You may have missed it, but there was a "public consultation" last year to help the government make up its mind about whether to give the green light to a new generation of nuclear power stations. It was obvious that the government had already come to a decision in favour of massive investment in nuclear power, but one would have expected the consultation process to be less blatantly a sham. Meetings were held in a mere handful of cities where invited audiences were presented with partial information and asked leading questions. We are left to speculate about the real thinking behind such desperation to achieve the wished-for result, only a few years after an earlier government report came to precisely the opposite conclusion.
Obviously the nuclear industry has huge lobbying power, and there are huge sums of money at stake, but surely it cannot simply be a matter of pleasing the government's friends in the City? I find it very distasteful the way in which nuclear apologists have managed to ride on the back of the climate change debate, even to the extent of claiming, as did government Chief Scientist Sir David King, that "there is no alternative" if we are to control CO2 emissions.
Nuclear power supplies only electricity and therefore cannot replace gas (used for central heating, hot water and industrial processes) or oil (used primarily for transport). Figures from Greenpeace show that 86% of UK oil and gas consumption is used for purposes other than producing electricity, making nuclear power almost irrelevant as a response to our 'fuel dependency' on imported gas and oil from potentially hostile or unreliable foreign sources.
A new generation of nuclear power stations would perpetuate a system of centralised generation which is massively inefficient: two-thirds of the energy used in electricity generation from large, centralised power stations is wasted before it ever reaches our homes. The future surely lies in energy efficiency, renewables and local distribution networks such as combined heat and power. There is a debate to be had about the various renewables and where investment should be focussed, but there is no good reason why other countries such as Germany should be so far ahead of the UK in putting renewable energy technology into practice. Sometimes it seems as if the prime reason for our devotion to nuclear power is that having historically invested in the industry the government is reluctant to admit that this may have been a blind alley, and is countering criticism by throwing good money after bad.
It is a matter of history that the first nuclear power stations were military installations producing plutonium for nuclear weapons with electricity production as a cover and by-product of this process. The UK stockpile of plutonium is by now surely sufficient to fuel even the most belligerent government's long-term military needs, so this cannot be fuelling the present pro-nuclear push. It has been suggested that the United States requires Britain to remain a 'nuclear capable' state in order to continue to qualify for its status as nuclear partner under the Mutual Defence Agreement (recently renewed) under which the US supplies the Trident submarines and missiles for the UK's 'independent' deterrent, and I feel that this suggestion has a definite plausibility (to put it no more strongly).
We have been alerted to the astonishing fact that US arms company Lockheed Martin (who also run AWE Aldermaston) is in the running to be awarded the contract for the next UK census. As well as manufacturing missiles, land mines etc. Lockheed Martin focuses on intelligence and surveillance work, mostly with the US Department of Defense, and boasts of an ability to provide "integrated threat information". Do we really want such a company handling all the personal data which the census legally requires?
Census Alert is campaigning to stop Lockheed Martin being given the contract, and details can be obtained from Kat Barton, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Friends House NW1, 020 7663 1067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a petition on the Downing Street website http://censusalert.org.uk.
Following two series of workshops on the relatively new concept of Human Security, Merton UNA now turns its attention to the more fundamental concept of Human Rights. Sixty years ago (10/12/1948), partly in response to pressure from NGOs and Civil Society groups in the USA, the member states at the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights/UDHR. And the Assembly called on member states "to cause it to be publicly disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions."
Lunch from 12·30, talk & discussion from 1·00-2·30. Repeat talk/discussion in the evening from 8-10pm. 11 Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Road, London SW20 8ET -- RSVP 020 8944 0574 or email@example.com.
This year is the 50th Anniversary of the historic Aldermaston march, the catalyst that created the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and it is a very important opportunity for us to celebrate the fact that we are still here, still active, still campaigning -- and to remind the public, the government, and the media that the threat from nuclear weapons has not gone away. Coaches will depart from the Embankment tube at 9·30am on 24th March, cost £14/£9 (with a £2 reduction if paid before 17th March).
Contact Joanna on 020 8543 0362 to book a place with the Wimbledon contingent.
In December we enjoyed a fascinating but sobering evening with Maggie Foyer, an excellent speaker with extensive personal knowledge of Palestine. She shared with us the petty tribulations and fundamental injustices that contribute to a life of frustration and grinding poverty for the Palestinians of the West Bank. She vividly demonstrated how illegal appropriation of the ancestral land of the Palestinian farmers by Israeli settlers is making a viable Palestinian state increasingly impractical. She brought with her some striking photographs showing how new urban settlements now dominate what was formerly prime agricultural land, and how the arterial roads (reserved exclusively for Israeli use) which link the new settlements with Tel Aviv slice through the landscape, putting multiple barriers between the Palestinians and their former land.
It was not only the human insensitivity that appalled, but also the insensitivity to the environment. Olive groves mature and yield their crops over hundreds of years, yet it takes only a few months for them to be ripped up and replaced by brutalist concrete villas and blocks of flats with their swimming pools and irrigated lawns, diverting the water supply that is so precious to the region.
Maggie spent time getting to know the Palestinian farmers of the West Bank, helping with the olive harvest, making friends and sharing the privations of their daily lives, but her account of it all was strikingly lacking in hate and bitterness, only carrying a great sadness and pessimism for the future unless international pressure can achieve a more equitable solution.
This is a practical way in which we can all support the Palestinians whose olives are traditionally hand-picked and cared for without the use of chemicals and pesticides. Zaytoun sources oil from Canaan Fair Trade who buy it from disadvantaged farmers using fair trade principles.
Contact Barbara Bampton on 020 8540 6559 to reserve a bottle.
Thank you to all who have paid up promptly and to all who have generously added donations, and a polite reminder to those who have still to get round to paying for 2007/08: £4/£2 please.
This is advance notice of our most important fundraising and social event, so that you can (hopefully) all keep the date clear in your diaries. Please think ahead, save unwanted Christmas presents, clear out bric-à-brac, sort books, make marmalade and plan to split plants and sow seeds. We shall once again be using the large hall in the Community Centre (11am-3pm) and will need lots of help with transport, publicity, setting up and selling.
The November 2nd vote in the First Committee of the UN (mentioned in the December Newsletter) was followed by a vote in the General Assembly on December 5th where the Resolution recognising health concerns over DU was supported by 136 votes to 5 with 36 abstentions, the five who voted against being the UK, USA, the Netherlands, Israel and the Czech Republic.
The resolution was drafted by the Movement of Non-Aligned States and submitted by Indonesia, and asks member states and international bodies to submit information on DU to the Secretary General who will then produce a report on DU for next year's session of the General Assembly. The vote therefore ensures that the issue of DU will remain high on the UN agenda.
In November the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) launched "Too Risky for Business", a dossier detailing how high street banks are supporting companies that manufacture indiscriminate weapons systems, including the manufacture of uranium weapons. This reveals that Barclays has significant shareholdings in both Alliant Tech Systems (ATK) and Gencorp. ATK is the largest ammunition manufacturer in the US and in addition to uranium weapons produces landmines, cluster bombs and parts for Trident nuclear missiles. A Gencorp subsidiary, Aerojet Ordnance Tennessee Inc, produces uranium weapons, warheads and tactical weapons systems. Individuals who bank with Barclays are being urged to move their accounts elsewhere and send a copy of their resignation letter to the Board of Directors, Barclays PLC, 1 Churchill Place, London E14 5HP, with a full explanation. The full report and an activist toolkit are available to download from http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/a/143.html
(Based on information published in CADU News December 2007 issue 27)
London Region AGM was held on 13th January and Maxi and Joanna attended as Wimbledon delegates. Guest speaker was Jean Lambert MEP who gave an impressively fluent overview of the international context of our campaign. She explained how the collapse of the "two bloc" system and the shift in global economic balance with the rise of the powerful new economies has created a very complex international situation. Climate change, the insecurity of energy supply and increased competition for natural resources have become universal background sources of tension.
Peak oil and potentially diminishing oil supplies are behind the rush for the Arctic and the attendant expansion of military bases by northern nations. Oil producing states are becoming more willing to use their influence politically. Countries with appalling human rights records are welcomed into the international community if energy supply dictates. An increasing number of states are asserting their right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop nuclear power (with its links to military nuclear technology). Pakistan, a non-signatory to the NPT and a nuclear weapons state, is in turmoil. To put it briefly, said Ms Lambert, if you were working out how to make the world 'less nuclear' you wouldn't start from here!
The rôle of the EU is deeply uncertain in all this. The overlap between EU and NATO membership tends to create 'layers' of decision making with military matters typically being seen as NATO's remit. This makes it very difficult for pan-European groupings such as the Greens to refer military issues for discussion. Ms Lambert also emphasised the extent to which individual states can undermine the EU by taking unilateral action. Recent decisions by the UK to renew Trident, to bring Menwith Hill into the US Missile Defence system and to promote nuclear power all make the UK less effective as a negotiator on the international stage, both as an individual country and as a member of the EU.
Report by Joanna
ICAN-UK (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) has recently issued a useful four-page summary of the key arguments from their book "Securing our Survival". For copies contact firstname.lastname@example.org.