I make no apologies for returning to the subject of nuclear power. A recent casual encounter in a shop reminded me that although nuclear disarmament is not uppermost in the mind of the general public, the question of nuclear energy certainly is. (This lady expressed surprise at seeing my CND badge, and immediately assumed that I was wearing it in response to the debate on nuclear energy: I told her that I had been wearing it for the past 25 years, since the days of Greenham Common!)
The government has launched an Energy Review (“Our Energy Challenge: securing clean affordable energy for the long term”) with the intention of publishing an energy policy later this year (http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy/review) and the closing date for responses is 14 April 2006. NGOs and members of the public are invited to respond, as well as businesses and experts, and however much we may feel that Tony Blair has already made up his pro-nuclear mind on the subject, it is up to all of us to register our own feelings.
One of the specific questions posed in the consultation document is “Are there any particular questions the Government should consider when it re-examines the issues relating to possible nuclear new build?” It cannot be too often re-emphasised that the link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons is absolute. Nuclear power stations create plutonium, which does not exist in nature and is the raw material for nuclear bombs. This is of course why the nuclear ambitions of Iran are regarded with such suspicion. The problems of disposal of nuclear waste, potential accident and environmental contamination are identical, whether the outcome of a civil or a military nuclear industry.
The nuclear industry emerged as a by-product (and cover for) the nuclear weapons programmes of the Cold War. The fact that the Government has established a “Sector Skills Council to represent the needs of the nuclear industry.... to ensure that the education and training base can meet current and future employment needs in the nuclear industry” (Energy Review p.65) indicates that Tony Blair is determined to ensure that the nuclear expertise of the UK has a guaranteed long-term future. It would be nice to think that he envisages a primary rôle for all these scientists in global nuclear disarmament and clean-up operations in a post-nuclear era, but I am cynical enough to doubt it.
Although “Our Energy Challenge” invites comments on the full range of issues, there is heavy emphasis on the generation of electricity and an underlying assumption that the future lies in centralised generation and national distribution networks. An interesting article on March 15th in The Guardian by Stephen Tindale (Director, Greenpeace UK) challenged these assumptions by pointing out that our centralised model of electricity production and transmission wastes two-thirds of primary energy input (power station fuel), requiring us to burn far more fuel and emit far more CO2 than necessary. Heat loss from power stations represents a wastage of more than 60% of the total energy contained in the fossil fuels currently burned. Further energy losses occur as the electricity passes along the grid.
Greenpeace has commissioned a study to compare traditional centralised energy systems with decentralised ones (electricity generated close to or at point of use), including gas-fired and biomass-fired combined heat and power and localised renewables. The results show that a decentralised system is both cleaner, cheaper and more secure than nuclear new-build. A new Greenpeace/GLA report sets out how decentralisation could power much of London’s energy needs in the future.
Surely this is the way forward? The claim that ‘there is no alternative to nuclear’ if we wish to meet our CO2 commitments and have security of supply is simply untrue. Nuclear is by no means even the most cost-effective option.
Energy Review Team
Department of Trade and Industry
1 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0ET
or by e-mail: EnergyReviewConsultation@dti.gsi.gov.uk
Birthday Greetings!Congratulations and best wishes from us all to MABEL CLUER on her 95th birthday on April 13th
Dan Plesch has an ‘exclusive’ article in The New Statesman of 27th March, detailing fresh documentary evidence of the non-independence of Trident: US presidental directives authorising US weapons-makers to ship vital bomb components to Britain. In July 1991, for example, George Bush Sr signed a 5-year directive ordering the US department of energy to “produce additional nuclear weapons parts as necessary for transfer to the United Kingdom”.
Dan Plesch writes: “These are the final pieces in a jigsaw which exposes simple facts that British leaders have long known, but a generation of Thatcherite consensus has obscured: we cannot and do not make our own nuclear weapons; we are not a true nuclear power; we are mere clients of the US.... The British elite and much of the public are desperate to believe that Britain’s bomb gives them great power status.
“...At the Commons defence hearing [Defence Select Committee on the replacement of Trident] MPs voiced the opinion that voters wanted a British bomb for the simple reason that the French had one. Informed that ever since Charles de Gaulle the French have regarded Britain as a US vassal because of our nuclear dependence, they were unmoved. The voters would not see it that way, protested one M.P. Well perhaps it is time the voters were told the truth.” — The Future of Britain’s WMD at http://www.danplesch.net.
For a set of the original documents, go to http://www.newstatesman.com/trident
TRIDENT: OUR OUTSOURCED ARSENAL
Labour’s 2005 election manifesto stated: “We are also committed to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent”. But can this system be called independent when so much of it is, as modern business-speak would have it, sourced in America? The deterrent is carried in four Vanguard-class submarines that were designed and built in Britain, incorporating US components and reactor technology. The delivery system is the Trident D-5 missile, which is designed, made and stored in the United States. The firing system is also designed and made in the US. So is the guidance system. The computer software is American. The warhead design is based on the US W-76 bomb. The warheads are produced by Aldermaston, which is co-managed by the US firm Lockheed Martin and uses a great deal of US technology. Some vital nuclear explosive parts are imported, we now know, from the US, as are some non-nuclear parts. The warhead factory is a copy of a facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico. The submarine maintenance base is also 51 per cent owned by Halliburton of the US.New Statesman, 27 March 2006
Joanna Sprackett (who with mother Ruth walked to Aldermaston in Easter 2004) attended a stimulating conference in January, hosted by the International School of Disarmament and Research on Conflicts, which is both the teaching arm of Pugwash and the Italian Pugwash group.
75 participants from 19 countries discussed the global response of countries and communities to the threat of terrorism and investigated how terrorism arises in the first place. Seminars focused on issues as diverse as nuclear threats, cyber-terrorism, the use of humanitarian aid as a propaganda tool and East-Asian perspectives on terrorism. Points raised included the problem of reaching an internationally agreed definition of ‘terrorism’ (Is this possible? And is this actually necessary?) How do we measure progress in the ‘war on terror’? Is the word ‘war’ actually suitable given the nature of the conflict?
Joanna writes “The course was held in a picturesque town in the Italian Dolomites, and most of the participants boarded in the same hotel, coming together for meals and social activities as well as for lectures. For many, the opportunity to meet like-minded people was as enjoyable and valuable as the proceedings themselves, and many friendships were forged.”
Joanna was active in Student Pugwash during her MSc studies in medical physics, and we congratulate her on her new job with QCEA which will allow her to further develop her interest in the ethical, transparent and safe use of science and technology in society.
Five expert speakers addressed the topic ‘Towards the peaceful use of national resources in the 21st Century’ in the course of a meeting organised by the Arms Reduction Coalition.
Stuart Parkinson, Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, spoke of how military involvement pervades research, development, teaching and science communication across all disciplines: nearly a third of public research and development spending, and 40% of government scientists and technologists, are dedicated to the MoD, resulting in a largely weapons-based R&D agenda. SGR argue that greater emphasis is needed on addressing the roots of conflict. (See Soldiers in the Laboratory, http://www.sgr.org.uk). VJ Mehta, Chair of ARC, spoke of poverty as “the defining challenge” of the 21st century.
Diana Basterfield, campaigner for a Ministry for Peace, explained how the rôle of the proposed new Ministry would be to monitor the effect of the policies and programmes of all government departments, with the aim of redirecting military spending to the tasks of non-violent conflict resolution and sustainable development. (See http://www.ministryforpeace.org.uk)
J Paul Dunne, Co-ordinator of Economists for Peace and Security UK, spoke of the need to get disarmament back on the agenda, following the 64% rise in military expenditure in the last ten years. He warned that generalisations in this field hide important complexities: for example, a UN study on the effect of reduced military spending in developing countries showed that it produced no economic crises, but no good alternative development either. A long list of complicating factors includes a lack of jobs for demobilised combatants and the ambivalent impact of the World Bank, the IMF and development aid.
Richard Jolly, Co-Director of the UN Intellectual History Project, focused directly on Human Security, tracing its development from the mid-1990s, as decision-makers were increasingly persuaded that security should really be about what made people in communities feel insecure and how they could be protected. This approach could result in many more Costa Ricas, where children are taught that the fact that their country has no army explains why their health and education is something to be proud of.
‘More cyclists should vote with their wheels when it comes to politics’ is the theme of this full page article in the February/March issue of London Cyclist, which describes how Kam Datta’s chance meeting with Mordecai Vanunu inspired him to organise a Faslane to London bike ride, starting from Faslane Peace Camp on April 7th and finishing in London on April 21st, the anniversary of Vanunu’s release from prison, and the date when the restrictions on his rights of movement will come up for review.
Two years after his release, Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Vanunu is still in sanctuary at the Anglican cathedral in Jerusalem, forbidden to talk about nuclear weapons to foreigners, and denied a passport. Datta writes “As an Indian who admires Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, as a keen cyclist and peace activist, a bike ride with an anti-nuclear, pro-Vanunu message seemed a constructive way to fuel my anger”.
We have made a contribution from WDC/CND towards the expenses of the ride and all are invited to join in the final leg on April 21st. Watford Junction station is the suggested pick-up point and the route will then run through Harrow Weald and Sudbury to Alperton, and the Grand Union Canal towpath. (Timings to be confirmed: email@example.com)
The award-winning production “My Name is Rachel Corrie”, directed by Alan Rickman and dealing with the life and death under an Israeli bulldozer of a young American student activist, was due to transfer to New York from the Royal Court Theatre in March after two sellout runs in London. At the last minute, it was ‘postponed indefinitely’. “We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as taking a stand in a political climate, that we didn’t want to take,” said the director of the New York Theatre Workshop — evidence of a continuing and disturbing political shift in the US.
The play will now transfer to the Playhouse Theatre in the West End: see Diary for details.
Two chandeliers and ceiling fittings (cost over £300 one year ago). Offers in region of £20 accepted. Details 8543 0362.