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.


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.


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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Nuclear power is relatively dangerous and expensive: invest in safer, cleaner, cheaper technologies

Research commissioned by The Times newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch, alleges that the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) found that the rate of faults recorded at power plants and military bases has doubled since 2010 to more than one a day.

The ONR was set up as an arm of the Health and Safety Executive shortly after the Fukushima disaster (below) in 2011.


A serious problem is posed by its obligation under Treasury rules to give the sector room for financial growth and by the fact that it draws 94% of its budget from the companies it was set up to regulate.

Brief accounts of these faults, recorded in the three years up to March 2015, found that between 2012 and 2015 the ONR gave 973 incidents an International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) score of zero or left them unrated, meaning they were judged to have been of “no nuclear safety significance”. Among them were:

  • Four cases where tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, was found at elevated levels in groundwater around the Dungeness B reactor in Kent.
  • At least 70 safety incidents on the UK’s main nuclear warhead base at Aldermaston, Berkshire, including the contamination of several workers and a power cut across the site.
  • An accident where a vehicle carrying nuclear material on the M1 hit a lorry
  • Another where a transport lorry flipped over, damaging two containers holding radioactive chemicals.
  • Uranium “sludge” and an unstable form of caesium left in bin bags at Springfields, a former power plant, and Amersham nuclear materials factory.
  • A torpedo inadvertently fired by a Navy warship at the nuclear submarine dock in Plymouth
  • At least a dozen leaks of radioactive substance
  • More than 30 fires at power stations, including an event where a control panel at the Sellafield site was burnt out.
  • Three road accidents involving vehicles carrying radioactive material were among the events dismissed as posing no danger.
  • Radiation alarms at Britain’s ports and airports set off on 15 separate occasions by packages that were not supposed to contain any radioactive material, including four at Heathrow.
  • A contractor at Harwell swallowed plutonium
  • A worker at the Devonport nuclear submarine base in Plymouth breathed in an unstable isotope of cobalt
  • and 13 others at various sites had worryingly high radiation counts found in urine.

Sellafield, a fuel reprocessing centre and former reactor in Cumbria, recorded 167 problems, by far the largest number. These included several power cuts, ground contaminations, unplanned shutdowns and a complete loss of cooling water around the reactor.

Richard Savage, who took over as the chief nuclear inspector nine months ago, recently paid tribute to the ONR’s “countless regulatory achievements” and called for a more “collaborative” relationship with the private sector.

The ONR said that its safety ratings were strictly in line with international guidelines and that there was no conflict of interest in its role. In a speech last month Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the energy minister, praised the “good progress” the watchdog had made on safety regulation.

Many will be concerned to hear that the government is said to be moving to abandon the INES scores for a system of green, amber and red warnings and is planning to give the nuclear industry an even greater say in how it is regulated next March.

As Green MP Caroline Lucas comments: “It is even more absurd that they are (encouraging nuclear power) at the same time as reducing support for cheaper, safer and more reliable alternatives. Instead of investing in this eye-wateringly expensive white-elephant, the government should be doing all it can to support offshore wind, energy efficiency and innovative new technologies, such as energy storage”.


Many will be asking how much clean, safe, renewable energy could be generated, given the redirection of the enormous cost of the proposed Hinkley Point reactor, estimates varying between £18bn & £37bn, with a government/taxpayer guaranteed price of £92.50 a unit for 35 years?




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The Hibakusha appeal for a nuclear ban treaty

At the end of November the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed sanctions on North Korea because of their nuclear test in September:


Beatrice Fihn ‏@BeaFihn  Nov 30 retweeted UKUN_NewYork, adding that British nuclear weapons have the same unacceptable humanitarian consequences as North Korea’s. Tim and Steven continued:

un-nukes271 years have passed since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is the call of the survivors, known as Hibakusha.

hiroshimaRead their moving appeal here: http://www.ne.jp/asahi/hidankyo/nihon/english/img/1604_HibakushaAppeal-English(0420).pdf.

In brief:

“So that the people from future generations will not have to experience hell on earth, we want to realize a world free of nuclear weapons while we are still alive.”

Although their average age is now more than 80 years old, the Hibakusha have launched a signature campaign calling for an international treaty to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons, in the hope that no-one will ever have to suffer as they have. They plan to continue to collect signatures until 2020 or until a nuclear ban treaty is concluded.

The first batch of 564,240 signatures collected in August-September 2016 was submitted on October 6 to the Chair of the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee (on disarmament). New signatures will be submitted annually.

On October 27, 2016 at that same First Committee, the UN adopted a landmark resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons, with 123 countries voting in favour.

The petition for a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons may be signed here:

Web: http://hibakusha-appeal.net/english.html Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hibakushaappeal




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