David Lowry's Acceptance Speech CarnVaha 2001, 8 September 2001
First of all I want to express my gratitude to the Nuclear Free Future Foundation for selecting me for this award. It is a great honour to receive this recognition alongside the other winners of the Nuclear Free Future awards today before all of you gathered for this festival of the earth
On a personal level I want to thank my partner, Rosalind, who has travelled with me to Wexford this weekend, who has been very supportive to me and my work on nuclear issues.
I also want to make special mention to several politicians who share my concerns about the dangers of nuclear power, and with whom I have worked variously over the last 17 years.
Llew Smith, a Welshman like me, now a Labour MP in the UK Parliament, but with whom I first started working when he was an MEP in the European Parliament. We have prepared two reports together on Sellafield .
Next Alex Smith, a now retired former Labour MEP from Scotland, with whom I did much work on the dumping of nuclear waste into the Irish Sea from Sellafield and elsewhere.
And last but not least, Nuala Ahern, the Green Party MEP for Leinster, who is here today, and with whom I have done much research on Sellafield and other nuclear hazards such as depleted uranium.
Nuala & I still work together, most recently on a report arguing against permission to open the new plutonium fuels -or MOX-plant at Sellafield.
I will come back to questions I have prepared with Nuala to put to the European Commission.
One of the lovely surprises of gatherings such as this is coming across old friends and comrades. A little while ago I met with Claire Benjamin, then of CND, with whom I worked 13 years ago on the threat to the West country and my native Wales posed by electricity industry plans to build another nuclear plant at Hinkley. And now on stage with me is Tatania, who works with 'Green World, from Sosnovy Bor, the site of a Russian nuclear plant. I met Tatania in June last year when I went to Ekaterinburg in the Urals and Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, both in Russia, to give talks at two nuclear conferences.
Finally, let me mention my friend and fellow nuclear researcher, Mycle Schneider, now director of the WISE-Paris Energy Institute, with whom I have collaborated on research projects for nearly 20 years. Along with several other researchers in America, France and UK, we have just completed a 150 page study exposing the health hazards posed by nuclear reprocessing at Sellafield, and it French equivalent, La Hague . The study has been prepared for the European Parliament's special office of science and technology options assessment, or STOA. This report will be published very soon, and we hope it will have a significant public and political impact.
To move on. When I began thinking about what I might say today, I thought I might do a little research into the background of why this beautiful area was ever threatened by the monstrosity of a nuclear plant. Many here today will know the details much better than I, but let me share a few little discoveries with you.
One item I came across was the following extract from The Journal, of 5th August 2000. "Ireland, I have always thought, looks like a Scottie-type dog, sitting on its rear end, (although some strange people think it looks like a Teddy Bear.), its mouth in Donegal and its head inclined towards Scotland, while at its rear end, near its tail, is Carnsore Point, where, decades ago, it was proposed to build Ireland's first Nuclear Power Plant, providing a ready access for Nuclear Effluent into St George's Channel. (Fortunately, in those days, the ESB had less clout and incompetency than it now has.)"
I learned much from reading a pamphlet by Simon Dalby, now a professor in Canada, but who when he was younger was involved in opposing the nuclear threat in Ireland and elsewhere. It was published -by Dawn Train - as 'The Nuclear Syndrome-victory for the Irish Anti-Nuclear Power Movement.' Dalby points out that the option of building a nuclear power plant in Ireland first emerged 33 years ago in November1968, when the Electricity Supply Board said it was examining the option.
But already 20 years earlier fairly broad regional surveys had been conducted in Ireland in a search for uranium deposits. In 1973 concerned citizens of County Wexford organized the Nuclear Safety Committee (NSC) as Wexford increasingly seemed a likely choice site, especially after the Dail was told on 17 May 1973 by minister for transport and power, Mr Barry, that "The ESB have surveyed a number of possible sites for a nuclear station, among them Carnsore Point, County Wexford."
And the choice of Wexford as a site for the nuclear plant first became concrete in September 27 years ago, in 1974, when outline planning permission was sought from Wexford County Council by the ESB. After postponement in 1975, it was back on the agenda in 1977.
A year later the people's fight back began in earnest. Many here today would have been involved, I'm sure. In the extract I mentioned from the Dáil debate of May 1973, it was clear ministers were in support of nuclear energy. Let us contrast that with the robust sentiments contained in a letter of 15 June this year from Ireland's Chief State Solicitor, David O'Hagen to the UK government legally challenging the right of the British to carry on polluting the Irish Sea with radioactive effluent from Sellafield. And it challenged the UK and BNFL to make public key documents on the new Sellafield MOX plutonium fuels plant that had been kept secret, against the rules of the OSPAR convention on protecting the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic. Both Ireland and UK are members of the OSPAR.
The position of all politicians in Ireland today, whom I have met at meetings or in the European Parliament, is anti-nuclear. Huge nuclear waste production factories such as Sellafield provide zero benefit, and much threat to Ireland. As indicated earlier, I have been lucky to work for the passed five or six years with one of your staunchest critics of the nuclear industry-and Sellafield in particular-Nuala Ahern.
She has pursued the nuclear industry vigorously in Europe. In reply to her question to the European Commission a few months ago in July, concerning Nuala's request that a special environmental monitoring mission be sent to Sellafield to review the safety of the high level radioactive waste stores, she was told that although many changes may have taken place since the last inspection in December 1993 (I quote) "The Commission has not planned any visits to Sellafield in the near future." The Commission is like the three monkeys: they don't ask any questions, so see no evil, hear no evil...
As it happens on Thursday this week I received in the post this package of documents from the UK Environment Agency. They concern a new public consultation on the permissible levels of radioactive discharges from Sellafield.
I encourage as many people form Ireland as possible to write asserting that NO level of radioactive discharge into the Irish Sea is acceptable. It pollutes your sea, and the sea that washes the shores of Wales across the waters from here at Carnsore Point
Let me read you an astonishing quote from a scientist who went on to become the director of the UK National Radiological Protection Board.
His name is Dr John Dunster, and was at the time he said this working at Sellafield then called Windscale. Dr Dunster said "The sea has always been regarded by coastal and seafaring peoples as the ideal place for dumping their waste and this is of course a very reasonable and proper attitude...almost everything put into he sea is either diluted...or broken down...or stored harmlessly on the seabed. Most of the objects which ultimately do find their way to the shore are harmless and a considerable source of pleasure to children. Not the least of the attractions of the sea as a dumping ground has been the lack of administrative controls." And on the now notorious Windscale radioactive discharge pipeline he revealed: " The intention has been to discharge fairly substantial amounts of radioactivity as part of an organised and deliberate scientific experiment ..the aims of this experiment would have been defeated if the level of radioactivity discharged had been kept to a minimum."
That was said at the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy Conference in Geneva in 1958.
Of course, the nuclear industry would not be allowed to get away with such a scandalous approach today..... or would they?
Earlier this week the German Cabinet agreed to support legislation to phase out nuclear power in Germany. That is the closure of 19 nuclear plants. Now that sounds like a reason to cheer, doesn't it? It does....until you read the small print!
I discovered on a visit to Germany in June that one of the deals done in agreeing the new German Atomic Law (*see text below) was to commit German nuclear companies who had sent their nuclear fuel to Sellafield for reprocessing, to have their plutonium which is separated out during reprocessing returned to German power companies in the form of MOX fuel. No other option is to be permitted.
A month ago I wrote to the director-general of the German Environment Ministry's nuclear safety & radiation protection division, someone called Wolfgang Renneberg, complaining that this was unacceptable interference in the UK's policy decisions, as the Sellafield MOX plant has not even got an operating licence, and may never get one.
I said "I fully endorse the atomic phase-out on which the 'consensus' agreement is based, but not at the cost we in the UK -and our neighbours in Ireland - are expected to pay: ie the operation of the MOX plant at Sellafield"
I concluded my letter thus: "This amendment of the German Atomic Law is the equivalent of a 21st century 'atomic Lebensraum', purely designed to benefit Germany, all because your country embarked on an ill-advised atomic programme, and is now making its European neighbours pay the cost. Think again!"
Let me finish with something I heared at big nuclear industry conference I attended in London on Thursday. Nearly 500 senior officials, including BNFL CEO Norman Askew (or A-skew as some of his detractors like to call him). The event was the inaugural meeting of the World Nuclear Association, welcoming what they called 'the Atomic Renaissance'. A keynote speaker was Dr Hans Blix, a former Swedish diplomat who headed the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for many years ...
As an aside, it is ironic that the UN's showcase nuclear propaganda agency is located in the only country that built a completed nuclear power plant, then never opened it, after a referendum in November 1978...
But back to Dr Blix: He told an anecdote at that London conference which went like this: "there was a scientific expedition that lost its navigation equipment in the Pacific. Despairing about which direction they should go, they asked the advice of a crew-member from Bora Bora. He pointed unhesitatingly in one direction and, lo and behold, after a few days they happily sighted the island. They asked him how he knew Bora Bora was there. He replied "Bora Bora was always there."
Dr Blix took this as a metaphor for the nuclear industry always being there.
It is true its radioactive waste will always be there. But people can chose not to risk new nuclear plants. They can expose and oppose Sellafield.
We owe it to future generations not to leave them a world even more polluted than will already be their legacy.
The energy of such gatherings as today must be positively directed to a cleaner and greener future. That is why I welcome renewable energy plans for Carnsore -and wider Wexford too-to replace that nuclear threat now behind us in Ireland.
*[Translation of Article 9a § 1c of the German Nuclear Phase Out Law (version 7 June 2001): "As far as the safe management of spent fuels - that is admitted according to § 1 sentence 2 it has to be proved that the re-introduction of the plutonium recovered or yet to be recovered from reprocessing into facilities for the fission of nuclear fuels for the purpose of commercial generation of electricity can be guaranteed. This is not applicable to plutonium that has been reintroduced up until 31 August 2000 or to plutonium for which the rights of use and consumption has been transferred to a third party. This proof of the reintroduction into facilities for the fission of nuclear fuels for the purpose of commercial generation of electricity operated within the area of the validity of this law is given when realistic planning for the reprocessing, for the fabrication of fuel containing the plutonium that has been generated and will yet be generated by reprocessing as well as for the introduction of these fuel elements are presented and when the measures have been proven that are foreseen for the realization of this planning each time within the following two years through the presentation of contracts or excerpts of contracts or corresponding confirmations by third parties that have appropriate facilities at their disposition, or in the case of the introduction of the fuel elements in appropriate facilities of the obliged [utility] by the presentation of the planning of their introduction. The proof for the re-introduction in other facilities for the fission of nuclear fuels for the commercial generation of electricity operated in the European Union, or Switzerland, is delivered when binding confirmations of the transfer of use and consumption right for the purpose of the re-introduction of plutonium from reprocessing are presented."]