THE Labour Party, in the UK and in Scotland, is committed to building new nuclear power stations.

I have already written in The National challenging this policy with evidence of the dreadful physical health risks it poses to our population.

In this piece, I will take the debate into the often ignored but equally important area of mental health risks.

In the wake of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan (below) in March 2011, and the release of large quantities of radioactive, carcinogenic material into the atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean, researchers at Osaka University have been investigating the effects on the local population.

The National: The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, damaged by a massive March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, is seen from the nearby Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will

They have concluded, in a peer-reviewed report, that “psychological distress and exposure to environmental carcinogens decrease the length of emotional wellbeing in Japanese people.”

They did not find that those living near nuclear facilities and had cancer suffered significant mental health harms but that those who did not have cancer, but who had spent years fearing they might develop one, did suffer marked deteriorations in their mental health.

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This study and others reviewed by the authors point to an area of serious concern, largely ignored in previous decades by UK researchers investigating the effects of nuclear facilities on surrounding populations, including those in Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, where I am the SNP MP.

The National: Allan DoransAllan Dorans

It sits on tidal and air flows from the highly toxic Sellafield reprocessing plant in Cumbria and the Chapelcross Power Station in Annan in Dumfries and Galloway and the Hunterston A and B power stations, which have been, at times, leaking large amounts of radioactive elements into the air and into the sea, since the 1950s.

The UK Government and “independent” university-based researchers have found no “statistically significant” evidence of increased cancer cases in the surrounding populations. They have failed to explain why Scotland has the highest rate of cancer cases in the UK and in Europe; why a 1987 BMJ report of almost twice the level and 14 extra cases of child leukaemia cases, around the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Berkshire, was not somehow significant; or why government-set “safe” levels for radioactivity in food were increased in the UK after Chernobyl but reduced far below that for Japanese imports to the EU after Fukushima.

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“Safe” is clearly not an objective, scientific judgment when it comes to our children’s lives.

As I have said before, the onus is not upon us to prove nuclear power is dangerous but upon government and industry to prove it is not and they have not done so despite their highly qualified scientists’ proud attachment to the precautionary principle – do no harm.

“Harm” brings me back to damage to mental health caused by living near nuclear facilities, scientifically demonstrated by Japanese and other researchers.

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Major leaks from Sellafield, Chapelcross and Hunterston (above) have been reported in Scottish newspapers over the years, always with high-status professionals denying major risks to health, but none have ever wondered what the risk to mental health of knowing that leaks were taking place on the surrounding population, might be.

Today, we accept the enormous costs for the individual, for communities, for the economy and for public services, of mental health conditions.

Here’s an idea for the Scottish nuclear energy research community – find out about this and be sure to let Scottish Labour know what you’ve learned.