At school in the 1960s, I was already aware of the threat of future global warming caused by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (I had an inspirational physics teacher, Philip Titchmarsh, who had introduced me to the works of Svante Arrhenius and Milutin Milanković). At that time, it seemed to me that replacing coal with nuclear power was the answer to the problem.
In 1967, in a series of UK-wide competitive examinations and interviews, I won one of four student scholarships with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). Two of us went to Queen Mary College (QMC), London University, to study on what was then the only undergraduate course in Nuclear Engineering in the country. Over the next three years, during my summer breaks, I spent a total of six months on various projects at different UKAEA research sites. From my studies and experience on UKAEA sites, I gradually came to the conclusion that nuclear power is a really bad idea. (For more on this, see Nuclear Engineering – a bit of personal history.)
As a well-informed opponent of nuclear power, I’ve regarded it as incumbent upon me to ensure that I remain well-informed. I’m no less concerned about climate change than I was in the 1960s – more in fact – but now I know that nuclear power is no solution. It inevitably introduces very serious additional hazards without contributing much to solving the main problem – hazards not only in the here and now, but which will persist for many generations after the last nuclear power station closes down, and which increase with every unit of electrical energy produced. There are sensible alternatives: see Energy Matters.