Friday, 30 January 2015

Churchill was rightly wary of nuclear weapons‏

As we mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, who inspired the allied victory against Nazi fascism, one interesting aspect of his attitude to weapons of war  is  very interesting, and relevant for the contemporary debate over nuclear weapons.
As wartime leader, Churchill sanctioned and supported  the departure of many senior nuclear scientists to the US to work on the secret Manhattan atomic bomb project, initially developed  in case the German Nazi regime built their own nuclear WMDs, which , considering Hitler's lack of regard for the sanctity of human life in his murder of millions incarcerated to extermination camps, he may well have used.
But as the second World War  drew to a painful close in the middle of 2 1945, it became apparent the US-led atomic bomb project was being continued not to confront Nazi Germany, but Soviet Russia.
In his 2013 magisterial 500 plus page study, Churchill's Bomb: a hidden history of Britain's first nuclear weapons programme, Professor Graham Farmelo records ( at page 407) in December  1953 Churchill had a difference of view on the unique destructive power of nuclear weapons with US resident Eisenhower. the latter saw nuclear weapons developments as "just the latest improvement sin military weapons" but Churchill , after initially agreeing, changed his mind, insisting "the atomic weapon is something entirely new and terrible," just a year or so after Britain carried out its first atomic warhead  test in Australia.
In his statement on the first UK atomic bomb test in Australia,  Churchill, back in office as Prime Minister, told Parliament of his discovery of the secret nuclear weapons programme the post war Attlee Government had  pursued, saying:
 “As to the cost, I was astonished that well over 100 million pounds should be dibursed without Parliament being aware of it (Official Report, 23 October 1952  column 1271)
Our 21st century politicians should learn from some of Churchill's wise skepticism over nuclear weapons.

Clutching at Straws: The Iraq deception unveiled:

Jack Straw MP, former Labour Foreign Secretary at he time of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, asserted to Parliament yesterday: “For the avoidance of doubt, however, the whole Security Council judged in November 2002 that there was a threat to international peace and security from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

Firebrand  Respect MP, George Galloway, who had correctly predicted  mass chaos in Iraq if the invasion went ahead, bellowed back: “Because they believed you and Colin Powell.”

Veteran Labour MP, on whose speech Straw had intervened, retorted:Because they were fooled.”
Flynn had been about to reveal, when Straw executed his disruptive intervention, that Straw and Blair had already known that Saddam’s Iraq  no longer had WMDS in the autumn of 2002, when the United Nations was hoodwinked. He was in full flow pointing out: “We are being denied the truth. I find it astonishing that the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) does not agree there were no weapons of mass destruction. It is amazing if he still believes there was an imminent threat to British territory. I have a document—I have no time to go into its detail—referenced by Tony Blair as evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the threat posed. It concerns a meeting on 22 August 1995 at which the principal person giving evidence was a General Hussein Kamal. For goodness’ sake, read the document!”

What was behind this claim? You can read the full  15 page text of the document Flynn flourished in the House of Commons here:

But what was its provenance? Immediately below I reproduce an exchange between the editor of  media-watching  group, Media Lense, and the Today  Programe over an item on Iraqi  WMD claims several months before the now notorious  sexed up claims  by Andrew Gilligan on the same programme ( it also involved Gilligan, then the today Programme defence  specialist)


Today item on Iraqi defectorMedia Lens editor editor at
Mon Mar 3 19:26:40 GMT 2003    

·         Previous message: [Media-watch] FW: Bombing of Iraq

·         Next message: [Media-watch] Today item on Iraqi defector



Don't suppose anyone on this list has access to a transcript from last Friday's

Today programme from about 0750? I'd like to see

just what coverage they gave to the late Iraqi defector Hussein Kamel and his

testimony regarding Iraqi's "weapons of mass destruction". Reliable defector or

not, either way recent revelations re: the Kamel debriefing by UN weapons

inspectors undermine Bush and Blair. But the story seems to have virtually sunk

without trace (though there was a curious little article by Julian Borger in

Saturday's Guardian).


Please see the exchange below with Today editor

Kevin Marsh......


David Cromwell

Media Lens





From: Media Lens editor

[mailto:editor at] Sent: 03 March 2003 09:46To: Kevin

MarshSubject: Today programme on Iraqi defector Hussein Kamel

Dear Kevin Marsh,

The report below [from FAIR, previously posted, and not included here]

regarding Iraqi defector Hussein Kamel appears to be crucial regarding Iraq's

supposed weapons of mass destruction - the crux of the case for war, so Bush and

Blair tell us....

The Today programme picked this up last Friday - a very short item at 0638

between Edward Stourton and defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan. Virtually

nothing since then. It surely merits much closer attention.

I look forward to hearing from you.

regards,(Dr) David Cromwellco-editor, Media


3 March, 2003Thanks for this - we did, actually, do rather more than you

recall: we also covered the item at 0750 in an interview withou t defence

specialist, extracts from the document, and interview with Dan Plesch and an

interview with Rolf Ekeus who supervised the original debriefKJM



Remember, this was early March 2003, a few weeks before  the UK Parliament was to make its fateful vote to invade Iraq, based substantially on the believe Iraq  had WMDs, and was threatening to use them.



Here is an extraordinary, contemporary article about an article  in the International magazine Newsweek, that  broke the claims that Saddam had  already destroyed  his WMDs several years before 2003

What did Kamel Say?

Posted on 6 March 2003

Last week Newsweek reported that Hussein Kamel told the CIA that Iraq did destroy all its chemical and biological weapons. You’ll remember Kamal as the son-in-law who defected, became a Western informant, then stupidly went back to Iraq, where he was quickly executed.
Newsweek had been one of many publications that had held Kamel up as an information goldmine, one that proved Iraq was up to no good.
The Newsweek story failed to make clear how this information fit in with their years of other reporting.


 Nobody gives much guidance on how much of what we think about the programs is based on Kamel. Much of what he said was backed up by documents, so it can’t be all wrong.
March 3, 2003 Newsweek
Exclusive: The Defector’s Secrets
John Barry
Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.Kamel was Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law and had direct knowledge of what he claimed: for 10 years he had run Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs.
Saddam’s stone wall: Iraq still hasn’t satisfied the U.N. inspectors.(Saddam Hussein)(Irag shows no sign of changing its negative attitude toward weapons inspection by the United Nations)(Brief Article)
Gregory Beals John Barry
Earlier this month, a report by another U.N. body, the International Atomic Energy Agency, revealed that Iraq tried to revive its nuclear-weapons program after the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. When the agency demanded an explanation, Baghdad said an “unauthorized” program had been run by Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel, Saddam’s luckless son-in-law, who defected to Jordan in 1995 and then returned to Iraq, where he was killed. That effort now seems to have been shut down, and the IAEA is prepared to give Iraq a clean bill of health on nuclear weapons.
His secret weapon.(Saddam Hussein had a germ-warfare arsenal during Gulf War)
Christopher Dickey
No hurry: Iraq’s germ-warfare program finally came to light because of the defection on Aug. 8 of Saddam’s son-in-law Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel Hassan al-Majid, whom Ekeus describes as “the mastermind of the whole biological-weapons program.” With Kamel prepared to spill Saddam’s secrets, the Iraqis suddenly provided Ekeus with reams of information on their outlawed program. The defection will apparently not lead to Saddam’s downfall in the near future. Once again, the dictator was crushing any potential challengers at home. And given the lack of an acceptable successor to Saddam, even U.S. allies in the Middle East were in no hurry to see him fall, as long as he remains politically and militarily weakened.
But the forced revelations have deprived Saddam of his most potent secret weapon. “They kept biology as the prize,” Ekeus told Newsweek. He said the Iraqi strategy was to get economic sanctions fitted without revealing the secret of the biological weapons. Germ warfare could have given Saddam “an ideal strategic weapon,” Ekeus said, assuming he had an effective longrange delivery method. Delivered secretly, it also could have been “the ideal terrorism weapon.” Now if Iraq wants to escape from the economic sanctions that are choking it, Baghdad will have to prove that it has given up its doomsday weapons.
RELATED ARTICLE: Doomsday Arsenal
Iraq now concedes its program to make weapons of mass destruction was far more advanced than it admitted before.
* Biological: Outsiders learned for the first time that anthrax germs and botulism poisons were actually loaded into Iraqi missile warheads and bombs. If inhaled, both agents kill by destroying the ability to breathe. Iraq also loaded a little-known fungal poison called aflatoxin, which may cause cancer, and it experimented with infectious viruses.
* Nuclear: Baghdad also provided new information showing that its nuclear program was more advanced than the allies knew. In August 1990, the month it invaded Kuwait, Iraq reportedly began a crash program to produce a nuclear weapon within a year. It failed.
* Chemical: Iraq’s supply of mustard gas and nerve agents such as sarin was well known, having been used in combat against Iran and Kurdish rebels. Mustard burns skin and lungs but is much less lethal than sarin, which paralyzes.

Defector’s testimony confuses case against Iraq.
By Julian Borger in Washington.
03/01/2003 The Guardian 

Hussein Kamel, the former head of Iraq’s weapons programmes whose 1995 defection has been portrayed by the US and Britain as evidence of Iraqi deceit and the futility of inspections, was a “consummate liar”, according to the last weapons inspector to interrogate him.
The transcript of the interrogation, leaked this week to Newsweek magazine and seen by the Guardian, makes it clear that the defector’s testimony on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was inconclusive and often misleading.
The emergence of the classified statements weakens the case the US and Britain has tried to build against Saddam Hussein, in which Kamel’s defection has been used to bolster claims that Iraq still has thousands of tonnes of chemical and biological weapons for which it has not accounted.
They reveal that Kamel, who was President Saddam’s son-in-law, told UN inspectors that Iraq had destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons and abandoned its nuclear programme after the Gulf war. But he said blueprints, documents, computer files and moulds for missile parts had been hidden.
Rolf Ekeus, the former chief UN weapons inspector who oversaw the interrogation in August 1995, said much of the chemical arsenal had been destroyed by the inspectors, not Baghdad.
Mr Ekeus agreed that the Iraqi government had probably eliminated its biological arsenal but said he remained convinced that “seed stocks” of bacteria had been retained as well as growth media and fermenters so it could quickly reconstitute its arsenal.
Kamel, who had been the director of Iraq’s military industrial establishment, was assassinated soon after his mysterious decision to return to Iraq just weeks after his high-profile defection.
The US and British governments have pointed to the defection to emphasise the extent of Iraq’s weapons programmes and the inherent weakness of inspections.
But Mr Ekeus pointed out that Unscom, the UN special commission on Iraq, had already discovered a lot about the Iraqi pre-war biological programme earlier that year, forcing Baghdad’s admission in July, a month before Kamel’s defection, that it had pursued germ warfare.
The transcript of Kamel’s interrogation reveals a far more ambiguous picture than the one portrayed in Washington and London.
“Kamel was a consummate liar,” Mr Ekeus said.
While the transcript of the interrogation makes it clear that the defection was less than a breakthrough, it had a psychological impact on Baghdad. The Iraqi government, unsure what he was going to tell the inspectors, became much more forthcoming.
Before Mr Ekeus arrived in Amman to interrogate Kamel, the Iraqis invited him to Baghdad to hand over documents and then took him to Kamel’s chicken farm where several metal containers full of documents had been buried.
“They wanted to blame it all on Kamel,” Mr Ekeus said. “But Kamel was just carrying out the government’s policy.”


In light of this, how did Tony Blair report to Parliament - in the debate and fateful vote that  finally took us to war -  what the British Government ( including Straw ) knew of  the Hussein Kamal claims?


18 Mar 2003 : Column 760


[Relevant document: The Fourth Report from the International Development Committee, on Preparing for the humanitarian consequences of possible military action against Iraq (HC444-I).] Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I have to inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith).

12.35 pm


The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I beg to move,

In August, it provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week later, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a far more extensive biological weapons programme and, for the first time, said that Iraq had weaponised the programme—something that Saddam had always strenuously denied. All this had been happening while the inspectors were in Iraq.
Kamal also revealed Iraq's crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in the 1990s. Iraq was then forced to release documents that showed just how extensive those programmes were. In November 1996, Jordan intercepted prohibited components for missiles

18 Mar 2003 : Column 762
that could be used for weapons of mass destruction. Then a further "full and final declaration" was made. That, too, turned out to be false.
A  week later, Llew Smith MP, a Labour back bencher, and opponent of the war, for whom I then worked, asked  Prime Minister Blair this question:

26 Mar 2003 : Column 235W



  Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to his statement of 18 March 2003, Official Report, columns 761–62, on the information provided by Hussein Kamal on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, if he will place in the Library the text of the interview. [104714]

The Prime Minister: Following his defection, Hussein Kamal was interviewed by UNSCOM and by a number of other agencies. Details concerning the interviews were made available to us on a confidential basis. The UK was not provided with transcripts of the interviews.

But Blair inexplicably did I not find time to share with Parliament the other revelation made by Kamel viz:  “all weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed”.

It was a disgraceful deception of Parliament; but other MPs should have been less gullible, more inquisitive, and have scrutinized Government assertions with greater commitment by demanding evidence. Pity they didn’t: if they had, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and 179  brave British  military may still be alive today. And many more would not be maimed for life.9h ago13:44

Here are two more snippets from the debate.


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It is not only the Russians that have had problems with dangerous polonium

Newspaper readers this week will have  been shocked at the front page expose of details of the Russian Government's apparent murder of one of its own former spooks, Alexander Litvinenko,  by radioactive polonium poisoning ( eg "An Act of nuclear terrorism that put thousands at risk," Independent, 28 January).
They may also be shocked that in the early years of developing the predecessor to the Trident nuclear WMD, our nuclear boffins  had a terrible accident at Sellafield ( then called Windscale) when trying to produce  polonium - by irradiating bismuth oxide cartridges - in the iconic Windscale piles, resulting in the widespread polonium contamination of north west England in October 1957.
The official history of the accident, by the late Lorna Arnold,  ( published in 1992), revealed ( at page 97) that following the accident polonium pollution was detected within days in northern Europe. Samples were collected in Copenhagen, Oslo, Bonn, and The Hague and analysed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority  scientists at Harwell  near Oxford.
A paper revealing this was published, ironically considering the purpose of Sellafield in the atomic bomb programme, by Dr John Dunster, chief health physicist for UKAEA at Sellafield, at the United Nations' Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy conference in Geneva, in 1958. Perhaps it was to smokescreen the real military nuclear materials production purposes of the Windscale piles.
So it is not only the Russians that have  had problems with dangerous polonium.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

How not to scrutinise a £ multi-billion energy project

I submitted this letter to the Western Mail, Wales' national newspaper, today:
You report Keith Parker, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, as saying of the Westminster government decision to support a new nuclear power plant in Wales: “This is a positive step in securing the UK’s long-term electricity supply and carbon-reduction targets.” (“Decision paves the way for further decisions that could see go-ahead given for Wylfa power station in 2018,” 29 January)

Western Mail readers deserve to know the nature of the Parliamentary scrutiny that has taken place to endorse this ministerial decision by the Secretary of State for Energy, Ed Davey.

On 21 January, a committee of the House of Commons ( The 9th Delegated Legislation Committee) spent a grand total of 17 minutes examining the decision in favour of  the merits of Wylfa Newydd on Angelsey.

(Draft Justification Decision (Generation of Electricity by the UK ABWR Nuclear Reactor) Regulations 2015;

A few days later , on  27 January, the matter was “examined” in the House of Lords, led by junior energy minister, Baroness Verma, who observed of the project: "it must first undergo a high-level assessment to determine whether its economic, social or other benefits outweigh the health detriment that it may cause.”

The entire Lords examination lasted 12 minutes. ie less than 30 minutes between two Houses of Parliament. That is surely a scandal!

Baroness Verma also asserted to peers: “We considered the risk of detriments arising from an accident or terrorist incident. Such possible detriments already exist, and the risk of such incidents should be seen in the context of the regulatory regime, which is intended to prevent accidents and protect against terrorist attack. We are confident in the regulatory regimes for the safety and security of civil nuclear installations and materials in the UK, and consider that the likelihood of an accident or other incident giving rise to a release of radioactive material is very small.”

(Justification Decision (Generation of Electricity by the UK ABWR Nuclear Reactor) Regulations 2015

I think in the current circumstances of terrorist threats worldwide, including the growth of personal access to drones, many people in Wales might find this  very complacent.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Supping with the House of Saud

This week Prince Charles, David Cameron and President Obama are all visited Saudi Arabia to show their respects to the Saudi Royal Family following the death, by natural causes last week, of King Abdullah, at the age of 90.

Also last week, a Burmese immigrant woman, Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim, died in Saudi Arabia, beheaded by an executioner on a public street in the Muslim holy city of Mecca . Her gruesome death was filmed and leaked, and  has been posted on line by the respected US news organization, CNN. ( The desert kingdom  executed 87 people in 2014, most by beheading.
On 23 January 2015 Foreign Office minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns told Lib Dem peer Lord AveburyCurrently there are no sanctions in place for Saudi Arabia”  for legislation providing for sentences of cruel and unusual punishments adding “and we have not considered imposing them on Saudi Arabia.”Nine days earlier, on 14 January, Labour MPs Roger Godsiff was told by Business minister Matthew Hancock, in response to his question asking  what steps the Government  takes to ensure that equipment for which arms export licences to Saudi Arabia have been granted is not used for internal repression “Exports to Saudi Arabia continue to be subject to close scrutiny, in particular under Criterion Two which concerns the ‘respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country of final destination as well as respect by that country for international humanitarian law’.

 A few months earlier. 6 November  last year, in a written answer, Baroness  Anelay told The Bishop of CoventryThe death penalty undermines human dignity and its abolition is a human rights priority for the UK. Government Ministers, our Ambassador in Riyadh and officials from our Embassy raise the issue of the death penalty with the Saudi authorities, both bilaterally and through the EU. We recognise that total abolition of the death penalty is unlikely in Saudi Arabia in the near future.  Our focus is therefore on the introduction of EU minimum standards for the death penalty as a first step. “

 So the barbarism of beheading can continue, as long as the medieval Saudi royal family implement it  applying "EU minimum standards”, whatever they may be. Unbelievable

Monday, 26 January 2015

Fracking's hidden hazard of gender-bender chemicals and radiation risks

Today the influential Environmental Audit Committee published an important report analysis on the environmental impact of fracking. (

Below are the sections commenting on my own written evidence.

37. Dr David Lowry also raised a concern about endocrine disruptors, noting findings of “higher levels of hormone disrupting activity in water located near fracking wells than in areas without drilling” in the United States.85 In a letter to Dr Lowry the Environment Agency stated that it was “aware of the use of endocrine disrupters in some parts of the USA and the potential link to shale gas fracking there … The Environment Agency will not authorise the use of substances hazardous to groundwater in hydraulic fracturing.”86

85 Dr David Lowry (FRA059)
86 Unpublished letter

 Dr David Lowry raised the concern of radiation risk from radon gas which might be released during fracking, referring to Public Health England’s Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposure to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of Shale Gas Extraction which concluded that there is “the potential for radon gas to be present in natural gas extracted from UK shale."130 The Geological Society noted concerns relating to mobilisation of natural uranium but stated “we are not aware of any evidence of harm.”131 No Hot Air believed that “refusing to access local resources of natural gas and oil … avoids the significant and proven positive health impacts of lowering air pollution from … coal generation.”132 We discussed concerns relating to endocrine disruptors above (paragraph 37).

130 Dr David Lowry (FRA059)
131 The Geological Society (FRA003) para 9
132 No Hot Air (FRA030) para 2

The Environment Agency set out additional requirements:
For a site that is planning to undertake hydraulic fracturing, the following permits and permissions are likely to be required:
• A permit for the management of extractive waste (also known as ‘mining waste’) will always be required where a new well is being drilled and waste needs to be managed.
• A notice under the Water Resources Act to ‘construct a boring for the purposes of searching for or extracting minerals’. The notice will set out details of the well design and construction.
A permit for a radioactive substances activity to manage Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials from a well that is producing oil or gas.

64. The existing regime is complex and whilst we welcome the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive’s joint working strategy, Working together to regulate unconventional oil and gas developments,173 it remains to be seen whether this will ensure effective regulatory co-ordination across all the relevant bodies and departments. A joint strategy concerning the regulation of unconventional oil and gas signed by all relevant national and local departments and agencies must be developed and published.

71. There must be clear and accessible public disclosure on the chemicals used in the exploration and production of shale gas, and the risks they potentially pose.


Written evidence submitted by Dr David Lowry

31 January 2014
There are a number of environmental health impacts the Environmental Audit Committee ought to examine, especially because the issue has been given little attention in the UK fracking debate.
I have set out some details below, along with some supporting articles. This should help ministers develop environmental protection policy re. fracking through being evidence-led, as the Environment Secretary affirmed is the Government  position to the select committee.
On 13 August 2014, a team of experienced research scientists presented the fruit of new research on fracking hazards to the 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
Dr William Stringfellow, an environmental engineer at the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported his research team – jointly with the University of the Pacific - had scoured databases and reports to compile a list of substances commonly used in fracking, including gelling agents to thicken the fluids, biocides to keep microbes from growing, sand to prop open tiny cracks in the rocks and compounds to prevent pipe corrosion.
His team found (
that most fracking compounds will require treatment before being released to the environment, and also  identified eight substances, including biocides, as being particularly toxic to mammals.
Also, late in 2013, academic researchers at the University of Missouri, released the results of research they  had conducted into the known chemicals used in fracking. Their research paper, Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region, published in the journal Endocrinology.( Volume 155 Issue 3 - March 2014, found higher levels of hormone-disrupting ('gender-bender) activity in water located near fracking wells than in areas without drilling.
Endocrine disruptors interfere with the body's endocrine system, which controls numerous body functions with hormones such as the female hormone estrogen and the male hormone androgen. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as those studied in the MU research, has been linked by other research to cancer, birth defects and infertility.
Dr Susan Nagel, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health at the MU School of Medicine, put it starkly: ”More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function. With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure."
In addition, there is the radiation risk from radon gas released during fracking.
One conclusion in the report published in March this year by the public health watchdog, Public Health England, in their  Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposure to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of Shale Gas Extraction, states:"If the natural gas delivery point were to be close to the extraction point with a short transit time, radon present in the natural gas would have little time to decay ... there is therefore, the potential for radon gas to be present in natural gas extracted from UK shale."

Radon is unquestionably the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Moreover, Professor, James W. Ring, Winslow Professor of Physics Emeritus, Hamilton College in New York State stresses:
"The radon and natural gas coming from the shale mix together and travel together as the gas is piped to customers. This is a serious health hazard, as radon - being a gas - is breathed into the lungs and lodges there to decay, doing damage to the lungʼs tissue and eventually leading to lung cancer."

Hence there is undoubtedly a risk of radon gas being pumped into citizens' homes as part of the shale gas stream. Unless the gas is stored for up to a month to allow the radon's radioactivity to naturally reduce, this is potentially very dangerous.( a half-life of 3.8 days. Using the general rule of thumb of 10 half-lives to decay to 1/1000 of original concentration, that would be 38 days, or roughly one month, depending on how radioactive it was to start.)

The Radon Council, formed in 1990, is an independent non-profit making self-regulatory body for the radon protection industry. Its formation was welcomed in the Interim Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Indoor Pollution, which called upon industry to provide a solution to the radon problem. The first objectives were to identify the “cowboy” operators and dubious training courses then in practice.  Later there followed a first edition of a training manual and an agreed Code of Practice for the industry.
It does not seem ministers have read any of the Radon Council’s literature, so gung-ho are they for fracking!
At the end of July the Communities Department published its Revision of building regulation policy on radon. In the impact assessment it explains the reason for the revised regulation is:
“Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas linked to lung cancer. Alongside a health and awareness programme and testing and remediation of existing buildings, current Government policy includes targeted intervention through the Building Regulations which requires radon protection in new buildings in areas of elevated radon risk….We intend that the Building Regulations and supporting statutory guidance is clear on current radon risks, and ensures buildings are fitted with proportionate measures to prevent the ingress of radon and thus reduce radon-related lung cancers. ”


It later adds “The respective cumulative risks of lung cancer [from radon exposure] affecting people by age 75 years in the UK at 100 and 200 Bq m-3 are 0.42% and 0.47% for non-smokers and 17% and 19% for continuing smokers.”

It also states boldly: “The chosen policy will maintain a targeted regulatory intervention (aligned to the most up-to-date radon maps), to ensure that all buildings in higher-risk areas incorporate appropriate radon measures.”

In light of this clear precautionary approach, it is odd that all ministers seem to be cheerleading for expanded fracking, despite its possible radon risk.

In January 2012 the European Commission Energy Directorate released a 100-page report on ‘Unconventional Gas in Europe,’ primarily assessing the situation in France, Germany, Poland and Sweden. It has a section on environmental liability, but no mention of radon pollution.

Nuclear waste too

In addition, both RWMA in the US and the internationally respected Norwegian environmental consultancy, DNV (Det Norske Veritas have identified radioactive waste contamination as one problem with fracking, arising from contaminated rock cuttings and cores to which have the potential for exposure to radioactivity on health. Risks relating to NORM (naturally occurring radioactive materials) contaminated downhole and surface equipment should also be considered, both suggest.

(Risk Management of Shale Gas Developments and Operations January 2013 DNV-RP-U301;

The Commission report also records that in Sweden, the handling of radioactive shales requires a permit in accordance with the Radiation Protection Act and the Radiation Protection Ordinance. This is the case when the uranium content exceeds 80 ppm (parts per million), it points out. This permit is granted by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. “Non-compliance with the permit can lead to it being revoked and, if done intentionally, the responsible person can be fined or even imprisoned,” it warns.

It adds that in Sweden, the possible occurrence of radioactive materials (NORMS), heavy metals or saline brines is taken into account by the permit for the environmentally hazardous activity, required for the disposal of waste water.

3 January 2015