Intended for healthcare professionals

Reviews TV

Is radiation really so dangerous?

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 13 July 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:152
  1. Geoff Watts, freelance medical journalist (
  1. London

    Now here's something to sow despondency in the heart of any television producer working in consumer affairs: a programme with the nerve to suggest that something we had all been told was extremely nasty might not be quite so bad after all.

    Despite its alarmingly let's-scare-them title, Nuclear Nightmares was not a consumer affairs production. It was an edition of Horizon that set out to do precisely what a good science programme should: to question the evidential basis of a widespread fear of technology. The issue was our acute nervousness about radioactivity; the question was whether low doses of radiation are as damaging as popularly believed. The answer is important because, at a time when we are contemplating how best to put the brakes on global climate change, invalid assessments of the risk inherent in nuclear power could seriously distort future energy policy.

    The programme recounted the events at Chernobyl. It did so in part through the eyes of one former inhabitant returning to her old apartment. It also …

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