NTW member Dr David Lowry is widely known for his stubborn and very effective work on nuclear transparency in the UK. Over the years, he has used all the tools in the legal toolbox to prevent important information being kept out of the public domain and in that way influenced many important nuclear debates in Britain. His instruments include access to information requests, but also parliamentarian questions and intensive on-line research. Dr David Lowry calls on NTW members and others following nuclear developments to more intensively use these instruments. That is an important call, because his work shows that the lack of transparency in the nuclear sector still enables politicians to hide the complexity of nuclear decision making, including issues around the true cost of nuclear energy, the important role of co-operation in nuclear medicine, the ongoing radioactive waste problem, and even the link between civilian and military nuclear sectors. Lowry’s work gives extremely good examples how to go about delivering more transparency in real life and we certainly will feature more of them here in the future. NTW also plans to set up a library where this kind of information will be stored so that other nuclear transparency activists can maintain access.
Last month, Lowry revealed key-information on the nuclear fall-out of the Brexit process on the loss of co-operation in the field of nuclear power, that he had obtained over parliamentarian questions. In a detailed blog including the full response from the Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in the British Parliament, Rachel Reeves, to the Energy Minister Richard Harrington, he sharply analysis how the industry bias of this MP leaves out important issues from the national debate and counters that with what a different Committee in the House of Lords has found on the subject and explanations and reactions from different other UK politicians, and adds background material.
A second blog addresses the thorny issue how title swaps of plutonium from reprocessing will be influenced by Brexit. Again, Lowry extensively quotes from official answers Green MP Caroline Lucas received on Parliamentarian questions from the relevant responsible politicians.
This surfaces, amongst others, that special fissile material (e.g. plutonium left over from reprocessing in Sellafield) is collectively owned by Euratom, “but the operator with the legal title to the material has an ‘unlimited right of use and consumption’ over it, subject to their complying with the obligations imposed on them by the Treaty.” The Business and Industry department (BEIS) continues that Euratom’s overview will cease after Brexit, claiming that “These provisions will not have any practical impact on the day to day management and use of the material.”
Lowry then continues to analyse how this is fundamentally wrong and illustrates that with how Swedish plutonium from its closed R-1 reactor in Oskarshamn, now in the UK after reprocessing in Sellafield, is to be transferred into UK ownership, one of several of such transfers. This opens for me from this side of the Channel the concern that without Euratom overview, it becomes unclear what the long-term fate of this plutonium stockpile will be. Will it end up in MOX, will it have to be disposed of in a for now non-existing disposal in the UK, or may it be diverted to the UK’s military programme? The background documentation that Lowry gives only increases the picture of a lot of high-brow talk but little assurances.