NAG NEWSLETTER SPRING 2008
WEDNESDAY 23rd April 2008
Note NEW VENUE
7pm, RISC, 35 London Street, Reading
MEETING & FILM
A New Film of UK nuclear weapons transport
NUCLEAR WARHEAD TRANSPORT AROUND READING
"Deadly Cargo" a professional film commissioned by Nukewatch from Camcorder Guerillas is being shown on 23rd April at Reading International Solidarity Centre after its launch in Glasgow on 29th March. NAG has moved its meeting to RISC instead of the usual at the Civic Centre venue because we have been invited to attend the first local showing of the Nukewatch film about the convoys which travel from Aldermaston and Burghfield to Scotland and back carrying nuclear warheads.
We will have 30 minutes before the showing for NAG business
NEWS FROM AROUND ALDERMASTON AND BURGHFIELD
AWE to come under US control?
At the time of writing the decision about which company will be chosen to buy BNFL's one third stake in the management of AWE has not been announced, although it was due in March. According to the Financial Times, the only two remaining bidders are two US engineering groups, Fluor Corporation and Jacobs Engineering Group. If either of them is chosen, AWE will be managed by a consortium which is two-thirds American. The sale is part of the Government's plan to privatise all nuclear assets that were in public ownership.
Is this part of a cunning plan to move AWE to America?
Anyone who thought that when the MOD's Crown Immunity expired and AWE's planning applications became subject to the normal rules, things would change, would have been disabused on February 6th. West Berks Eastern Area Planning Committee passed the application for the new High Explosives Fabrication Facility, despite much information on the safety and environmental aspects of the application having been withheld on "National Security" grounds (see last newsletter). Many of the questions that planners would normally ask were not asked, let alone answered.
We are particularly alarmed about this because it sets a precedent. This is the first time since Crown Immunity lapsed that the MOD has withheld such information. They may have got away with it this time but we will be watching future applications closely and taking action more forcefully if it happens again.
NAG was not represented at this hearing, we are grateful to Nuclear Information Service for this information.
We learn from the minutes of the AWE Local Liaison Committee (the Committee that NAG is not welcome on) that the Environment Agency has sent AWE a Warning Letter about malfunctioning of some monitoring equipment which samples radioactive discharges. AWE has till September to rectify the fault or face an Enforcement Notice.
Mr Dave Griffiths from the Environment Agency told us at the January NAG meeting about the flooding last July - the overflow from the North Ponds complex at Aldermaston is not regarded as serious because the surplus water comes from the uncontaminated area of the site, (although the former rubbish tip which is not far from the outflow point is admitted to be contaminated).
The flooding at Burghfield is being taken seriously. The Environment Agency agrees with us that a full-scale flood risk management plan is needed, (Dave Griffiths reported that he watched rats swim away from the site in July). The E.A. will raise an objection at the forthcoming planning application for a new warhead assembly facility if an adequate plan is not provided. We made this stipulation - unsuccessfully - in relation to the last planning application for Burghfield. Mr Griffiths took our point about the effect of lightning conductors in flood conditions.
His comments concerning the future of the defunct MOD-owned Pangbourne pipeline were interesting - the pipes have been removed from the Thames and the pump house and valve pits are next. The question remains what to do with the underground pipelines, which run under SSSI's in some places. Does the residual contamination warrant wholesale removal, causing damage to these SSSIs? AWE is due to report on this soon. Radioactive waste is such a headache, it's a wonder the Government is still so keen to create more of it.
Safety issues at Burghfield
The safety concerns at Burghfield remain unresolved. The present situation is that a separate licence application now has to be applied for from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate for each item of warhead disassembly work. Limitations on warhead work are set to continue until the NII are satisfied about safety.
AWE Aldermaston Byelaws are set to be challenged again, and currently appear not to be in force around the Aldermaston site whilst an appeal is lodged against a recent legal judgment. Although the Byelaw against putting "any thing on any surface" was quashed by the High Court, one against camping was upheld. This mainly affects people wanting to protest, and Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp in particular.
We still hope to get speakers from West Berks Council and Reading BC to one of our meetings. A nuclear accident at AWE could in fact affect Hampshire CC, Basingstoke and Deane BC and Wokingham BC as well. We are told that the Emergency Planning Officers are still trying to piece together their respective responsibilities as well as updating the Plan - they hope to be ready by November. In the meantime, the existing plan can be seen on West Berks Council's website at
A major exercise involving a pretend catastrophic release of radiation following a collision of a nuclear convoy with an RAF fast jet was staged at Swynnerton, Staffordshire, in November 2007. It was organised by the MOD's Nuclear Accident Response Organisation (NARO), who reported that all their objectives were achieved. Do they know how to control a radioactive plume?
According to the Independent on Sunday 6th January, the inducement package for persuading a Local Authority somewhere in the UK to host the "poisoned chalice" of the underground depository for radioactive waste is likely to run to at least £1 billion. Councils are invited to express interest, with suggestions of proposed enhancements to local well-being which might result. This could be tricky for them, since the timescale for the contents of the depository to remain a local hazard is a quarter of a million years - how can it be possible to plan well-being for local people for that length of time? Much of the UK could be under water by then.
The Government has undertaken that the nuclear industry will no longer be subsidised by the taxpayer. Presumably storing radioactive waste is connected with the nuclear industry. So where will these inducement monies come from?
Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria County Council are about to receive a £10 million one-off payment and £1.5 million a year in return for GRANTING planning permission for the expansion of Drigg to continue storing low level radioactive waste after the existing storage space has been filled. Drigg village (population about 300) will get £50,000 a year, which should keep the village hall nicely. The money comes from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) which owns Sellafield and is State-owned.
LOW LEVEL RADIATION
In 1994 Hinkley Point nuclear power station near Burnham on Sea suffered a radiation leak caused by corroded pipework. Failure to replace part of the suspect pipe resulted in another leak. The operators, Nuclear Electric, were prosecuted in 1995, but insisted that the leaks were "insignificant" and "at the bottom of the scale" - a level at which conventional risk assessment would not expect any health effects.
However, a subsequent peak in infant mortality has been found, by Green Audit, as a result of the campaigning group Stop Hinkley asking them to investigate. The current Head of Cancer Registrations for S.W.England could not find this peak, but her predecessor was worried about the finding and asked for further investigation.
Conventional risk modelling does accept that radiation can cause anomalies in sex ratios of births - the norm is 5% more boys. Around Burnham at the relevant time the ratio rose to 19% more boys - a ratio also found in post-Hiroshima studies. All this was featured in the BBC "Inside Out" documentary broadcast on Feb 29th, which can be viewed on http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/
There has been research showing that high exposure to radiation over a short period of time can cause heart disease, but a new study adds to this, linking long-term exposure at lower levels to the same effect. According to the International Journal of Epidemiology, the new research studied over 65,000 workers employed between 1946 and 2002 at four sites operated by BNFL and its predecessors, using the workers' dosimeter badges to analyse non-cancer death rates and cumulative radiation exposure.
The findings of the study, which was funded by BNFL and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) clearly suggested that even chronic exposure to radiation spread over long periods, as has been received by some radiation workers, can cause increased heart disease.
The 20th LOW LEVEL RADIATION CONFERENCE will be held this year on 6th to 8th June at the University of Cumbria, Ambleside. Contact: Janine Allis-Smith, 20th LLR+H Conference, c/o CORE, Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ
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