, but how ineffective it has been in influencing public opinion and political decision taking. It enjoyed a honeymoon period in the 1950s and the early 1960s and a big success with the founding of the IAEA, with its extraordinary mission to promote the peaceful use of nuclear power around the world. After that, public opinion moved against all things nuclear, with concerns over atmospheric testing, the Cuban missile crisis, the rise of the peace movement and the publication of books and films such as Nevile Shute’s On the Beach and the film Dr Strangelove. The industry has been on the defensive ever since. The environmental movement has delivered blow after blow and the nuclear industry has appeared quite incapable of responding.
This effect has not been limited to the democratic world. In the Soviet Union, which accorded extraordinary prestige to all things nuclear, a wave of public concern led to a freeze on the civil reactor programme after Chernobyl. Indeed, scarcely a single reactor has been started around the world since 1986 and a number of countries with significant nuclear energy sectors, including Belgium, Germany and Sweden, have resolved to abandon nuclear power generation completely.
It is interesting that in Switzerland, which depends on nuclear power for about 60% of its electricity, a move to phase out nuclear power was defeated in two referendums in 2003, before climate change became a dominant theme in public debate. This suggests that the nuclear industry in other countries was hiding under the table long after the worst of the storm had passed. It also indicates that, if a proper debate is organized, public opinion is much more evenly divided on the issue than is often assumed.
Unfortunately, the level of debate has generally been very low, with ill-informed scaremongering on one side and a refusal to take legitimate concerns seriously on the other. As with a number of other science related policy debates (for example, on genetically modified foods), the nuclear question does require the public to take the trouble to understand some of the underlying scientific issues. The nuclear industry and the various campaign groups both have an important part to play in this, but I am not sure that it can just be left to them. The view of the industry will always be driven by commercial interests. The pressure groups also have their own survival logic. Their success generally depends on constant fund raising and recruitment. Unfortunately, experience shows that scare stories are much better recruiting sergeants than balanced judgment and a rounded view! Perhaps we should establish an international internet forum where a panel of prominent scientists with different views can respond to questions and debate the issues in public, without being constrained by the exigencies of boosting profits or raising funds.
- How viable is nuclear power as an energy source for a country like India? Will it help ease India’s burden on oil, coal, gas, hydropower which together provide 98% of its energy requirements today?
For India, and for many other countries, nuclear power appears an attractive medium term option for providing some of the power that will be needed over the next fifty or sixty years to maintain living standards and support development. Beyond that, it is likely that a range of innovations, including technologies which enable energy to be used much more efficiently, solar power, tidal power, wind power, biological processes and, it may be hoped, fusion, will fill the gap with less inherent risks than are posed by nuclear fission. If that comes about, the World will be able to sigh with relief, make proper provision for research and the production of medical isotopes and then put fission, with all of the dangers that it entails, behind it once and for all.
- India has upheld a three stage nuclear power programme based on its abundant Thorium supply where:
Stage – I : envisages, construction of Natural Uranium, Heavy Water Moderated and Cooled Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). Spent fuel from these reactors is reprocessed to obtain Plutonium.
Stage – II : evisages, construction of Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) fuelled by Plutonium produced in stage-I. These reactors would also breed U-233 from Thorium.
Stage – III : would comprise power reactors using U-233 / Thorium as fuel.
Reprocessing is said to be the core of the programme. What do you make of this strategy?
Experiments have been carried out in a number of countries since the 1960s using thorium. Several experimental reactors, and at least one commercial reactor, have run for long periods in Germany and the United States using thorium-based fuel. However, efforts remained generally modest for a long time because uranium was inexpensive and readily available. In recent years, interest has grown for two reasons. First, supplies of monazite and thorite, the main thorium ores, are much more plentiful and widely distributed than uranium, and large deposits exist in stable democratic countries such as Australia, India, Turkey and the US. Also, a much higher proportion of a given quantity of thorium can be used in a conventional reactor than of the same quality of raw uranium. The second reason is that reactors burning thorium are more resistant to weapons proliferation, as the uranium and plutonium products generated are unsuitable for use in weapons and highly radioactive, and hence both easy to track and dangerous for terrorists to handle.
Because of its enormous supplies of readily accessible monazite, and because its isolation from the mainstream of the international nuclear community has limited its access to enriched uranium fuel, India has announced ambitious plans to develop large scale energy production using thorium, together with isotopes of uranium and plutonium. The World looks on with interest, but whether India will really persist along this path remains to be seen. Producing thorium-based fuel for conventional reactors and reprocessing the waste that they produce will require massive investments. Moving on to use thorium in a new generation of fast breeder reactors would be theoretically attractive, but experience around the world suggests that fast breeder technology is itself extremely difficult and expensive to master; so much so that several countries have pulled back from it, despite its attractions in terms of fuel efficiency and waste disposal.
Meanwhile, India is actively seeking access to enriched uranium fuel through diplomatic channels. Whether the Government will really continue to support the enormous expenditure required for its long term pursuit of a thorium-based nuclear economy should it obtain access to less expensive and technically easier uranium-based alternatives must be an open question – time will tell!
- How significant is the question of nuclear waste and does it pose any significant danger? How does the social and economic cost of nuclear waste measure up to the benefits of nuclear power? What is the global benchmark time frame for nuclear waste management and is it adequate?
There is no simple answer to these questions, as the answers largely depend on political issues, such as what timeframe society is willing to apply and how to balance different types of risk. Unfortunately, this is an area where powerful commercial considerations apply on one side and great opportunities for scaremongering on the other. The international community must work towards an informed consensus, as the long term effects of mishaps could have global effects – for example, if radioactive material is allowed to get into water courses or the sea.
Unfortunately, the state of scientific education is such that both the public and decision takers are often operating in a vacuum as far as real understanding is concerned. For example, the mayor of the area encompassing the closed Maine Yankee power station in the United States has been quoted as insisting that the only acceptable clean up would be one that left the reactor site emitting no radiation at all – ignoring the fact that most soil and rocks naturally emit radiation! The level of naturally occurring background radiation varies considerably between different parts of the world, and this may provide a natural laboratory which can help resolve the question of what levels of long term exposure may be acceptable.
Scenarios can, of course, easily be constructed where a combination of very long timescales and very low levels of acceptable exposure result in waste management strategies that make nuclear power generation completely non-viable in economic terms. However, this may result in an increase in other risks, notably the risk of accelerated global warming, which may have much more serious and immediate effects for humanity. Those who deny this trade off, for example by claiming that there is some huge conspiracy to suppress information about easily accessible and benign forms of non-carbon producing energy, are deceiving themselves, or are simply not being honest.
- In India, it is often said that there are guidelines for general disaster management, but nothing for nuclear disaster management. What is your view on the track report of nuclear safety in India? How effective and adequate are nuclear disaster management strategies globally?
The experience of previous serious nuclear accidents, such as Windscale in Britain and Chelyabinsk in Russia (both of which occurred in 1957), and Chernobyl itself in 1986, show that any country that has a nuclear sector must have proper nuclear accident planning procedures. For example, the sharp increase in the number of cases of childhood thyroid cancer that occurred after the Chernobyl accident could have largely been avoided if adequate stocks of iodine tablets had been in place. The evacuation that was carried out afterwards, at huge human and economic cost, would have been on a much smaller scale had international norms been agreed before hand. Of course it is easy to be wise after the event! But international standards are certainly needed and they need to be robust enough to stand up to short term political pressures and regularly updated to reflect new knowledge. It is also important that governments deploy the necessary resources to make them effective if they are ever needed.
- How would you react to the proposition that every step forward with nuclear power is a boost to nuclear weapons because it is impossible to separate the two in nuclear establishments in the current geo-political structure?
I think that, unfortunately, this is broadly true, which is the main reason why I would be cautious about endorsing a major expansion in nuclear power generation. Although the technology would be a nightmare, it would even be theoretically possible to produce weapons grade material using a fusion reactor, which is often seen as the long term acceptable alternative to fission. New reactor designs may reduce the risk, and arrangements to control stocks of plutonium and enriched uranium are obviously crucial. The danger of leakages will always exist, if only because all monitoring systems inevitably involve a margin of error, which could allow insiders to pilfer small quantities of weapons material bit by bit and thus accumulate enough to make a bomb. However, the effort and expense put by countries such as Iran, and earlier Iraq and Libya, into building their own enrichment facilities suggests that it must be very difficult indeed at present to obtain significant quantities of enriched uranium, or indeed plutonium, on the black market.
Unfortunately, a real conflict exists between the interests of the established nuclear powers in controlling the production and distribution of material which could be used for weapons, and the understandable desire of some other countries to guarantee their own access to low-enriched uranium for energy production. The only way out of this dilemma would be to put enrichment and distribution under much stronger international control, but there are no signs that this is likely to happen for a long time to come. Meanwhile, complex and interlinking obstacles are needed to reduce the risk of the theft and smuggling of fissile materials. At the same time, the international community needs to do everything possible to discourage a multiplication of uranium enrichment and plutonium production facilities through diplomatic pressure and by making sure that alternative routes to energy sufficiency are available.
I think, however, that it would be a mistake to concentrate too much on the technical aspects and to ignore the political context, which is really paramount. After all, many of the countries which are most advanced in terms of technology, including Japan, Germany, Korea, Italy, Australia and Canada, have voluntarily refrained from developing nuclear weapons, even though it was well within their capacity to do so. Others, such as South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, and most recently Libya, have gone some way down the road and then turned back.
This suggests that if nations can be made to feel secure, for example through international alliances, they will not necessarily choose to go down that route. The danger mainly comes from countries which feel isolated and threatened, such as Iran, Israel and North Korea. Even before the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, many of the scientists involved in developing the first atomic bomb, including Niels Bohr and Robert Oppenheimer, were convinced that the mastering of nuclear weapons technology meant that a pooling of sovereignty in matters relating to nuclear science was essential if humanity were to survive. These considerations were alas largely swept away by the emergence of the Cold War, but some vestiges of this philosophy survive in the constitution of the IAEA.
The knowledge that atomic weapons are possible means that the World can never go back to the state it was in before 1945. But that does not mean that we should accept a continuing proliferation of nuclear weapons, which must eventually lead to disaster. The only alternative is to accept that some pooling of sovereignty is essential and, step by step, build a system of international regulation that encompasses all nations and is robust enough to contain the twin threats of nuclear proliferation and environmental degradation effectively.
Patrick Gray is an economist with a special interest in science-based business development and job creation. In 2001-2202, he led the United Nations study “Human Effects of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident: A Strategy for Recovery” (http://chernobyl.undp.org/engish/). Since 2002, he has served as Programme Leader for British Government funded Closed Nuclear Cities Programme, which assists former nuclear weapons scientists and engineers to create sustainable civil sector businesses and employment in Russia and other countries in the Former Soviet Union.