Sunday, 23 August 2015

Nuclear costs: a demystification

Letter sent  to the Times:
In his letter (“Powering ahead,” 22 August, the chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association makes several misleading assertions in respect of the contribution taxpayers (and electricity bill payers) could make towards the funding of proposed new £25 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant.

The government and nuclear industry have deliberately constructed fiendishly complex financial mechanisms to fund the reactor project, that masks the degree to which state funds ie taxpayer funding will underwrite this project from inception to final dismantling.

Let me briefly address just two of these mechanisms.

While it is true EDF Energy, the owners of Hinkley C, will have to make provision to cover future radioactive waste management and decommissioning costs, the financial arrangements - called “fixed unit price”- put a cap on these liabilities.

Setting a “fixed unit price” for waste ‘disposal’ when approval is given for a new reactor effectively caps the cost to the operator of nuclear waste disposal and transfers the risk of cost overruns to the taxpayer.

In 2008 the then Labour Government stated that energy companies: “would be prepared to pay a significant risk premium over and above the expected costs of disposing of waste and spent fuel, in return for having the certainty of a fixed upper price”.

But in the interim period it has become clear that energy companies are not prepared to pay that significant risk premium and the “expected Fixed Unit Price” (eFUP) to be offered to prospective investors is a device to secure investment by reducing the amount of money nuclear operators have to set aside now while transferring yet further risks to the taxpayer.

It is irresponsible to accept cost estimates made now about something which will not happen until 2130. This attempt to fix the future will become an embarrassment before long and is bound to be revisited by the next five generations and 24 ‘fixed term’ Parliaments.

Secondly, the risk of an accident are almost entirely in the lap of taxpayers, not the nuclear plant owner/operator EDF Energy. The liability on EDF for a serious accident involving uncontrolled release of radioactivity will be capped at £1.3 billion, according to international conventions.

This figure should be contrasted with the real costs of serious recent nuclear accidents experienced. Chernobyl in 1986 has so far cost the Ukrainian State close to £250 billion while the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan has so far cost Japanese taxpayers around £150 billion, and rising.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Corbyn's sensible strategy to combat ISIS

Letter sent to the Independent:

Actress Sarah Solemani made a strong pitch for interested parties in the Labour Leadership election to vote for Yvette Cooper. (“Forget Corbyn: Yvette Cooper is the only one to lead Labour to victory,“ 19 August,

But she spoiled her promotion of Cooper  by making ad hominem, inaccurate and misleading attacks on Jeremy Corbyn.
She asserts when the British people were getting increasingly concerned over the rise of ISIS/ISIL “Corbyn tuttered about Israel,’ while Cooper was campaigning “in Parliament energetically” against ISIS extremism
Corbyn has rightly been critical of the policies of the current Israeli government, not least the way it treats the Palestinians, but he has not been silent on ISIL. It may be the media has up to now  ignored his views.
Just before the summer recess in Parliament he asked defence secretary Michael Fallon: “What specific discussions has he had with Saudi Arabia about what happens to the arms supplied to it? Are any of them leaking through and ending up with ISIL forces or, indeed, any other weapons supplier in the region?
Secondly, what is happening about the oil that is clearly sold from the ISIL area of Syria to someone else and the money that then flows back to support it? How effective is the sanctions regime conducted by the western forces, with the co-operation of other Governments, to stop arms and money flowing to ISIL?
Mr Fallon responded:.” I am not aware of significant leakage of Saudi arms into the conflict in Iraq or Syria.” (Hansard, 20 July: Column 1242;

Yet your own excellent middle east expert, Patrick Cockburn wrote a year ago in US magazine, Mother Jones (21 August 2014) how US made arms sold to Saudi Arabia found their way to ISIS in Syria and Iraq (, recording : “Iraqi officials confirm that they have captured sophisticated arms from ISIS fighters in Iraq that were originally supplied by outside powers to forces considered to be anti-al-Qa’ida in Syria.

For me, facts matter more than political propaganda in debate.

Ms Solemani adds mockingling  while ISIS conquer territory bigger than the size of the UK “Corbyn suggests with a straight face to consider a disarmament campaign.”

I think making constructive  proposals  towards halting the finances and arms supplies to ISIS is very sensible.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Corbyn's future-proof green policies

 Letter submitted to the Guardian:

There was substantially more factual content in the dossier on Iraq’s alleged WMDs, as published by prime minister Blair on 24 September 2002 than in his advice to Labour members and supporters  in the Guardian (“Even if you hate me, please don’t take Labour over the cliff," 13  August
In his contentious polemic, the former New Labour leader asserts “Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t offer anything new.” This is untrue, but then how could we expect a senior international statesman- who has spent much of the past decade acting as an advisor to several autocratic Presidents and Arab potentates, multinational companies, international banks, and propping up Israeli war propaganda when he was, as Middle East envoy for the United Nations supposed to have been enhancing Palestinian economic prospects – find any time to actually read the policy materials issued by Mr Corbyn before deigning to criticize them?

To enlighten the former New Labour leader, here is just one new idea, from the Corbyn camp on the environment and economy entitled “Protecting Our Planet,” issued at the beginning of August.
“As Labour leader I would bring together a coalition of the majority, to move on from
wasteful, polluting and unequal economic approach to our environment and instead
democratise our economy to reduce inequality and promote sustainable development
within the Earth’s resource limits.

Our campaign will prioritise our planet and stand for:

• Britain providing international leadership on climate change and the socialisation

of our energy supply leading an end to the era of fossil fuels

• A modern, green, resource-efficient economy - creating 1 million new climate jobs

• Ensuring everyone has access to a decent home that is low-carbon and

affordable to keep warm.”
He ends: ”This is the Britain I want to build: a future that is innovative, inclusive and sustainable.”

Tony Blair calls these “policies from the past.” Rather, they are policies essential for all our futures.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

An unclear energy presentation

A slightly longer version of this piece  was published by The Ecologist on line on 12 August:

To mark the 70th anniversary of the first detonations of atomic bombs, two of which were used to immolate over 200, 000 people instantly when exploded over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively on 6 and 9 August  1945, the BBC has  created a special “nuclear season” of programmes examining several aspects- civil and military – of nuclear  energy.

The BBC commissioned Baghdad- born Professor Jameel "Jim" Al-Khalili, a theoretical physicist  and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science from the University of Surrey, to research and present one programme called “Britain’s Nuclear Secrets: Inside Sellafield” (

As a regular BBC broadcaster, hosting the long-running The Life Scientific on Radio 4, and maker of several science programmes on television, including on quantum physics and the history of electricity, he was eminently qualified to make this programme.

His own web site lists these additional affiliations and skills:

President of the British Humanist Association; Fellow of Institute of Physics; Member of Royal Society Vision Committee for science and mathematics education 5–19; Member of Royal Society Equality and Diversity Awareness Network; Member of Editorial Board for the (new open access) Journal PMC Physics A; Associate Editor of Advanced Science Letters; Member of Cheltenham Science Festival Advisory Committee; Member of British Science Association Physics and Astronomy Section Committee; and is a  regular referee for Phys Rev, Phys Rev Letts, Nuclear Physics, Journal of Physics G

With such an extensive professional CV, he ought to be trusted to produce a compelling and accurate programme on one of the most exciting - if hazardous - scientific and engineering development of mankind: the nuclear project. The programme was compelling, but not accurate. It included several factual errors, and misled by errors of omission

Nonetheless, writing in the Daily Telegraph on 10 August , Professor Al-Khalili said:” I have been a nuclear physicist for almost 30 years but I have had very little to do with nuclear power or the nuclear industry. I certainly had very little idea what went on inside Sellafield beyond the basics..” but went on to conclude: “Sellafield is an incredible place. It is steeped in history, from Windscale (Britain’s first nuclear reactor) and Calder Hall (the world’s first civil nuclear power station) to Thorp, a remarkable state-of-the-art nuclear reprocessing plant and one of the largest in the world. The sheer scale of the place is astonishing, from giant indoor cooling pools to remotely controlled robotic arms the size of a house – all operated under the most frustratingly scrupulous safety procedures
(Jim Al-Khalili: What goes on in our nuclear industry?The physicist discusses what he learned while behind the scenes of the Sellafield nuclear power plant;
Scrupulous safety procedures?

Professor Al-Kalilili spent considerable time explain the key role of the, the £2.85Bn Thermal Oxide Reprocessing plant (Thorp), opened in 1994, once Sellafield’s jewel in the atomic crown. But for inexplicable reasons, he forgot to mention the Thorp accident that disabled the plant for four years in 2004.

I explained what happened in a letter published two years ago in the Whitehaven News, Sellafield’s local newspaper, following a n article marking the first 25 years of Thorp’s  operation.

In May 2005, it was first reported that a serious leak of highly radioactive nuclear fuel dissolved in concentrated nitric acid, enough to half fill an Olympic-size swimming pool, had forced the closure of Thorp.

The highly dangerous mixture, containing about 22 tonnes of uranium and plutonium fuel, in liquid form, with a volume of around 83m3, had leaked through a fractured pipe into a huge stainless steel chamber in the “feed clarification cell”.  The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate – now the Office for Nuclear Regulation – report on the accident, issued in December 2005, said that 160kg of plutonium was leaked (that’s enough to make 20 nuclear weapons). The NII investigation identified that the company had been in breach of nuclear site licence conditions at the Sellafield site.

The Financial Times reported in May 2005 there was some evidence to suggest that the pipe may have started to fail in July or August 2004. Failure of the pipe (at which point significant amounts of liquor started to be released into the cell) is believed to have occurred in mid-January 2005. However, in the period between January 2005 (and
perhaps earlier) and April 19 2005, opportunities, such as cell sampling and level measurements, were missed which would have shown that material was escaping to secondary containment.

Operations staff at Sellafield then failed to act appropriately to consequent off-normal conditions, according to Sellafield Ltd’s board of inquiry report, Fractured Pipe with Loss of Primary Containment in the THORP Feed Clarification Cell, dated 26 May 2005, but released publicly in redacted form on 29 June  2005.

The most extraordinary conclusion of the report reads: “Given the history of such events so far, it seems likely there will remain a significant chance of further plant failures in the future, even with the comprehensive implementation of the recommendations of this
.” (emphasis added)

For an unknown reason the report of this hugely significant accident is listed on the Sellafield Ltd website under the section on “operational excellence”!

This initially led to a near three-year closure, with a loss of £2million a day, if BNFL’s claims of the value of operating Thorp are to be believed. A further closure of Thorp followed due to a separate incident.

On October 16 2006 at Carlisle Crown Court, Sellafield Ltd was fined £300,000 for the breach of licence condition 27, £100,000 for the breach of licence condition 24 and £100,000 for the breach of licence condition 34.
(‘Less rosy milestones in Thorp’s 25 years,’ Whitehaven News, letters, Thursday, 22 August 2013;
Regional campaign group, Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) published critique of Thorp’s operations in March this year, noting It has reprocessed just over 5,000 tonnes in its 20 years to 2014 due to numerous 'events' - yet had a design capacity of 1,000-1,200 tonnes per year. If Thorp meets its currently scheduled 2018 closure date ‘with all contracts completed’, the plant will have reprocessed a total of 9500 tonnes of spent fuel over 25 years of operation16 at an average annual rate of 380 tonnes per year (or 420 tonnes per year if the plant’s extended closure from 2005 is taken into account) – just one-third of design specification.

 CORE explains:

“Thorp’s failure to reprocess the projected 7,000 tonnes – by almost 2,000 tonnes – in the first ten years resulted from a catalogue of unplanned closures over the decade, the first striking within days of the plant’s opening when a spillage of nitric acid ate its way through cables and instrumentation and forced a shut-down of several weeks. The official down-playing of the extent and consequences of the leak was to become a common feature of many future accidents and unplanned stoppages which, when added to the planned outages, have contributed to a major loss of operational time over the last 20 years – and resulted in the 7,000 tonne baseload contracts being completed only in December 2012, some 9 years late.

Now in its 21st year of operation, THORP has been subjected to a series of closures – a majority unplanned – totalling some 6 years over the last 20 years…..

As a further damning indictment of THORP’s under-performance, these missed annual targets, set recently at around 400 tonnes per year, are but a pale shadow of BNFL’s original claim that THORP would reprocess 1,000 tonnes per year in the first ten years of operation (a design target not once achieved) and 800 tonnes per year thereafter – now wholly out of THORP’s reach.

Against this background it is unsurprising that those customers – whose continued support was being relied on by BNFL – were unprepared to give Thorp any further business. Indeed, rather than securing a single new contract from overseas, as originally projected, contracts from German utilities were cancelled in the plant’s first year of operation – losing BNFL an estimated £250M.

When summarised, Thorp’s poor reprocessing performance together with years lost through unplanned stoppages, the failure to meet targets and the loss of contracts and customer confidence, paint a picture of a plant that bears no resemblance to the world-leading flagship image portrayed by BNFL 21 years ago. The only ‘attribute’ still to be qualified is the claim of Thorp’s £500M profit in the first ten years of operation.

Though its faltering performance and inept management has badly holed the overrated Thorp flagship below the waterline, the views of an ex-BNFL Director who was heavily involved in the battle to open Thorp, add a further dimension. In his book Inside Sellafield, the long serving Harold Bolter suggests that the figures fed into the plant’s economic case by BNFL ‘have turned out to be incorrect in several important respects’ and more tellingly that ‘if the highly complex plant fails to operate to its projected standard, it will become a huge financial drain on the nation.’”

(“Sellafield’s THORP reprocessing plant – A Lame Duck and Loser,” 27 March 2015)

‘Japan’s atomic ambivalence over nuclear relations with UK,’ NukeInfoTokyo, 6 August 2015;

Calder Hall ‘s dual  mission

Speaking from inside the plant, Professor Al-Khalili described  Calder Hall as world’s first commercial nuclear power station.” This is untrue in two ways. Calder Hall was not a “commercial” nuclear power plant, but a plutonium production plant run by the UK Atomic Energy Authority for the Ministry of Defence to provide nuclear explosive materials for nuclear warheads.
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Within a month, Mr Maudling in Parliament told Tory back bencher, Wing Commander Eric Bullus - who had asked the Paymaster-General what change there has been in the intention to modify three nuclear power stations to enable plutonium suitable for military use to be extracted should the need arise?-

“Last year Her Majesty's Government asked the Central Electricity Generating Board to make a small modification in the design of certain power stations to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted if need should arise. Having taken into account recent developments, including the latest agreement with the United States, and having re-assessed the fissile material which will become available for military purposes from all sources, it has been decided to restrict the modifications to one power station, namely, Hinkley Point.” (emphasis added)

(Hansard, 22 June 1959 cols 847-9)

The spectre of the new nuclear renaissance

Professor Al-Khalili ended his programme waxing lyrical about the prospects of a new generation of British reactors being built, including several planned alongside the Sellafield site, in a project known as "Moorside."

Recently, Martin Forwood of CORE explained that “The 'biggest construction project in Europe' is expanding from Nugen's original 200 hectare site to 552 hectares of farmland reaching right up to two villages and an 11th Century church. But with compulsory purchase on the cards, there's nothing locals can do except keep on fighting the entire deeply flawed project.”

(‘Moorside, Cumbria: the great nuclear land grab,‘7th August 2015

Marianne Birkby, another indefatigable local Cumbrian campaigner agains the nuclear industry, has written to the BBC Trust – responsible for BBC broadcast standards-( to complain about the bias in Professor Al-Khalili’s  programme

Birkby heads her complaint “Biased Infomercial’, arguing “ The programme purports to be investigative journalism when it is an infomercial for the nuclear industry and the government’s new build agenda. *The real story* suggests impartiality. While the programme reiterates in a misleadingly superficial way the known dangers of nuclear power there was no attempt at all by the programme makers to speak to opponents of nuclear power or even whistleblowers from within the industry.

PR group Copper Consultancy have advised the nuclear industry/government bodies such as DECC to use *science champions* to promote new nuclear development. Jim Al-Khalili is one of BBC’s foremost science champions. He rounds off the programme with enthusiastic endorsements for new nuclear build while standing within the ancient field systems that are under threat of new nuclear development.

This is at the time when there is a consultation going on. Grass roots group Radiation Free Lakeland have been aggressively warned off sending any briefings from independent scientists about new build to Copeland Council’s Nationally Significant Infrastructure Panel as *it might prejudice decisions.

This BBC 4 Infomercial masquerading as investigative journalism is entirely prejudicial in its promotion of new nuclear build.”

She is right to raise her objections. As I have explained, they actually go deeper and wider than she sets out.

Endnote:  The programme consultant was, I kid you not, Professor Andrea Sella,
a chemist and broadcaster based at University College
London where he is a Professor of Inorganic Chemistry. He sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Cheltenham Science Festival and on the Education Committee of
the Royal Institution.He was awarded the 2014 Michael Faraday Prize from The Royal Society for "his excellent work in science communication.
It makes me wonder what happened to the critical faculties of these two professors when they made this programme. The BBC’s own programme editors should be ashamed at allowing such a programme making it to air without proper editing.


Monday, 10 August 2015

How, quietely, the Big Five nuclear weapons powers are working towards a nuclear weapons-free world

Letters sent to The Times, 10 August:

Tim Montgomerie is an experienced political commentator, but I would respect he experience of some experts who differ from his view that  a nuclear –free world is a :utopia” (“If you want world peace don’t ban the bomb,” 10 August,

In London in February this year, the Foreign Office hosted a high-level meeting of the nuclear weapons policy chiefs of the five nuclear weapons powers that comprise the permanent five  (P5) members of the US Security Council – UK, US, Russia, France and China- to discuss steps towards nuclear disarmament, and their collective final statement included the following:

“In reaffirming their commitment towards achieving a world without nuclear weapons in accordance with the goals of the NPT, the P5 reflected on the contribution that the P5 Process has made in developing the mutual confidence and transparency among the P5 that is essential to make progress towards multilateral nuclear disarmament…The P5 reaffirmed that a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament that promotes international stability, peace and undiminished and increased security for all remains the only realistic and practical route to achieving a world without nuclear weapons.”

The P5 representatives added: “The P5 also decided that they should increasingly engage with the wider disarmament community. To this end, a number of non-nuclear-weapon states were invited, for the first time, to a briefing and discussion session as part of the P5 Conference.”
(Joint statement from the Nuclear-Weapon States at the London P5 Conference, 6 February 2015,

Moreover, at the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference in New York in May, the ambassadors of 113 non-nuclear weapons states signed the pledge to support a treaty banning nuclear weapons altogether.  That is a lot of diplomatic believers in utopia.(NPT News in Review, Vol. 13, No. 17,Monday 25 May 2015;

Also, Mr Montgomerie cites in his support Winston Churchill’s warning over  the importance of keeping nuclear weapons to preserve the peace.

He could equally have cited  the final words of Professor Graham Farmilo’s  457 page book Churchill’s bomb (2013) in which he writes of Churchill’s later, regretful, view of nuclear weapons:“ By the second half of the twentieth century, Churchill believed, scientists had finally given international leaders weapons that were more powerful than they could  handle. Science was finally becoming master of its creator, and humanity would pay the price.” (page 457)

Friday, 7 August 2015

Atomic Apostasy

Despite the considerable coverage in the British media of the 70th anniversary commemoration of the terrible immolation of 200,000 Japanese civilians  in seconds - and total destruction of their cities - by the United States when it dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagaski on 6 and 9 August 1945 respectively,  two important issues have been overlooked

The day before over 100,000 people – including many foreigners -  gathered at the  commemoration ceremony in Hiroshima, during deliberations in a Japanese Parliament (Diet) House of Councillors panel session, Government-proposed national security legislation it emerged in testimony by Defence Minister General Nakatani that it would theoretically allow Japan to transport nuclear weapons in logistics support for foreign countries.

However, foreign minister Fumito Kishida denied the possibility regardless of legal interpretation, telling the same panel, "Given Japan's policy and stance on nuclear weapons, Japanese would never transport nuclear weapons".

The security bills are aimed at expanding the role of the SDF abroad and strengthening Japan's security alliance with the United States.

(“Security bills technically allow nuclear arms transport: minister,” Mainichi, 5 August  2015;

The next day, at the commemoration ceremony in Hiroshima, conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made no mention of the country's self-imposed "three non-nuclear principles" in his speech during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6.

Successive Japanese prime ministers have attended memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima and given speeches since 1994. But it was the first time for a prime minister to make no mention of the "three non-nuclear principles" that ban the possession, production and import of nuclear arms. Abe had previously said Japan would stick to the three non-nuclear principles during three previous memorial ceremonies, including one in 2007 during his first stint as prime minister.

Hibaskusha (A-bomb survivors) who attended the memorial ceremony were shocked and disappointed by the fact that Abe did not touch on the three non-nuclear principles in his speech. Yuriko Kinoshita, a 70-year-old housewife in Hiroshima's Naka Ward who offered flowers at the ceremony as a representative of Hiroshima citizens, said, "Why didn't he include them? I hope this year will not become a turning point toward war." Toyoko Okamura, 74, from Hatsuka, Hiroshima Prefecture, who lost her elder brother in the atomic bombing, said, "That's too bad because I am hoping for the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons."

 (“PM Abe makes no mention of 3 non-nuclear principles in A-bomb anniversary speech,” Mainichi, 6 August  2015;

A week before the Hiroshima commemoration, it emerged from research into the atomic archives by researchers for the Mainichi Shimbun, that Robert Holmes,the director of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) an American commission established to study the effects of radiation among survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had advised that the US only should  offer treatment as a Cold War strategy - not as a humanitarian measure - in a note the commission director sent to a colleague in the US in October1954, nine years after the detonation of the atomic bombs..

According to a letter and other documents obtained by the Mainichi, on Oct. 12, 1954, Holmes, who was three months into his post in Japan, wrote to the medical sciences chief of the National Research Council, which had established the ABCC in 1947. In the note, Holmes made clear his fears of Communist powers pitting Japan's atomic bomb survivors against the US, and argued that the ABCC's role must be considered not only from a scientific perspective, but from a political standpoint as well.(emphasis added)

Holmes also said criticism of the ABCC was coming from what he termed an  “anti-American minority”, and that providing treatment to atomic bomb survivors would not only be advantageous to the Japanese people, but also encourage them to side with the U.S. in the Cold War.

Professor Susan Lindee of the  University of Pennsylvania - who specializes in the history of science -  observed that the US feared that doing so would ignite debate on the issue of US responsibility for the atomic bombings.

We are talking about people, not statistics

In a three –part series run earlier this month, Mainichi Shimbun  reported In the 1950s, Yukio Yoshioka, a Hiroshima resident who was exposed to the atomic bombing of the city, was ushered into a jeep and taken to Hijiyama, overlooking the urban district, where ABCC was based. Here he underwent a prostate test. It involved a Japanese staff member inserting a finger into his rectum which Mr Yoshioka  found extremely unpleasant.

Yoshioka, who is now 86, was exposed to the atomic bomb blast 1.7 kilometers away from the hypocentre, and had suffered major burns on his back and other parts of his body. At the ABCC, he also received a saliva test. When the test results came back a month later, he was informed that he had lung infiltration, and he was referred to a hospital in Hiroshima.

"My human rights and personality were ignored," he said.

Facing criticism that it was merely testing people but not treating them and suggestions that it was using people as guinea pigs, the ABCC struggled to find survey subjects.

Sachiko Sakamaki, 71, a resident of Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, donated the body of her father, who died from multiple types of cancer, for which she received  a letter of thanks from the ABCC, but all that was written was that an outline of the test results had been conveyed to the attending doctor, and she was never contacted afterward.

The huge amount of information collected by ABCC and other parties was taken to the United States, and used in preparation for nuclear war. The information was classified, as in the Cold War there were concerns about the Soviet Union Russia getting information easily without any experimentation of their own.

The records were returned to Japan starting in 1973. Over 25,000 items, including organ specimens and clinical records were moved to Hiroshima University and Nagasaki University.

 (“US commission director suggested treatment for A-bomb survivors as Cold War strategy,” Mainichi 30 July 2015;

(“ABCC: A-bomb survivors regret experiences in U.S. testing of radiation effects after WWII (Pt. 2),” Mainichi 1 August  2015;

Thursday, 6 August 2015

117 countries back ban on nuclear weapons

Letter sent to The Guardian on 6 August:
Your leader on Hiroshima Commemoration Day “Today, the atomic bomb haunts a our world as much as ever” (6 August) was accurate in its sentiment, but included several inaccuracies in its argument.(
You assert that “there is no more of a global consensus in favour of the elimination of nuclear weapons today…”

However, in London in February this year, the Foreign Office hosted a high-level meeting of the nuclear weapons policy chiefs of the five nuclear weapons powers that comprise the permanent five  (P5) members of the US Security Council – UK, US, Russia, France and China- to discuss steps towards nuclear disarmament, and their collective final statement included the following:

“In reaffirming their commitment towards achieving a world without nuclear weapons in accordance with the goals of the NPT, the P5 reflected on the contribution that the P5 Process has made in developing the mutual confidence and transparency among the P5 that is essential to make progress towards multilateral nuclear disarmament…The P5 reaffirmed that a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament that promotes international stability, peace and undiminished and increased security for all remains the only realistic and practical route to achieving a world without nuclear weapons.”

(Joint statement from the Nuclear-Weapon States at the London P5 Conference, 6 February 2015,

Moreover, at the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference in New York in May, 112 countries signed the pledge to support a treaty banning nuclear weapons altogether.

Secondly, you assert that international treaties like “the treaty aiming to end fissile material production have met with only limited success.”

This is true, but only because there is as yet no such treaty!

 In a 27 September 1993 speech before the UN, President Clinton called for a multilateral convention banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear explosives or outside international safeguards. In December 1993 the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 48/75L calling for the negotiation of a "non-discriminatory, multilateral and international effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

Subsequently, the Geneva based Conference on Disarmament(CD) on 23 March 1995 agreed to establish a committee to negotiate "a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.".

The problem is no substantive negotiations have yet taken place.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Atomic bombs were unecessary to halt war with Japan

Letter sent to the Daily Telegraph on 5 August:
Many people, especially those from the Second World War generation and their offspring, share the view expressed by Christopher Devine ("Hiroshima and Nagasaki paid necessary price, "Letter, 5 August) that the use of two atomic bombs to immolate the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9th August 1945, ended the war with Japan and hence saved  many lives of allied service people (mainly American and British) who otherwise might have been involved in a ground invasion of Japan
As plausible as this sounds, it is contradicted by the documented facts, taken from contemporaneous documents of the US and Japanese Governments of 1945, researched and published by post war historians.
One US academic, Professor of History Gar Alperovitz, has published several detailed books based on primary sources from the atomic archives. including his magisterial 1995 study "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth" ( and Paul Ham's 620 page analysis in "Hiroshima Nagasaki: the real story of the atomic bombings and their aftermath", published in 2011.
As instances of dozens of pieces of evidence,intercepted diplomatic cables of 12-13 July 1945 show Japan's Emperor had intervened to attempt to end the war. prior to the use of the atomic bombs; and subsequent Intercepted cables showed Japan responding positively to a US offer of a surrender based on the "Atlantic Charter" as put forward in an official US Government radio broadcast  on 21 July 1945.
In his memoirs Admiral William D. Leahy, the President's Chief of Staff-and the top official who presided over meetings of both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combined U.S.-U.K. Chiefs of Staff-minced few words, writing:
"The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender." (

Nuclear deal with China needs more than whispers

Letters sent to the Independent on 5 August:

The Energy Secretary Amber Rudd needs to come clean with the British people on the wider implications of the forthcoming nuclear reactor deal with Chinese State Investment Bank and the Chinese nuclear companies: the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) and China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN) (“Ministers poised to sign £25bn Hinkley contract,” 5 August,

We know the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and DECC ministers all deem China excellent partners to develop new nuclear in the UK. But not all departments have such sanguine assessments of China’s Political governance. Here is part of what the latest Foreign Office annual human rights report, released in March this year, says of China, in its section ‘countries of concern’:

Of principal concern were detentions of human rights defenders (HRDs) for the peaceful expression of their views. These continued as part of an ongoing clampdown on freedom of expression, association and assembly. There were particular spikes in detentions, including in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the clearance of the Tiananmen Square protests; and the Hong Kong protest movements, which began in September. Suppression of ethnic unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang also continued…. it is believed that China executes the largest number of people in the world. It retains 55 capital offences, including for non-violent and economic crimes.”

Here is what one top Chinese official, Wang Yiren, vice-chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority, said in 2013 in remarks at the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century, held in St Petersburg.

“The fear and panic associated with nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster seem to have dissipated. Countries are now taking a more objective and rational approach toward nuclear energy… Over the past four years, nuclear energy development across the world has experienced many twists and turns. But the situation has greatly changed.”

Some might say in respect of Fukushima at least, that is a somewhat premature evaluation.
Just before  chancellor George Osborne visited Beijing In October 2013 to discuss nuclear financing, the South China Morning Post (7 Oct. 2013) revealed that Chinese nuclear industry veteran Li Yulun,  a former vice-president of CNNC had claimed that company and its United States technology partner Westinghouse should be more transparent about how mainland reactors would be built according to the most advanced safety standards, arguing "Our state leaders have put a high priority on [nuclear safety] but companies executing projects do not seem to have the same level of understanding."

Worse still, last year the French Nuclear Safety Authority, (L'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire ASN) complained publicly about the lack of communication with their Chinese counterparts over joint venture  nuclear reactor projects.

As Professor Tom Burke of Imperial College London astutely points out:” Not only are we selling 35 years of index linked tax receipts to the French government in return for electricity at twice the price we are currently paying for it but we are also placing the security of our future electricity supply into the hands of China's ‘overwhelmed' nuclear regulators.”