No sooner had I finished reading Stuart Brand’s provocative book – The Whole Earth Discipline – which updated and challenged all my rather dusty beliefs about environmental politics and all but persuaded me of the case for nuclear power, when a gert great earthquake heaved a tsunami up the Eastern seaboard of Japan taking out the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Many traditional anti-nuke Green politicians have been keeping quiet of late while considering the pro-nuke yet deep-green convictions of Brand and Gaiasphere guru James Lovelock. As the evidence piles up against Carbon-dense coal being the main driver of manmade climate change, nuclear it is argued, is going to be at least a useful bridging power source until some bright spark (or extremely bright spark) comes up with the saver.

In the wake of the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 an American nuclear scientist on the BBC World Service said there was only the faintest probability of this scale of disaster happening again. A second scientist disputed this and a discussion ensued. Asked to be more specific another boffin reckoned there was an 11,000 to 1 chance of another Chernobyl occurring in the next 25 years. In the next few days there were other contributions; a German scientist said it was more like 20,000 to 1 and a Danish scientist reckoned it was at least 25,000 to 1. And I’m listening to all this and I’m thinking. “Well even at 11,000 to 1 it’s worth a fiver.

I was a hardcore anti-nukes activist at the time and I added this information to the existing anti-nukes material in my stand-up comedy act. Then a friend of mine - a fellow anti-nuke propagandist – caught the act and stumped up a £1000 and suggested I try and place the bet. So I rang William Hill’s Special Bets Dept and went to their office and explained I had a grand sterling and a political agenda and I wanted know what the odds were against another nuclear disaster on the scale of Chernobyl occurring in the next 25 years. William Hill said they would get back to me. The next day William Hill did get back to me but told me that they couldn’t accept the bet, because they couldn’t accept a bet that involved human suffering. And I said “Oh right, Here hang on! How’s that? You’re offering 7-4 on the Tories to win the next election. This piece also went into the stage act.

The possibility that the danger level at Fukushima will equal that of Chernobyl is no longer measured in odds, although it is said to be unlikely. It has also increased twice in the last few days. Interesting, because the Chernobyl disaster occurred 24 years, 11 months, and 7 days ago.

Tony Allen March 2011