Thursday, 19 November 2020

Boris Johnson plays truth or dare with nuclear power

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not a details man; and he often plays fast-and-loose with the truth. So it should not really come as a surprise that the document he issued in support of his ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ contains inaccuracies. (“Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, Cabinet Office, 19 November 2020; https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/936567/10_POINT_PLAN_BOOKLET.pdf”) I am sure he did not write it himself, so specialist officials who prepared it, have been prepared to write in his happy-go-lucky casual relation with the truth in the text they crafted. The section covering Point 3: Delivering New and Advanced Nuclear Power, is a good exemplar of a perpetuated inaccuracy by nuclear cheerleaders, who rewrite history for modern convenience. In the second paragraph of this section, its states: “The UK was home to the world’s first full-scale civil nuclear power station more than sixty years ago… “ The nuclear plants in question are not named, but sixty years ago there were only four nuclear power reactor plants operating in the UK. Two were experimental reactors in Scotland: the Dounreay Materials Test Reactor (DMTR) that went critical in May 1958; and the Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR), which achieved criticality on 14 November 1959.( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dounreay#Dounreay_Nuclear_Power_Development_Establishment) The only other two reactors operating were the Chapel Cross Magnox production reactor in Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, in 1959, which did generate electricity, but primarily was used to produce weapons-useable plutonium, and tritium from inserted lithium, to enhance hydrogen nuclear warhead explosions (https://www.secretscotla nd.org.uk/index.php/Secrets/ChapelcrossNuclearPowerStation). And Calder Hall, on the Sellafield site in Cumbria, which was opened on 17th October 1956 by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth 2nd (“60th anniversary of 'iconic' Calder Hall opening” (Monday 17 October http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk/news/60th-anniversary-of-iconic-Calder-Hall-opening-f6218524-267e-4edf-88a9-18ce43066fae-ds). The young Queen Elizabeth’s script writer penned the following for Her Majesty to say from the podium: “This new power, which has proved itself to be such a terrifying weapon of destruction, is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community." It was hailed as an "epoch-making" event by then Lord Privy Seal, Richard Butler; but it was, however, a gross deception of the British public. (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/films/1951to1964/filmpage_atomic.htm) In fact it was clearly stated at the time of the plant’s opening, in a remarkable little book entitled Calder Hall: The Story of Britain’s First Atomic Power Station, written by Kenneth Jay, and published in October 1956 by the Government’s Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell to mark Calder’s commissioning. Mr Jay wrote: “Major plants built for military purposes such as Calder Hall are being used as prototypes for civil plants . . . the plant has been designed as a dual-purpose plant to produce plutonium for military purposes as well as electric power . . . it would be wrong to pretend that the civil programme has not benefitted from, and is not to some extent dependent upon, the military programme." As it happens, on Monday this week I took part in a conference call with four officials from Radioactive Waste Management Limited (RWML)- responsible the long-term management/ disposal of the UK’s radioactive waste stockpile- arranged had complained about several factual misrepresentations in RWML’s digital and/or printed media materials. One of the misrepresentations of complained, was the persistent description of Calder Hall as a commercial or civil nuclear power plant. When we arrived at the discussion of this point, RWML head of Communications , Guy Esnouf, conceded I had been right all along, and henceforth they would describe Calder Hall correctly. So should Boris Johnson!

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