Several correspondents have taken me to task for saying that nuclear power has only killed two people over the past 20 years, compared with 150,000 each year from coal power. All of them mentioned Chernobyl and of the predictions of death to happen sometime from it. I do not dispute that Chernobyl was the worst possible accident, indeed worse than could even conceivably happen here since it had no containment building.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that only 28 people died within four months from radiation or thermal burns, 19 have subsequently died, and there have been around nine deaths from thyroid cancer apparently due to the accident: a total of 56 fatalities as of 2004. An authoritative UN report in 2000 concluded that there was no scientific evidence of any significant radiation-related health effects to most people exposed. This was confirmed in a very thorough 2005-06 study. The numerous predictions of disaster have failed to come true as all the other numerous predictions of disaster on other subjects from the same sources have so often failed to come true (think of the global ice age, global starvation owing to overpopulation, reduction of the US average death rate to 42 because of pollution, catastrophic sea-level rise, sinking of Holland by 2007, forced evacuation of all coastal towns by 1980 owing to the death of all sea life and the ever-popular peak oil predictions for 2005, 2000, 1990s, 1980s, 1970s back to 1854).

The fact is that Chernobyl is now back to close to its original background radiation level, which makes it much lower than natural background in many places in the world, including Cornwall and Aberdeenshire. There has been enormous effort to find statistically measurable rises in cancers and, with the exception of thyroid cancers mentioned above, there has been absolutely no detectable increase.

In Britain we have sheep farms that cannot sell their produce because measurements of radiation first taken after Chernobyl have not yet fallen. This suggests they are measures of background radiation which have been like that since humans arrived here, but it is politically impossible to say so.

The UN report concluded that the major health hazard of Chernobyl was depression due to false fears. Or to put it another way, even in the worst nuclear disaster, the anti-nuclear movement has been considerably more damaging than the actual accident.

What the statistical results from Chernobyl, along with a wealth of other data, prove is that the theory that there is no lower limit to radiation damage, on which the predictions of mass deaths depended, is certainly wrong and the alternative, known as hormesis, that at low levels it is harmless or even beneficial, is probably correct.

For political reasons the original theory survives, but there is not, and, indeed, never has been, any statistical evidence to support it.

Neil Craig, 200 Woodlands Road, Glasgow.