Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Nuclear Free days before 9/11

David Lowry's Acceptance Speech
CarnVaha 2001, 8 September 2001

David Lowry at CarnVaha 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."]

Thursday, 23 May 2013

1,000,000,000,000 Euros


1,000,000,000,000 Euros
(one million million) lost annually to tax evasion in EU
mean it’s a taxing time for fairness
1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) are lost to tax evasion each year in the member countries of the EU, according to a message to the EU by Herman van Rompuy the President of the European Council in April. How can this gigantic rip-off by big business be clawed  back?
As Chancellor George Osborne dreams up ever more draconian ways to punish the poor for the  selfish and immoral actions of the big  banks that created the  current economic crisis, Labour Leader Ed Miliband outlined  his “fairness” alternatives in his Five Labour Priorities in response to May’s Queen’s Speech, including:

•A Fair Deal on tax. Alongside implementing Labour’s five point plan for jobs and growth, Labour’s Finance Bill would reverse tax cuts for people earning over £150,000 a year. We would use that money to help pensioners on fixed incomes hit by the “granny tax” and we would restore cuts in tax credits which have hit families.

It is also Big Business – such as US companies Google, Amazon and Facebook-  that  is making the crisis worse  by their massive avoidance of paying taxes on profits they earn from trading in the UK.
Ed Miliband recently rightly said: “People will be shocked by the evidence that Google is going to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying their fair share of tax…..It is evidence of a culture of corporate irresponsibility among certain firms which is totally unacceptable.”
He added “This It comes at a time when ordinary families are seeing services cut, their taxes rising and so many businesses are struggling to make ends meet and are actually doing the right thing and paying their fair share of taxes.“As so often under this Government, I think it is evidence of one rule for those at the top and another rule for everyone else.
Meanwhile, in the EU, the Nordic nations are leading the  campaign to change the taxation regime to make it  much fairer for the  average citizen. Seven Nordic countries ( Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland and the Faroe Islands)  have a head start on the rest of the EU as they have already secured bilateral information exchange agreements with 40 tax havens.
Cameron and Osborne were  under political pressure to open up tax  havens used  by British companies in such off shore havens as The Channel Islands, Isle of Man, the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, The Bahamas, and  Luxembourg  and Lichtenstein  in Europe, at the meeting of the European Council of Ministers in Brussels on 22 May
Even in Sweden, a country of only 9 million people, some $7 billion that should go to the government for spending on social programme each year are lost through tax evasion.
The Tax Justice Network estimates that since the 1970s $21-$32 trillion of unrecorded offshore wealth was channelled through tax havens.
Robin Hood Tax
One way  money can be clawed  back  from our greedy  banks is to  implement  a redistributive tax  named  after the famous  Robin Hood, the progressive highwayman who  appropriated ill-gotten gains form the rich barons, to help the poor workers and underemployed of Sherwood Forest in Nottingham during the middle ages.
A Robin Hood tax on the financial sector has the power to raise £hundreds of billions every year globally. It could give a vital boost to the heath service, our schools, and the fight against child poverty and climate change.
Experts have calculated that even a tiny tax on the financial sector can generate £20 billion annually in the UK alone.
In March two years ago Labour MEPs won the support of their international colleagues in their campaign for a Robin Hood tax to ensure that the financial services sector pays its fair share, when the European Parliament adopted a position backing the idea of a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT).
And a few months later, the European Commission proposed draft law for an FTT, backed by Labour’s then  leader in the EP, Arlene McCarthy, who has said "Millions of people have made it clear that they would like to see a Robin Hood Tax that uses a very small levy on financial markets to support good causes both at home and abroad.
The bloated banks can afford it. The tax systems are in place to collect it.  It is an idea for which the time has come. As its backers claim ”Not complicated. Just brilliant!”
EU action
At the most recent monthly meeting of EU finance and budget ministers and in the planning  for  the upcoming G8 meeting of the world’s richest economies, to chaired by the UK next month in Northern Ireland, tax fairness issues  have dominated the agenda, with  tax evasion and tax fraud  at the top.
But we still seem far from progress, as Conservative ministers like Cameron  and Osborne, don’t want to upset their friends in Big  Business and Big Banks but the outcomes were minimal. They are often pay masters for the Tory party too.
And two EU tax havens, Austria and Luxembourg, are also obstructing progress, while Socialist-led France has expressed support for developing EU criteria and a blacklist of “non-cooperative jurisdictions”.

British action

As well as action in the EU, we need to  take action at home, to ensure Welsh taxpayers are getting a fair deal, and the tax revenues from big business is fully collected.

Labour MP, and former minister, Michael Meacher last September presented the General Anti-Tax Avoidance Principle Bill  to Parliament in Westminster, which would Introduce a principle that any financial arrangements made by a company or  individual should not have as their primary purpose the avoidance of tax.

It is incredible that such a moral principle needs to be put into law. That says something about the moral basis of some of our Big Banks and Big Businesses


Friday, 17 May 2013

Fracking, the lurking radiation risk‏

I sent this to the  conservative  weekly magazine, The Spectator, but they declined to publish it, so in the spirit of  openness and debate I thought I would post it  here.
The Editor, letters, The Spectator
18 May 2013

Along with other pro-fracking  advocates, Peter Lilley, dismisses concerns over fracking as "scare stories." ("The only way is shale," 11 May) (
But one aspect of fracking that remains unaddressed in the UK is the prospective human health hazard of using fracked shale gas. Conservative Heath minister Anna Soubry, hardly a spreader of scare stories, told Labour MP Paul Flynn earlier this year that: 
" The Health Protection Agency [now Public Health England] is currently completing an initial assessment of the potential areas of public health impact that might arise from the environmental aspects of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"). The study, which considers a range of natural and man-made chemicals and contaminants, including radon gas, is currently in draft with an intention to publish it in the near future. The review will include a study on how radon levels in homes may be affected." (
It remains unpublished to date. Mr Flynn has  since asked when it will be published, but has not yet received an answer.
PHE should be concerned to evaluate the potential risks of radon gas being pumped into citizens’ homes as part of the shale gas stream. Unless the gas is stored for several days to allow the radon's radioactivity to naturally reduce, this is potentially very dangerous.
Radon is unquestionably the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Initially radon released from its virtually sealed underground locations will be in monatomic suspension, but then it accretes onto dust particles, pipework, etc, and some of it may remain suspended in the gas and come out in our cookers. The  current concern about how much radon is likely to be piped into people's kitchens was spurred by a report  last year by Dr Marvin Resnikoff, of Radioactive Waste Management Associates, now based in Vermont, but for many years based in Brooklyn, New York.

Dr Resnikoff estimated radon levels from the Marcellus gas field - the nearest one being exploited to New York - as up to 70 times the average. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) last autumn  released a report measuring actual levels of radon at a handful of Marcellus wells, having been apparently upset by Dr Resnikoff’s charge that USGS  had  been a “tool” of industry” in downplaying  possible hazards.

This is too important a debate for  mere name calling: what is needed is transparency and full openness in publication of analyses, whether they suite the pro-or anti-fracking interests respectively. The public surely demand the unadulterated facts. Public Health England's forthcoming report is eagerly awaited..

Dr David Lowry

Environmental policy and research consultant, Stoneleigh

Friday, 10 May 2013

Thatcher, Thatcher, truth snatcher

I tried to send the letter below to the  left wing  fortnightly, Tribune. Unfortunately, for a publication that purports to provide information and comment amongst left-leaning readers, it has neither a working phone nor a working e-mail system, nor has had for weeks. Revolution postponed....... due to technical difficulties!

So I am posting the letter on my blog instead.

To The Editor, Tribune:

Your extensive coverage of the damage caused by Mrs Thatcher overlooked two scandalously salient acts of political recklessness she perpetrated.(April 19- May 2)

Mrs Thatcher used the nuclear industry to undermine the miners in the dispute in the early 1980s. She planned it  over four years earlier, something we  know from the minutes of the Cabinet ministerial Committee on Economic Strategy (E(79) held on 23 October 1979, barely a few months into Mrs Thatcher’s first term in power, initially leaked, and now  posted on the Thatcher Foundation web site.

They  record: “… a nuclear [energy]  programme would have the advantage of removing a substantial portion of electricity production from the dangers of disruption by industrial action by coal miners or transport workers.” (

The nuclear industry trades unions were complicit in Thatcher’s attack on the mineworkers, by running the Magnox reactors to their rattling  limits, and exacerbated a radioactive waste management  problem by creating wastes for which no proper storage had been prepared. The payback for today’s taxpayers is a bill of £70 billion - and rising -  for the  clean-up, a substantial proportion of which was due to Thatcher's action in 1984.

In Thatcher’s own memoirs, The Downing Street Years , a 915-page volume covering her time as prime minister, Thatcher does not even once mention her government’s sales of arms and military equipment to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

As the 1992-93 Scott Inquiry into arms-to-Iraq uncovered, until the time Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Baghdad had been a profitable recipient of U.K. arms for over a decade.

From 1980 to 1990 under Thatcher’s Cabinet, the United Kingdom provided £3.5 billion in trade credits to Iraq. This support continued on either side of Saddam’s ordering the poison gassing of Iranian conscript troops in 1983-84, and of his own people in Halabja, Kurdistan, in 1988, killing 5,000 innocent civilians.

Trade export credits to Iraq rose from £175 million in 1987 (before Halabja) to £340 million after Halabja, according to a press release from the then Department for Trade and Industry. Five months after the Halabja massacre, Thatcher’s foreign secretary, Sir Geoffrey (now Lord) Howe, noted in a report to Thatcher that with the August 1988 Iran-Iraq peace deal agreed, “opportunities for sales of defence equipment to Iran and Iraq will be considerable.”

In the months running up to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, and with his record of poison gas use publicly known, Thatcher’s government sold Iraq three tons of sodium cyanide and sodium sulphide (used as nerve-gas antidotes), dual-use civilian-military equipment including Matrix Churchill.

I was seriously  shocked to read - in Tribune of all magazines -  a special pleading by Hugh Scallion, general secretary  of the shipbuilding and engineering  unions,  that £100 billion of taxpayers’ money be devoted to replacing the Trident  nuclear WMD system – when there are  huge social priorities for public investment, and Trident undermines not  enhances our  national security, as well as being illegal.

They would join the nuclear industry  unions in ignominy in their backing of Thatcher if they succeed in  getting Trident investment ahead of schools, hospitals, housing, skills training and environmental  improvement.

Thatcher also replaced Polaris with Trident in 1980. 


Dr David Lowry

[former director of the European Proliferation Information Centre (EPIC), London]

Monday, 6 May 2013

Disarming Obligations

This letter was published in abridged form by The Times. 

I have pasted the original as submitted below.



How best to arm Britain in a changing world

The Times, LETTERS, 3 May 2013

Sir, If I may be permitted to intervene in the debate between General Sir Hugh Beach (letter, Apr 23), Admiral Lord West of Spithead (Apr 26), Field Marshal Lord Bramall (Apr 30) and Vice-Admiral Sir James Jungius (May 2) on Trident. Each overlooks the United Kingdom’s longstanding obligations to negotiate nuclear disarmament in a multilateral forum.
The Foreign Office’s own website states, without qualification, in respect of membership of the 1970 Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT): “States that have nuclear weapons (China, France, Russia, UK and US) agree to work towards nuclear disarmament.”
But the UK, which drafted the NPT in conjunction with the United States and former Soviet Union between 1966-68, in not entering a single nuclear weapon into multilateral disarmament negotiations since the NPT came into force 43 years ago, is also in flagrant breach of Article 6.
Lord West (jointly with Dr Lewis) also mentioned dangers from “rogue states” such as North Korea. But they overlook the fact that North Korea’s Yongbyon plutonium production reactor was built from the publicly available blueprint of the Calder Hall plutonium production reactor at Sellafield. The UK obsession with nuclear technology — civil and military — since the 1950s has had serious security consequences.
Dr David Lowry
Former director, European Proliferation Information Centre

The Editor, letters, The  Times 



If I may be  permitted to intervene on the  Letters page debate between General Sir Hugh Beach (Apr 23), Admiral Lord West of Spithead (Apr 26), Field Marshall Lord Bramall (Apr 30) and Vice-Admiral Sir James Jungus (May 2) on Trident, each overlooks the United Kingdom’s long standing obligations to negotiate nuclear disarmament in a multilateral forum.. 

The Foreign Office’s own web site states, without qualification, in respect of membership of the 1970 Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), currently under review  by its 189 member states in Geneva, at a two week long meeting due to end on 3 May “States that have nuclear weapons (China, France, Russia, UK and US) agree to work towards nuclear disarmament.”  (

But the UK, which actually drafted the NPT in conjunction with  the United  States and former Soviet Union between 1966-68, in not entering a single nuclear weapon into multilateral disarmament negotiations  since the NPT  came into force 43  years ago, is also in flagrant breach of  Article 6, which reads in part :

"Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

Lord West ( jointly with Dr Lewis) also mentioned dangers from “rogue states” such as North Korea. But they overlook the fact that North Korea’s Yongbyon plutonium production reactor  was built from the publicly available  blueprint of the Calder Hall plutonium production reactor at Sellafield, which was also used primarily to produce plutonium for the UK  nuclear weapons programme until closed in 2003.( Hansard 25 May 1994 vol 244 c186W,

North Korea’s other method of producing  its enriched uranium nuclear explosives, via its uranium enrichment plant, also originated  from the UK. The blueprints were stolen by Pakistani scientist, Dr A.Q.Khan, from the URENCO  enrichment plant  (one third owned by the UK) in Holland in the early 1970s. Pakistan subsequently sold the technology to Iran, who later exchanged  for North Korean Nodong missiles.

 A technical delegation from the A Q Khan Research Labs visited Pyongyang in  the summer of 1996. The secret enrichment plant was said to  based in caves near Kumch’ang-ni, 100 miles north of Pyonyang, some thirty miles north west of the plutonium production reactor at Yongbon. Defectors  have located the plant at Yongjo-ri, Taechon, Mount Chonma or Ha’gap 20 miles northeast of Yongbon-kun, where US satellite photos showed tunnel entrances  being built

Hwang Jang-yop, a former aid to President Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current North Korean President, who  became the highest ranking North Korean official to defect when he fled in 1997, revealed details  to Western intelligence investigators. ( source p.281 of  “Deception: Pakistan, The United States, and the Global Weapons Conspiracy, Atlantic Books, 2007, by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark).

The UK obsession with nuclear technology – civil and military - since the 1950s has had serious security consequences. Current plans by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to export  UK nuclear technology, unveiled a month ago, are seriously misguided.


Dr David Lowry
Former director, European Proliferation Information Centre (EPIC)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Future materials debut at Ecobuild

A version of this article appears in the new issue of Sustainable Building, for which I provide feature  articles monthly. You can see details of this Newzeye publication at: 


Future materials debut at Ecobuild

By Dr David Lowry

At Ecobuild 2013, held in March at the ExCel Exhibition Centre in London docklands, there was a centrepiece Innovation Zone stand featuring fascinating future materials for building and interior decoration, backed by the Technology Strategy Board,  business green innovator, Marks & Spencer, and the facility consultant architects.

Around the exhibition, many companies displayed their new products and innovations. Some, such as green roofs and  porous paving stones have already secured their niche markets.

But others, such as from foreign suppliers,  the Argio “clever brick” from Belgium, BatiPack cavity  blocks  made from Oriented Strand Board (OSB4) structural panels from France, and TPE environmentally-friendly lightweight, anti-static and anti-percussion  foaming materials made from polymers by the Microcell Composite Company in Taiwan, as well as UK  supplied  Hybrid  insulation panels by Chippenham -based Actis Insulation, Nanofloor vacuum insulation panels, which can take up  to five times less space, by Shropshire –based Nanopore, are breaking through in the new greener marketplace.

In a keynote session in the conference on “New Creative Horizons”, several cutting edge researchers and developers explained their breakthrough technologies.

Chris Sherwin, head of sustainability at design consultants Seymour Powell, in arguing for a “circular economy” - a programme driven by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF)  - pointed out that it was not only  new materials, but recycling  existing  materials that made  materials use smarter and more sustainable, revealing that currently floating in the Pacific ocean is a plastic bottle slick the size of Texas, which is a big pollution problem, but  could be put to recycle use.

The EMF is sponsoring Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, to give the keynote speech on the “circular economy”, on 19 June at the Royal Institution in  London.

Sherwin described some exciting developing trends, including use of biomimicry to grow furniture to order; smart carpet tiles that restore air quality, developed by commercial carpet specialist, Desso; and next generation thermostats, to redesign behaviour beyond materials.


Several ministers attended Ecobuild, and toured the exhibition as well as delivering speeches. It is a pity therefore that Communities minister for housing, Don Foster,  subsequently told  Labour MP Paul Flynn ( in a  written answer on 18 March) that DCLG  has “made no assessment of the use of bio-mimicry techniques to develop sustainable materials for use in the building construction sector.”
Dr Sascha Peters, ce of Haute Innovation in Berlin, who pointed out that 70% of all innovations are based on new materials, showcased a series of natural building materials developed by award-winning German manufacturer, Organoid Technologies,  including corn board for lightweight construction, wall panels from rice shells, fibres grown from mushrooms to make packaging materials, bricks from tea powder, and lamp shades from coffee grains
Dr Peters argued that “organic interest has jumped from supermarket to the factory,” giving examples such as garden furniture covered with cellulose  bacteria to make it  more weatherproof.

Other new materials discussed were light reflecting concrete (Blingcrete), new cellular metals (Hollomet), and textiles from tree bark (Barkcloth).

Dr Nick Grace, head of rapid prototyping at the Royal College of Art, unveiled  innovative uses of 3D printing  in manufacture of  new materials, revealing the liquid materials currently being developed are as valuble per unit of liquid as Dom Perignon champagne. But he warned the present  software and  print machines are  not smart enough to understand 3D instructions.

In discussion, which also included Chris Wise of Expedition Engineering,  it was agreed that it was better to  be design than materials driven in construction, and that “sustainability  needs to  be woven into design.”

More information can be obtained via the Modern Built Environment  Knowledge Transfer  Network


Science and Higher Education minister, David Willetts, said in a written answer that the UK has made a major contribution to graphene research, since its discovery in 2004 and the Nobel prize for Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov of Manchester University in 2010. The Government is investing £60 million in graphene, of which £38 million will be used to create a National Institute of Graphene Research at the University of Manchester.

Professor Novoselov, who is closely involved with the new institute, insists the money for it should not be diverted from Government funds for basic research, observing  “Scientists should be given freedom of their research, and once the new breakthroughs are identified, they should be given additional funding to advance it into technology.”

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) have also invested £10 million on linked manufacturing processes and technologies. Universities will be working with industrial partners including Dyson and BAE who are expected to provide an additional £12 million. We expect UK universities and businesses to benefit from the new €1 billion investment in graphene by the EU, Professor Geim added.

Graphene is a two dimensional material consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb or chicken wire structure. It is the thinnest material known and yet is also one of the strongest, 200 times stronger than steel. It conducts electricity as efficiently as copper and outperforms all other materials as a conductor of heat. Graphene is almost completely transparent, yet so dense that even the smallest atom helium cannot pass through it.

There are currently about 400 UK  graphene patents and some 4000  Chinese.

Source: Hansard, 7 February: Column 385W