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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What Jeremy Corbyn should have said about Sellafield

David Hookes (Scientists for Global Responsibility) went canvassing in Copeland. Here is his report to Merseyside Momentum members:  

Canvassing in Copeland was very revealing- the housing estate I visited was utterly decrepit- it should have been demolished and rebuilt years ago. A number of residents mentioned that the recent MP who had resigned had taken a very well paid job at Sellafield from which he had originated. So he had neglected the constituency waiting for a better job back at his old employer (a factor not mentioned by BBC hysterical anti-Corbyn reporting).

Some of the anti-Corbyn propaganda had influenced a few voters however but when asked about what they did not like about him they were not very forthcoming.

Clearly a Labour leader who is not an enthusiast for nuclear power will have problems in this constituency. I think Corbyn should have confronted the issue head-on and produced the facts:

  • about childhood leukaemia near Sellafield,
  • the high levels of Caesium 137 in the Irish sea,
  • the as yet unquantified cost of nuclear energy
  • and the very dangerous health and safety conditions inside the plant.

(Ed: Read more here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/sellafield-cumbria-nuclear-accident-whistleblower-panorama-cumbria-investigation-radioactive-a7226991.html)

He should have said that Sellafield will have to be kept open for several decades to clear up the mess they have created. He would build a wind turbine and/or a wave energy converter plant in place of the proposed new nuclear plant at Moorside. Cumbria is ideally placed to harvest energy from tidal, wave, and wind energy that is abundant off its coasts.

Being honest about his personal opposition to nuclear power would have gained him political credibility and respect even if it lost him a few votes this time round, but sadly he took some bad advice and supported the new nuclear power station.

 *

Marianne Birkby, Radiation Free Lakeland, also urged Corbyn to set aside the ‘siren voices’ – a small but vocal minority – that are working hard to convince him that outright opposition to Sellafield and Moorside would be a vote-loser in the forthcoming by-election.

She said that his firm and outspoken opposition to the project would galvanise and inspire nuclear opponents, and give them a compelling reason to vote Labour in the Copeland by-election.

 

 

 

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Nuclear disarmament: a moral imperative and an ethical necessity

mark-serwotkaMark Serwotka, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union writes for CND: “The moral imperative to rid our country of weapons of mass destruction coexists with the ethical necessity of protecting our planet, growing a sustainable economy and spreading more equally the proceeds of that growth”.

He describes the debate around Trident as – too often – debased, and cites the terming of Jeremy Corbyn as an ‘extremist’ because he says that he could never push the nuclear button.

Seeing some in the unions dismissing out of hand the prospects for diversification disappoints Serwotka:

“Essential features of our economy are currently suffering: more than 1.2 million households languish on local authority housing waiting lists, while homebuilding consistently falls woefully short; we lag behind other countries on renewable energy; and the sick joke that is our privatised rail network makes British Rail seem a model of efficiency and popularity”.

He sees the need for a strategic government committing to development and improvement, harnessing the expertise of skilled workforces. The future will require us to generate more green energy and also use it to power new technologies, smart appliances in our homes, greener ways of heating and powering buildings, and cleaner forms of private and public transport.Some areas of the country that rely heavily on Trident, such as Barrow in Cumbria and Devonport in the south west, also suffer from higher than average unemployment. Serwotka emphasises that it is essential that the transition from maintenance of nuclear weapons not only protects livelihoods and skills, but improves them. In the interim, decommissioning will be labour-intensive.

As he recalls, during the Labour leadership election campaign, Jeremy Corbyn pledged a government he led in 2020 would immediately start to plan with communities, workforces, unions and businesses to diversify work as part of a new industrial strategy, backed by a national investment bank to direct funding for manufacturing, infrastructure, science and engineering.

jeremy-hardy-381x575See Jeremy Hardy: “If you just say they keep people in work, I will retort that cracking down on paedophiles poses a risk to workers in the confectionery industry. Or, as Mark Serwotka puts it, ‘It’s like me defending unemployment because it keeps my job centre staff in work.’ I’m not being glib about people whose livelihoods are tied up in Trident.  

It sometimes occurs to me that, if we had the kind of government I long for, I’d be out of work myself. But that kind of government would have the money to retrain people, because it wouldn’t waste it on weapons of mass destruction. We could make millionaires of all those employed on Trident and still have money left over to turn Faslane into affordable housing”. 

Serwotka ends: “This kind of approach is crucial, but will be impossible if name-calling continues to drive our public debate. We need to be mature, thoughtful and collaborative – watchwords of the union movement – to create a safe, sustainable and peaceful future for the next generation and the ones to come”. 

Read the whole article here: http://cnduk.org/cnd-media/item/2425-mark-serwotka-the-trade-union-case-against-nuclear-weapons

 

 

 

 

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Returning to Hinkley Point C: taxpayers to bear the risk – “the Conservative government is not taking back control but giving it away” 

hinkleyIn January this year, Dr Oliver Mahony (Atlantic Assets) contested reassurances that UK taxpayers’ money will not be at risk in the Hinkley nuclear power project, pointing out that the government has pledged a £2bn guarantee on financing the investment, which has the prospect of rising over time. While this support has been achieved “off balance sheet” to avoid adding to the ever-growing national debt, the liability for the taxpayer is much the same.

In March a post on this site quoted former Northern Rock chairman and climate change denier Matt Ridley, who advocates replacing EDF with Japanese or Chinese builders. He proposed ‘killing off’ the Hinkley Point C plan, citing EDF’s precarious financial state and pointing to the problems at two other sites in Finland and France. At £18 billion, or more like £24 billion including finance costs, he said, Hinkley Point C would be the most expensive power station ever built.

“An unprecedented waste of public money”

molly-3-exeter-croppedDue to information overload a valuable contribution by Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, saved in September, was overlooked. She points out that advice from scientific, economic, environmental and security is clear: Hinkley is economically illiterate, technically flawed, environmentally risky and a threat to our national security, adding, “in post-Brexit Britain the government turns its back on experts in the name of political expediency”. Yet despite deafening protestations, the ‘review’ concludes that the deal should go ahead. She continues:

“As well as guaranteeing EDF the outrageously high strike rate of £92.50 per megawatt hour — twice the current wholesale price for electricity — nuclear power enjoys fantastic subsidies. It pays nothing for its liability, waste management or decommissioning . . . Factor in these costs and it begins to look hugely uncompetitive compared to renewable sources, particularly wind and solar where costs are in sharp decline.

Dr Scott Cato suggests that “Having snubbed our European partners in an imperfect referendum, the government clearly believes it cannot afford to offend the Chinese” who are to fund one third of the EDF-led Hinkley project, “Ultimately, Hinkley demonstrates that the Conservative government is not taking back control but giving it away . . . In a desperate attempt to demonstrate that Brexit Britain is open for business, the government is engaged in a national kowtow exercise, handing over our energy infrastructure to a company controlled by the Chinese Communist Party together with a corporation 85% owned by the French state”.

As EDF has received a bailout from the French government equivalent to a €7bn subsidy, Greens in the European Parliament believe that such a bailout amounts to illegal state aid under EU rules and have taken up the case with the competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.

ecjThere are also two outstanding legal challenges through the European Court of Justice (above), one by the Austrian and Luxembourg governments over state subsidies, and one by a consortium of renewable energy companies claiming the subsidy package could give ‘hazardous nuclear technology’ a competitive advantage.

In March Charles Macdowell commented on the Ridley article: “Matt Ridley is nearly right. There are indeed better, smaller options than EDF’s nuclear white elephants. They can go on the roof of his notional poor pensioner’s draughty cottage, if only George Osborne can be persuaded to bring back the incentives for solar energy”.

hydro-oxford-community-ownedOsney Lock Hydro is a community owned 49kW Hydroelectric generation project in Oxford situated on the river Thames.

Molly Scott Cato adds: “What is needed is a proper ‘comprehensive review’ of our energy policy; one which aims to take power away from corporations and governments and hand it back to people in the form of community owned renewables”.

 

 

 

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Secret State 17: the final nuclear myth? ‘British’ Trident as a credible deterrent

“It doesn’t work” – the doleful cry of many a child as batteries fail or new toys malfunction.

nuclear-trigger

The UK’s nuclear trigger: who would want to pull it?

The world’s nastiest and most expensive gadget – avoided by most countries, is increasingly seen as a liability.

An article in the Sunday Times reports that documents published by the United States defence department show that more than £1.4bn has been spent repairing faults and modernising the guidance system of the ageing missiles.

Though a news blackout was imposed when a test from a Royal Navy submarine failed in June last year and one of the missiles malfunctioned and veered off course, information is emerging from America’s far less secretive regime, which has been enhanced by the 2016 Open Government initiative.

Media reports in America quoted defence sources suggesting that the Trident was destroyed with a controlled midair explosion off the Florida coast.

It is said that the Trident nuclear deterrent had problems with its navigation controls for years: “The Trident II D5 — which is manufactured and maintained in America — has had consistent problems with its gyro guidance system. It appears that this has been caused by a chemical reaction within its components caused by ageing since Trident II was first deployed 27 years ago”.

tridentMeanwhile BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce hope to be awarded the £41bn Trident submarine contract and BAE is to help Turkey build 250 fighter jets – to what end?.

BAE has also started work in Barrow on the first of four new Dreadnought submarines, which will be powered by Rolls-Royce nuclear reactors. The project will be run by a new £500,000-a-year chief executive and overseen by a civil servant (£200,000-a-year appointment) being recruited by the MoD to run a new, arm’s-length, submarine delivery body.

Now thrive the armourers . . . as hospital trolleys are occupied for longer periods and evictions continue to rise

 

 

 

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Derelict British nuclear submarines containing radioactive material are currently stored at Devonport and Rosyth

The British Nuclear Tests Veterans Association offers support to veterans, children and grandchildren of servicemen and women who participated in the British programme of nuclear tests.

BNTVA has put on record its concern about derelict British nuclear submarines containing radioactive material will not be fully dismantled and disposed of for 25 years.

nuc-submarine

HMS Dreadnought, the Navy’s first nuclear powered submarine which has been waiting to be dismantled since it retired 36 years ago. CREDIT: JOHN SMART/PRESS ASSOCIATION

The Royal Navy has 19 old nuclear-powered submarines stored in ports waiting to be dismantled, with another eight due to retire and join them in the coming years.

Ministry of Defence officials told MPs that radioactive parts on board could not be finally disposed of until an underground dump for all of the UK’s nuclear waste has been chosen and built. That site is not due to be ready until 2040.

Stephen Lovegrove, permanent secretary at the MoD, told the Commons defence committee that a lack of money, expertise and disposal sites meant it was impossible to speed up the process.

He said: “There are two big factors. One of them is money. We have to operate within the budgets that we have with this. We have a dearth of nuclear engineers, and to a certain extent civil engineers, right across the country.”

The MoD said contaminated material would be held temporarily at a storage facility in Capenhurst in Cheshire until the underground site was ready, but said dismantling of the first submarine was still not scheduled to begin for at least five years.

A spokeswoman said the MoD was a “responsible nuclear operator” and had a “safe, secure and environmentally sound programme to dismantle submarines when they come to the end of their life”.

 

 

 

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