No Need for Nuclear: The Renewables are Here – Conway Hall conference

On the Saturday 17th June the first anti-nuclear power conference in 30 years, No Need for Nuclear: The Renewables are Here was held at Conway Hall in central London, hosted by CND. Academics, MPs and industry representatives spoke at the meeting which started with a video message from Caroline Lucas MP, representing Parliamentary CND in New York at negotiations on a nuclear ban treaty (below).  

The danger that nuclear power poses to the general population

Those present heard about government sponsored investigations into the radiation related illness and cancers experienced by those that lived close to power plants. Despite the investigation known as KiKK which concluded that living near nuclear power plants was harmless, this finding was discredited as incidents of child leukaemia and other forms of cancers have risen by as much as 120% within 5km of power plants – when a plant is performing efficiently.

When the Chernobyl nuclear power plants malfunctioned the fallout reached the UK and further afield. Locally, flora and fauna in Chernobyl have been under duress for 30 years and an article published in the ISRN Surgery Journal reports: “Separate studies involving people who survived atomic bombs have shown that the risk for cancer remains high after 40 years, compared with the risk in the general population”. Economic costs are estimated to have been as high as $700 billion – and costs for Fukushima are expected to surpass this, taking into account the losses faced in shutting down the 50 power plants in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake/tsunami.

The presence of politicians at the conference was an essential part of the dialogue

It was noted that the new Conservative government has remained silent on nuclear power in their latest manifesto, and Labour continues to bicker internally on the subject despite the very public views aired by their leader.

Three Green Party representatives and one from Labour, facilitated a cross party debate which engaged directly with the concerns of the audience. This demonstrated the need to engage with these issues on a political level if we are to see beneficial changes in the future.

Speakers also highlighted the trade unions’ failure to recognise how many jobs renewables provide for the industry over nuclear, 16 times as many according to official data.

Projected costs for new nuclear programmes in the UK, like the one at Hinkley Point C, are estimated at €39 billion but likely to run higher. This, together with bankruptcies at Areva and Westinghouse/Toshiba and the indebtedness of EDF, raises questions as to whether these programmes will go ahead or simply be footnoted within public expenditure.

Renewables supplied 50.7% of power to the UK, a huge milestone towards a world free from nuclear power/fossil fuels

Many at the conference pointed out that nuclear power was on the retreat, and the argument for renewable energy gets stronger and stronger. Renewables were not only a quicker, more versatile alternative but their cost has nose-dived in the past 20 years despite the technology having improved leaps and bounds. So much power has been produced, for example, by wind farms that prices have fallen to 1/10th of their normal level. We heard how only a few weeks ago, the National Grid reported that renewables supplied 50.7% of power to the UK, a huge milestone towards a world free from nuclear power/fossil fuels.

A common theme was the planned phasing-out of nuclear power stations across Europe in Switzerland and Germany

One speaker demonstrated how between 300 and 4000 local energy schemes had been organised by co-ops up and down Britain, erecting wind turbines and solar panels in an effort to pick up the slack in the government’s position. With over 10,000 members and 500 local authorities these programmes are bringing democracy to the people, uniting communities and providing independence from energy corporations. Europe is hoping to reduce dependence on nuclear power, partly because of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. Germany aims to phase out nuclear power by 2022, and – after civil protest – the Austrian Parliament unanimously passed legislation to remain an anti-nuclear country in 1997. In May’s referendum, Swiss voters backed their government’s plan to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy, ban new nuclear plants and help bail out struggling utilities in a binding referendum on Sunday.

As many eyes are on the second round of meetings to draft a Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, which began in New York on 15 June (see Roslyn Cook’s tweets) with more than 130 countries, supported by aid agencies, medics and faith representatives negotiating to outlaw nuclear weapons – we remember the link between many nuclear power plants supplying the nuclear weapons industry – another good reason for phasing out nuclear power.

 

 

 

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‘Transport’ tunnel filled with toxic nuclear waste collapsed in Washington state

Though this incident was widely reported we put it on record here in case any of May’s visitors (left) missed it.

The US Department of Energy declared an emergency after a ‘transport’ tunnel filled with nuclear waste collapsed in Washington state at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, home to 53 million gallons of radioactive waste.

The tunnel was reported to contain highly contaminated materials including trains that are used to transport radioactive fuel rods, with eight rail cars filled with nuclear waste.

The cave-in was discovered during “routine surveillance,” according to the Energy Department. Photographs showed a gaping hole, plainly evident because the tunnels are largely above ground.

4,800 workers were forced to “take cover” but officials said no workers were exposed or airborne emissions detected and robots were deployed to take more air samples.

Officials with the Department of Energy’s Hanford Joint Information Center said that before evacuation, workers turned off ventilation systems. In a video posted on Facebook, center spokesman Destry Henderson said that a 20-foot section of the roof had caved in and damage was later found to be more serious than initially reported.

The take-cover order was expanded to cover the entire facility after response crews found a 400-square-foot section of the decommissioned rail tunnel had collapsed: “This is purely precautionary. No employees were hurt and there is no indication of a spread of radiological contamination,” Henderson said.

Following the incident a manager sent a message to workers telling them to “secure ventilation in your building” and to “refrain from eating or drinking.”

A private contractor hired by the Department of Energy has been working on a $110 billion project to clean up 56 million gallons of chemical and nuclear waste stored in as many as 177 underground tanks there.

The Seattle Times reported that the day after the collapse was detected, workers began to fill the 400-square-foot hole.

Professor Rod Ewing (Stanford) a nuclear security researcher, said by phone: “How can waste be left in a tunnel? Whose idea was that? I’ve been to Hanford many, many times for conferences and things like that, and I don’t recall anyone saying that there was waste in tunnels underground. I can’t imagine why that would be the case.”

12 days after the report of the tunnel collapse, radioactive material was found on a worker’s clothing.  A contractor with Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), detected a spike in radiation levels on a device called a “crawler” that had been pulled out of a nuclear waste tank. “Established decontamination procedures were followed, which involves removing the contaminated clothing.

Those tanks were earlier reported to be leaking toxic and radioactive vapours and chemicals that have been linked to cancer, brain damage, and lung damage. There were at least 61 workers exposed to those deadly vapours last year. Experts have called the location “the most toxic place in America” and “an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen.”

Sources: Quartz, The Independent, Washington Post, Reuters, CBS news, Seattle Times

 

 

 

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BRITAIN’S NUCLEAR BOMB: Bruce Kent draws attention to the BBC’s jingoistic account of this costly ‘achievement’: at least menacing health – at worst fatal to innocent millions

BRITAIN’S NUCLEAR BOMB: The Inside Story 3rd May, BBC Four

In 1957, Britain exploded its first megaton hydrogen bomb – codenamed Operation Grapple X. It was the culmination of an extraordinary scientific project, which against almost insuperable odds turned Britain into a nuclear superpower. This is the inside story of how Britain got ‘the bomb’.

The BBC has been granted unprecedented access to the top-secret nuclear research facility at Aldermaston. The programme features interviews with veterans and scientists who took part in the atomic bomb programme, some speaking for the first time, and newly released footage of the British atomic bomb tests.

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On 4th May, Bruce Kent, Vice President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament wrote to the Radio Times (see 13-19th issue, p158):

The Inside Story? Actually only an inside story.

Too much was left out, especially morality and law, to make it anything more

No mention of Joseph Rotblat, the one scientist who refused to continue work on the bomb once he knew how it was to be used.

The bombs caused the Japanese surrender? No: As General Eisenhower said later ‘It was not necessary to hit them with that awful thing’.

 

It is actually possible that US determination to use the bombs delayed the surrender.  Prior to August 1945 the Japanese leadership were asking, via the Soviets, only for immunity for the Emperor.

Unconditional surrender was the Allied response. So the war continued.

But General MacArthur gave just that immunity once the bombs had been dropped.

As things now are we British have an ‘independent’ nuclear weapon which we can’t use unless the US lends us the missiles.

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This England? Odd sort of a country where those willing to vaporise countless numbers of civilians are defined as moderate and someone who prefers dialogue as extreme

(Extract from a satirical blog on another website- see full text here)

And finally, lest you missed it, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon appeared briefly early last week to warn yet again that Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to national security, with his opposition to spending up to £41bn on renewing Trident at a time of ongoing austerity and swingeing cuts to vital public services. 

Fallon added that both he and Theresa May would be prepared to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike (I dont think they meant against Jeremy Corbyn but Im not entirely certain).  

Odd sort of a country where those willing to vaporise countless numbers of civilians are defined as moderate, whilst someone who prefers the de-escalation of military tension through dialogue over unleashing weapons of planet-changing destruction is viewed as extreme.

First published in The BirminghamPress.com

 

 

 

 

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UN treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons: the chair of the conference is confident that it can be concluded by 7th July

ICAN reports that two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts have ended as representatives from more than 130 governments began work. More than 800 elected representatives from 42 nations helped ICAN to build support for this UN process by signing their parliamentary appeal.

A team of ICAN campaigners participated in the March session at the UN headquarters in New York, presenting ideas on how to establish the most robust and effective treaty possible. Hundreds of campaigners around the world organized local actions to draw attention to this initiative and build public and political support for the treaty.

“Your task this week, and again over three weeks in June and July, is to establish a clear, new, international standard – to declare, in no uncertain terms, that nuclear weapons are illegitimate, immoral and illegal.” Setsuko Thurlow

ICAN and its partner organizations delivered several statements during the plenary meetings, outlining their views on what elements the treaty should include. They presented ideas for the preamble, for the core set of prohibitions, for positive obligations such as stockpile destruction, environmental remediation and victim assistance, and for institutional arrangements to ensure the treaty’s full implementation.

Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, delivered ICAN’s opening statement – an impassioned plea to delegates to bear in mind the victims of these horrific weapons and to work for a comprehensive, unambiguous ban.

Sue Coleman-Haseldine (left), an Aboriginal nuclear test survivor from Australia, echoed her call, urging governments to include in the treaty a provision on victim assistance. Read her testimony here: https://www.pressenza.com/2017/03/harrowing-testimony-nuclear-bomb-test-survivor-reinforces-urgency-ban-campaigners/

“Pacific islanders continue to experience epidemics of cancers, chronic diseases and congenital abnormalities as a result of the radioactive fallout that blanketed their homes and the vast Pacific Ocean.” – ICAN report

Many nations praised civil society organizations and their dedicated efforts over the past few years to put this issue on the global agenda. Their contributions also included offering expert advice on the elements for the treaty, answering questions and responding to comments by diplomats. Between meetings, campaigners met members of most of the government delegations and also officials from several of the nations boycotting the process.

ICAN published live updates on its blog and wrote reports for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Many of the world’s largest news outlets, including the New York Times, Bloomberg, Reuters, Al Jazeera, CNN and the Guardian used quotes from its campaign in their reports.

The chair of the conference, Costa Rican ambassador Elayne Whyte, expressed confidence that the treaty can be concluded by 7 July.

Read the whole report here: http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/report-on-the-march-negotiations/?mc_cid=63bf258edc&mc_eid=22f11f638b

 

 

 

 

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Hiroshima survivor: “Nobody in any country deserves the same hell again.”

Yesterday the UN General Assembly’s negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons under international law began in New York. Over 115 governments, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the Pope and other faith-based leaders, over 3,000 scientists, and civil society agreed yesterday that it is time to ban nuclear weapons. The talks will be led by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa and Sweden.

The New York Times reports that Donald Trump’s UN envoy, Nikki Haley, with the UK, France and envoys from Albania, Britain, France and South Korea, held a protest outside the negotiations. The full list is given here.

Nikki Haley centre, flanked by Alexis Lamek, left, France’s deputy United Nations ambassador, and Matthew Rycroft, right, the British ambassador to the United Nations.

Ms. Haley questioned whether countries favouring a weapons ban understood the nature of global threats. Referring to nations participating in the talks, she said, “You have to ask yourself, are they looking out for their people?”

As the talks began inside the General Assembly hall, Toshiki Fujimori (right), a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, made an emotional appeal to diplomats. Read the full account of his experience and appeal in Mainichi. “I’m here at the U.N. asking for an abolition of nuclear weapons,” he said through an interpreter. “Nobody in any country deserves seeing the same hell again.”

More than 2,000 scientists have signed an open letter endorsing the talks. “We scientists bear a special responsibility for nuclear weapons, since it was scientists who invented them and discovered that their effects are even more horrific than first thought,” stated the letter, posted on the website of the Future of Life Institute, a charitable organization that promotes the peaceful use of technology.

It quoted Ronald Reagan, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

 

 

 

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Use of biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions has been prohibited. Will a treaty to ban nuclear weapons be next?

 The global summit will be held in the United Nations HQ in New York from 27 to 31 March and from 15 June to 7 July 2017 Earlier UN talks recommended negotiations for a nuclear weapons ban treaty

Civil society continues its 70 year long fight against nuclear weapons with many taking part in campaigning and activism all around the world. In January, an ICANW document: Briefing – International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons notifies readers that at the same time as the United States prepares for Donald Trump’s inauguration and takeover of the nuclear launch codes, the rest of the world is preparing to prohibit nuclear weapons, in the same way as the international community successfully prohibited biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions.

Negotiations are now under way to set up a treaty to ban the most destructive weapon of them all: nuclear weapons. This treaty could be a unique tool in making real progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons. But to date: North Korea, Britain and Australia will not send an official representative to the conference. A list of the 101 states that attended the preparatory meeting on 16th February may be seen here: http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/negotiations/.

A reader sent this link to an outline by Dr Philip Webber, Scientists for Global Responsibility, of the key scientific and technological information on the threat from these weapons of mass destruction. The text on its website opens:  

“Concern about nuclear weapons is again high. Whether you’re worried about Donald Trump now having his finger on the button, North Korea’s latest missile test or the misfire by the UK’s Trident system, the risk that these weapons may once again be used is increasingly in the public mind.

Yet, despite this, there has been very little media attention devoted to upcoming UN negotiations – beginning on 27 March in New York – on a treaty to ban these weapons of mass destruction. These negotiations are supported by over 100 governments, the International Red Cross and many civil society organisations.

“In the run-up to the negotiations, SGR is publishing a series of short online articles (with a new one each day or so) to help public understanding of what is at stake. We will summarise key scientific and technological background information – for example, about the destructive capabilities of the various weapons held by the nuclear-armed states. The articles will be fully referenced so that readers can dig deeper into the issues if they wish.

Contents

  1. What is a nuclear weapon?
  2. Nuclear weapons: the basic science
  3. How many nuclear weapons are there?
  4. How much destructive power do the nuclear-armed nations have?

 

For brief updates see ICANW’s: https://twitter.com/roslyncook

 

 

 

 

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