Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

Report criticises nuclear accident scale

Independent regulators must take more of a role in communicating the risks of nuclear power and shale gas, a report has said.

MPs on the Science and Technology Committee said in the report that the public find it difficult to trust the government as an impartial source of information as it is an advocate for nuclear power.

The report also criticised the international scale for nuclear accidents for warning the public over such disasters, after it classed Fukushima as serious an incident as Chernobyl.

Last year's crisis at the Japanese reactor following a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami was classed as a level 7 accident because of the amount of radioactive material released - putting it on a par with the Chernobyl disaster.

However many times less radioactive material was released than at Chernobyl, and nobody died or received a life-threatening dose of radiation from Fukushima, the committee said.

It called for the International Atomic Energy Agency to review the international nuclear and radiological event scale to show orders of magnitude and make it understandable to the public.

The report into the risks of energy generation also said independent regulators should take a bigger role in communicating the risks of nuclear power and other new energy technologies such as "fracking" for shale gas or capturing and storing carbon from power stations so that people could trust what they were being told.

It suggested that letting communities be involved in ownership of energy projects such as onshore wind farms in their area by offering them shares in projects could build trust and acceptance of those schemes.

"The public must be able to trust the information it receives on the risks of nuclear power and other energy technologies - such as fracking or carbon capture and storage," said the committee's chairman Andrew Miller.

"Developing the public profile of independent regulators as trusted and authoritative sources may be one way of increasing public trust and understanding of such risks."

The report also said regulators and other suppliers of information should emphasise to the public that exceeding recommended minimal radiation exposure levels may not pose any risk and safety thresholds may allow for much higher exposure to occur without any significant danger to health or the environment.

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