Nuclear distance

Should we be picking on the BBC? I think so. Not content with persisting with Fahrenheit AND Celsius in their weather forecasts, they are still mixing and matching between metric and imperial distances.

This article on nuclear waste disposal discusses options for getting rid of nuclear waste under the ground at a depth of between 300m and 2km. It then goes on to tell us “on average people in Britain live about 26 miles away from one of more than 30 radioactive waste sites”, the implication being that we might be able to picture how far 2km underground is but would be less comfortable knowing that we’re just 26 miles from a waste site as opposed to the much more distant 41.8429 kilometres. Whoops…fell into the conversion trap didn’t I? Anyway, what do they mean by average? Mean? Median? Mode? We ought to be told.

For more instances of mix and match units and over indulgence in significant figures, check out the archives on our sibling tech blog.

Author: David Bradley

Freelance science journalist, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rock god.