Special thanks to Wade Allison for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – Radiation and Reason: The Impact of Science on a Culture of Fear
Wade Allison is a Fellow of Keble College and Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford where he has studied and taught for over 40 years. He was educated at Rugby School and Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied the Natural Sciences and Part III Mathematics. His graduate study at Oxford and his earlier research work was in high energy physics, in particular the radiation field of relativistic particles, but his interests and expertise have spread much wider into medical physics and the explanation of science to the wider public. – From Radiation and Reason Homepage
Book’s Homepage: http://www.radiationandreason.com
#1 – What was the impetus for Radiation and Reason?
Nuclear arrived in the public consciousness at a time of cultural trauma after WWII and in the Cold War period. As a nuclear and medical physicist I look at the world view that we have inherited from that time and realise that it is exactly wrong! I decided that for the benefit of my six grandchildren and their contemporaries I should explain how opinion should be reversed. The science is not difficult but somehow people should be persuaded to read about it, especially as it is the only environmental solution that is big enough to reduce climate change and yet maintain socio-economic stability. So I wrote the book for non-scientists to understand – and for scientists too, because few are familiar with the broad range of knowledge involved.
#2 – How are we wrong about radiation? And what consequences does it have about how we think of this type of energy into the future?
We are completely wrong! Fukushima has confirmed that nuclear technology is completely safe, if any such confirmation were required. Evolution has had to protect all forms of life against the twin dangers, radiation and oxygen, for some three thousand million years. If it had not succeeded we would not be here. Now we should study and realise that nuclear power (in any form) is the only big replacement for carbon. Everybody needs to take personal science education more seriously if we are to survive.
#3 – Who have you written this book for? Policitians? Families? Schools?
It is written in non-technical language so that people who have the attention span to follow its arguments can understand, and then explain it to others. Many people may find it demanding – I would like to think that politicians have the time to concentrate on the matter, because they need to realise that nuclear will bring votes! Young people find it easier because they have not suffered 60 years of bogus fear-mongering like so many of us.
#4 – The book has been out since 2009. What has the reaction to your book been? Is it changing minds about nuclear energy?
Persuading people to read and change their minds takes time. I have been encouraged by unsolicited reader comments, for instance on Amazon.co.uk. Of course a few experts with a vested interest in the status quo have tried to attack my message, but not successfully. In any case I am not talking to them. The safety of radiation is far simpler and better than they would have you believe. Many people now see that nuclear is not just the least bad option, it is an ideal solution that would be harmless and cheap if regulations were based on proper science. I am in contact with others worldwide who agree that the current safety philosophy costs many lives and must be changed.
#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects you can tell us about?
Oh yes! I have been writing another book, provisionally titled More Reason to Trust Nuclear. It covers Fukushima and many other matters that I have studied recently, including the accident at Goiania in 1987 that everybody should know about. After four visits to Japan and lectures in Europe, Australia, America and Japan I am more concerned than ever that public trust should be established if we are to survive – not just trust in nuclear. When will the book be ready? Towards the end of the year, I hope, but I have much work to do yet.
[Image Credit: http://www.ukrc.org.uk/assets/Allison%20Wade_Eponymous_Wed%2011%20June.jpg ]