Newsletter Spring 06

NAG NEWSLETTER SPRING 06

NAG Diary Date

Our next meeting on Tuesday April 4th, 7pm at the Civic

Centre, Reading, will be a strategy meeting.

AWE LASER

At a meeting of West Berks Council's Eastern Area Planning Committee on January 25th, Councillors finally gave the "No Objections" to the massive laser building, which in due course will appear alongside Paices Hill. Evelyn was unfortunately time-barred from speaking against the proposal yet again - a total of 5 minutes was allocated for all objections, which is a nonsense when 4 parties have booked in to speak.

We followed up afterwards on the point we had intended to make, which was about groundwater. Back at the "Outline" planning stage, the Environment Agency had asked for certain measures to be taken to assess possible effects of earthworkings on groundwater before work started. They re-iterated the request at the "Full" stage, clearly having had no assurance in the meantime. We enquired about progress and have been assured that the council will request that no building is begun until data on groundwater is provided by AWE as promised. A Parliamentary Answer confirmed this on 14th February 2006.

House of Commons Hansard Report. 14 Feb 2006 : Column 1891W-continued

HELEN Laser

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 6 February 2006, Official Report, column 825W, on the HELEN laser, whether AWE has supplied (a) the Environment Agency and (b) the local planning authority with the required method statement detailing remediation requirements to minimise the impact on ground and surface waters as a result of the construction of the new ORION laser at Aldermaston. [50858] John Reid: A site investigation undertaken as part of the planning process revealed that there is no requirement for any remediation and therefore no requirement for a method statement. The local planning authority agree with this analysis. The results of the site investigation have been provided to the Environment Agency. Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 6 February 2006, Official Report, column 825W, on the HELEN laser, what (a) construction work has already taken place and (b) has begun on the new ORION laser at Aldermaston. [50859] John Reid: Construction work on the allocated site for the ORION laser facility has not commenced. The work currently ongoing is site clearance and enabling work only. Ends.

 

LINKS WITH THE USA - COULD THIS HAPPEN HERE?

 

Like AWE Aldermaston, Laurence Livermore Lab at Livermore, California, manufactures plutonium pits, part of a warhead assembly.

There has been a recent decision by the US Department of the Environment (DOE) to increase the radioactive materials and activities at Livermore, resulting in an expected three-fold exposure to radiation for workers and the public. The allowed Pu storage limit would double, from 1540 pounds to 3080, enough for roughly 300 bombs, and the limit for Highly Enriched Uranium would also double from 55 to 110 pounds. The amount of Pu that workers would be allowed to handle in a single room, or process at one time, would double from 44 to 88 pounds. Tritium on site would increase from 30 to 35 grams, and the worker "at risk" level would rise from 3.5 to 30 grams. It is acknowledged that these increases would be reflected in discharge levels.

What is all this about? Apparently, to enable the Lab to produce prototype bomb cores in order to perfect new manufacturing techniques for mass production of pits.

No news yet of a corresponding smart device to restrict the fallout from those bombs to the frontiers of the perceived enemy! "Tri-Valley Cares", a well-established environmental group, is organising opposition to the proposals.

Livermore also boasts a mega-laser. Sounds familiar? Theirs is already under construction, and is called the "National Ignition Facility". Originally its purpose was to have been for experiments in fusion ignition. The DOE plan envisages changing the design to enable NIF to use Pu and HEU in its experiments - it will be used for weapons design....................We have been warned!

RADIOACTIVE WASTE ISSUES

COMMITTEE ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT (CoRWM)

Three of our members attended a gathering in Reading on Feb 3rd, part of CoRWM's 3-year programme of public consultation over the vexed question of how to store the U.K's stockpile of radwaste. CoRWM have identified a shortlist of options:

  • Long-term interim storage, either above or below ground, either with or without enhanced security, either at existing sites or at a central location
  • Geological "disposal" (we prefer the word "storage"), either closed or kept open for 50-100 years, or boreholes 4-5 km deep
  • For reactor decommissioning waste: vaults either near-surface or shallow, either at existing sites or at a central location, or mounded over reactors.

For each of these options CoRWM has prepared a best-and-worst case scenario, and linked that to criteria which have been established at earlier stages of the consultation - public safety, security, worker safety, environment, socio-economic, amenity, burden on future generations, implementability, flexibility. Our job was to do a weighting exercise with the different scenarios and criteria.

We were encouraged by the degree of unanimity amongst a diverse group which included people from nuclear industry and local government - a roomful of people amongst whom we felt the odd ones out. There was a clear prioritisation of inter-generational equity (minimising the burden on future generations) and protecting the public, present and future, and the environment, from exposure to radiation.

Di expressed concern that a new programme of nuclear power stations, and/or new nuclear weapons, would undermine CoRWM's work (according to an article in the "Guardian" of 9th Jan, radioactivity five times as much as the present accumulated waste holds could be expected). When the CoRWM team replied that this was outside their terms of reference, Di felt uncomfortable with continuing to participate in a process that appears to sanction open-ended waste creation, and withdrew. Peter also felt uncomfortable with a groundrule involving confidentiality, and tried to persuade the gathering of the value of openness and accountability. Evelyn drew attention to the particular situation of Aldermaston, which is already effectively one of CoRWM's categories, ie an above ground long-term interim ILW depot with waste dating back from 1982. We have also since written to CoRWM about its lack of stand over newbuild.

DRIGG

AWE sends its low-level radwaste to Drigg, near Sellafield. The underground vaults where this waste from all over the UK is stored in steel containers are filling up, and are expected to be full in two years time. BNFL recently applied for planning permission to store above the level of the vaults - 950 containers until 2010.

Drigg and Carleton Parish Council objected, on the grounds that this would expose local residents to a higher radiation dose. The County Council refused planning permission, citing not only the dose objection, but also the problem of coastal erosion/ rising sea levels (see last newsletter), visual impact, and effect on house prices.

BNFL are expected to appeal. The progress of this issue is of interest to NAG, and holds possible opportunities for widening awareness of the low-level radiation issue.

News Flashes

SECURITY ISSUES

"Google Earth" is a readily available internet mapping programme. The Sunday Herald of 5.2.06 reported having used it to zoom in on graphic images of sensitive areas of AWE .

" The most sensitive parts of Britain's two most secretive sites - Burghfield and Aldermaston - can be seen in great detail. From a few hundred feet up, users can view bomb storage bunkers and count cars outside buildings where bombs are made and refurbished"

The MOD was not impressed. The spokesperson told the Sunday Herald that they don't have a problem with this, and have no control over satellite images, and some of the pictures were out of date, and much of the information is available from maps.

We know, of course, that Aldermaston and Burghfield appear as open countryside on OS maps - perhaps it's the information given to OS that is out of date?

DON'T THE MOD REALIZE THIS IS SERIOUS? Or worse still, they know but can't do anything about it?

SELLAFIELD

In early December a temporary evacuation of Sellafield had to be carried out because an inspection of one of the High Activity Storage Tanks uncovered very high dose rates. Concern was expressed by the Irish Government, and this news item reached us via the "Irish Examiner" 6th Dec 05.

CONFERENCE

Chernobyl 20 years on - Nuclear Costs and Energy Futures

Thursday March 23rd City Hall, London

Contact: NFLA 0161 234 3244 E-mail: office@nuclearpolicy.info

NAG works hard to track the environmental and health effects of future plans, nuclear discharges, waste, transport, production and accidents at AWE. It is now 12years since we were formed, following Reading Borough Council's Community Inquiry into AWE, chaired by [Baroness] Helena Kennedy QC. Her Report, Secrecy versus Safety is as valid today as it was then, and we are grateful to RBC for its continued support for NAG. But support from our members is crucial. Please return your membership slip below, and perhaps enlist family or friends to join too. If you do not want to continue membership - please let us know.

 

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PLEASE CONTACT NAG with queries or information: tel: 01962 890160 E-mail: rxeparker@yahoo.co.uk

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