Thursday, 26 May 2016

Why Cameron should join Obama in Hiroshima



On Friday, President Obama will leave the G7 economic summit at Ise-Shima for a landmark visit to Hiroshima via the US base at Iwakuni to meet with officers of the US Marines and the Self-Defense Forces.

At Hiroshima the President  will made a joint address with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on what many media outlets have trailed will be a critical atomic appraisal of the future of nuclear weapons(“Abe to issue message in Hiroshima with Obama,” Chicago Tribune, May 24 2016

The Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, reports that Mr Abe has decided that he will also issue a message calling for nuclear disarmament

Abe, it adds, aims to boost once again the momentum for nuclear disarmament as the leaders of the only country that has used nuclear weapons and the only country hit by atomic bombs will together call on the international community to work toward a world without these weapons.

On Friday, Obama and Abe will offer flowers at the cenotaph for the atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park before delivering messages.

One of the other global visitors in Japan will be David Cameron. A motion currently before Parliament, submitted by veteran Labour backbencher, Paul Flynn, backed by Labour, Scottish and Welsh Nationalists and two independent MPs, reads that The House of Commons:


“welcomes the announcement by President Obama that he will visit Hiroshima to highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons; and encourages the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to join President Obama in visiting Hiroshima to support the Presidential pledge to achieve a world without nuclear weapons by entering British nuclear weapons into multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.”

But why should Mr Cameron join his fellow political leaders in Hiroshima? Surely Britain had nothing to do with the atomic immolation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Actually, although kittle known, it did.


It was revealed in the Japan Times that Britain supported the use of atomic bombs by the United States against Japan in World War II,  about a month before the first one was dropped on Hiroshima, according to documents recently declassified by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. ("Britain backed use of A-bomb against Japan: U.S. documents," 4 August 2013),


The newspaper revealed that the British government officially expressed its support for using the new weapon against Japan at the Combined Policy Committee meeting in Washington on July 4, 1945, on the development and control of nuclear energy. Britain referred to atomic bombs as Tube Alloys (T.A.), a codename it used for wartime research on nuclear weapons.

According to the declassified minutes, British Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson told the meeting chaired by U.S. Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, that the British government “concurred in the use of the T.A. weapon against Japan.”

“The Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States had agreed that T.A. weapons should be used by the United States against Japan, the agreement of the British Government having been communicated” by Wilson, the minutes said.

The committee was established based on the Quebec Agreement made in August 1943 by the United States, Britain and Canada on coordinated development of atomic weapons.

Britain’s official agreement on the use of atomic bombs came after U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill agreed at their September 1944 meeting in New York that an atomic bomb might be used against Japan when it was developed.


This is an additional reason why the UK  needs to show  some atomic atonement,  and get on with nuclear disarmament.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Fracking's radiation risk

North Yorkshire county council planning committee report on the application to drill using hydraulic fracturing of shale rock to obtain natural gas (“fracking”) at Kirby Misperton in the North Ridinghas been reported to be comprehensive in scope.

I have read the 252 page committee report, and it omits two key environmental and health aspects: release of radioactive radon gas into the natural gas stream, (although naturally occurring radioactive materials, otherwise known as NORM, are discussed at para 3.43, and by the Environment Agency - Yorkshire Area Oil and Gas Team submission at para 4.17; and radon is mentioned in passing at para 3.77) and use of endocrine disrupter fracking fluids.

This is what Public Health England’s final report Review of the potential Public Health Impacts of Exposures to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of Shale Gas Extraction Process - published in October 2014 -  stated: "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."  (

Extraordinarily, PHE scandalously stated in its response on 15 September 2015 to the consultation, that  it had “ no significant concerns regarding the risk to the health of the local population from the installation”.

Moreover, an article in the Washington Post on April 10 last  year (“Rise of deadly radon gas in Pennsylvania buildings linked to fracking industry,

(” reported a detailed study in the journal, Environmental Health Perspective, that revealed a “disturbing correlation” between unusually high levels of radon gas in mostly residences and fracking that has become the industry standard over the past decade.

The researchers found that, in the same areas of the state of Pennsylvania as the fracking operations, there was a generally higher reading of radon - with about 42% of the readings higher than what is considered safe by federal standards.

The researchers also discovered that radon levels spiked overall in 2004, at about the same time fracking activity began to pick up.

Over two years ago, 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.

 The planning committee should investigate and publicly report on these concerns.

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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Don't waste our future!

Here are some salient extracts from the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)’s new High Activity Waste (HAW) strategy, published on 16 May.

“Current UK policy classifies radioactive waste into categories depending on the nature and quantity of radioactivity they contain and whether they generate heat or not. The NDA (with support from the nuclear site regulators) advocates an approach where wastes are managed based on their best means of disposal rather than what waste category they fall into. The NDA is now moving towards a single radioactive waste strategy for its estate that will need to demonstrate how it will support all relevant policies in the UK. Our radioactive waste strategy will not replace the use of existing waste categories (e.g. ILW, LLW). It will also need to take into account the nature of wastes (radiological, chemical and physical properties) and the most appropriate waste management route while recognising the challenges posed by waste classification boundaries. Considerable stakeholder engagement will be required as the strategy develops over the next few years.

“The total lifetime packaged volume of the NDA’s HAW is 404,000 m3 (~87% of all UK HAW). About 75% of all the NDA’s HAW is from the Sellafield site and about 20% from the Magnox sites.

“The UK policy position recognises that some radioactive materials not currently classified as waste, including spent nuclear fuel, uranium and plutonium, may be managed as HAW if it is decided at some future time they are of no further use.

“It should be noted that transport of HAW is a particularly significant enabling step within the waste management lifecycle. The safe and secure movement of waste requires significant planning and specialised reusable transport containers.

“An interim store for packaged HAW is a robust engineered facility with a design life of typically 100 years that is resistant to foreseeable incidents such as seismic events and severe weather. Furthermore, an interim store system should provide protection for waste packages from potential external corrosion caused by ambient conditions including atmospheric salts, temperature and humidity levels which could have a long-term impact on the integrity of the package

“As the UK’s nuclear clean-up mission progresses, more and more packaged HAW will be held within interim storage facilities reflecting the current status of the waste retrievals, waste processing and indeed, the disposal programmes. Hence, the packaged HAW is of high intrinsic value in terms of environmental, safety and security benefit and cost and programme investment. Therefore it is highly appropriate that the industry takes the right precautions in managing the storage system and ensuring the waste packages remain in good condition to minimise the potential need for future rework

“the NDA will explore in more detail alternative management options for wastes at the ILW/LLW boundary including opportunities for HAW disposal to near-surface facilities, e.g. in support of integrated radioactive waste management

“As HAW is a complex management area the NDA evaluates the inventory as broken down into four distinct types of waste:

• Wet ILW

• Solid ILW

• Graphite


“Although at face value the objective of the HAW strategy is very simple it is not always possible to achieve this objective in a single step, direct approach. On occasions other complicating factors mean that the approach to achieving the objective needs to be undertaken in a staged manner. Some of the reasons for this include:

• The complex nature of some poorly characterised heterogeneous waste streams

• The condition of some raw waste storage facilities (and the need to make swift progress with retrieval operations)

• An evaluation of programme deliverability and prioritisation, which will include affordability considerations

“Therefore the NDA’s HAW strategy recognises the importance of supporting the required progress on managing legacy facilities, e.g. Sellafield legacy ponds and silos.

“Although at face value the objective of the HAW strategy is very simple it is not always possible to achieve this objective in a single step, direct approach. On occasions other complicating factors mean that the approach to achieving the objective needs to be undertaken in a staged manner. Some of the reasons for this include:

• The complex nature of some poorly characterised heterogeneous waste streams

• The condition of some raw waste storage facilities (and the need to make swift progress with retrieval operations)

• An evaluation of programme deliverability and prioritisation, which will include affordability considerations

“Therefore the NDA’s HAW strategy recognises the importance of supporting the required progress on managing legacy facilities, e.g. Sellafield legacy ponds and silos.

“Overall, the NDA believes there are opportunities at a strategic level to reduce risk (programme uncertainties, cost, etc.) in the HAW management programme for the NDA sites and also the potential to provide a step change in benefit. Most of the opportunities are likely to centre on improvements within the reference strategy, with an emphasis on effective use of the waste hierarchy.

“Areas for strategic improvement are targeted at significant risks such as Sellafield legacy plants, and of significant opportunity, for example, wastes that are close to the boundary between ILW and LLW specific activity level (boundary wastes) and sharing waste management infrastructure although in this case it is acknowledged that many waste streams will continue to follow a reference strategy with tactical opportunities at a specific waste,

“The NDA recognises that waste categorisation is a useful simplification for planning purposes although it is ultimately the safety case that determines the actual route utilised. Recent work has initiated the evaluation of opportunities for the management of boundary waste and disposal using a risk-based approach. The NDA is now seeking optimisation and a risk-based approach throughout the waste management lifecycle rather than relying on early categorisation and subsequent distinct and separate ILW and LLW planning.


“Decontamination techniques to treat waste, particularly surface-contaminated material, allowing the leftover bulk material to be managed:

o As a lower category of radioactive waste

o As Directive waste

o For reuse or recycling

“The volume of HAW to be managed will have a significant impact on the lifecycle cost and, just as important, will also have an impact on safety, security and the environment. Investigating opportunities for waste volume reduction is a principle that the NDA expects all of its SLCs to closely consider as part of any waste management programme.

“Significant waste volume reduction may be achieved by mechanical means, e.g. supercompaction, chemical dissolution, or by chemical conversion that separates volatile species from a non-volatile residue. For example, high temperature processing of ILW could result in a low volume concentrated waste form that could exist as a glass or ceramic material and an off-gas waste stream, which will require some form of aerial discharge abatement.


e) Chemical conversion

Chemical conversion of ILW streams will result in more passive products especially when dealing with wastes containing relatively high concentrations of reactive metals, e.g. aluminium, magnesium alloys (Magnox) and uranium. The conversion of metal to its corresponding oxide may also aid long-term product performance in terms of storage and subsequent disposal. It should also be recognised, that for certain high hazard wastes a multi-step approach to disposal could support the implementation of more novel approaches to waste conditioning.

f) Storage and disposal

The principles of the waste hierarchy equally apply to HAW interim storage and disposal. HAW stores are large robust facilities that require considerable resource in the construction, operations and decommissioning. It is important that waste should be minimised as a result of a store build programme and where appropriate recycled materials could be used. Likewise, the build, operations and closure of HAW disposal facilities needs careful planning to minimise waste production. Reducing the overall volumes of HAW to be managed will have a significant impact on the number of stores to be built (when compared to the baseline plan) and the number of disposal vaults to be constructed in a disposal facility. While reducing waste volumes is beneficial overall it is also appropriate to ensure that storage capacity is used efficiently. The NDA will continue to encourage industry to investigate the sharing of storage solutions and in particular, maximise the utilisation of storage capacity in existing stores.


b) Spent fuel and HLW

“The current baseline position for spent fuel (that is destined for disposal) and for the UK’s HLW, is a planning assumption that they are included in the inventory for disposal in a GDF and they are considered as part of the implementation of geological disposal. Provision is made for its management through inclusion in the Derived Inventory and the Disposal System Technical Specification  that defines the requirements that the disposal system must satisfy (see the Spent Fuel strategic theme of the NDA Strategy for more detail).

c) Plutonium and uranics

“Plutonium and uranics are nuclear materials that are not declared as wastes but are included in the inventory for disposal in the Implementing Geological Disposal White Paper as a planning assumption. If in the future a proportion of these nuclear materials are deemed to have no further use then they will be managed as wastes through geological

“Plutonium and Uranics are topic strategies within the Nuclear Materials strategic theme of the NDA Strategy.

“In line with government policy, the NDA is developing options for the reuse of plutonium . Some of the options under consideration may offer opportunities in terms of co-disposal of wasteforms such that other wastes or uranium, for example, could potentially be co-disposed of. These opportunities will be explored further in the future to determine whether there is benefit in pursuing this approach.

Transport and logistics

“Transport is an integral part of the waste management lifecycle. The availability of transport routes is an essential part of treatment, storage and disposal especially when dealing with UK-wide or multi-site solutions. At a tactical level, programme logistics will also allow the NDA to optimise its waste export scheduling (the programme for transferring waste from storage to a GDF) with respect to road and rail travel and potentially consideration of sea transport around the UK.
the NDA encourages involvement in international collaboration programmes with its counterpart organisations in other countries. This takes place either bilaterally or through international organisations such as the Club of Agencies and the International

“Association for Environmentally Safe Disposal of Radioactive Materials (EDRAM). This again ensures that the NDA takes account of international good practice, both technological and sociological, in delivering the UK government’s geological disposal programme”.


Monday, 16 May 2016

Nuclear Disarmament will require resources too

I totally agree with CND that spending on replacing the Trident nuclear WMD system is a totally misplaced priority in expenditure of public finances ("Trident replacement to cost at least  £205 billion , CND claims, " Guardian, 12 May,  - as CND General Secretary Dr Kate Hudson said "Far better to spend it  [the£205 bn] on industrial regeneration,  building homes,  tackling climate change  or meeting our defence needs in usable ways.” (“Trident replacement cost rises to 'staggering' £205 billion”, CND briefing, 12 May;£205-billion)

This is especially so especially at a time when outgoing  US President Obama is about to visit Hiroshima at the end of this month ( albeit ironically armed with his 'nuclear football' attaché case  containing the nuclear WMDs launch codes!) to argue the case for a more secure world without any nuclear weapons (“Hiroshima to open up its horrors to Barack Obama during historic visit,” Guardian, 13 May;
However, Guardian security specialist Richard Norton-Taylor's inclusion of the observation, without qualification, that: "About £20bn is also being spent on the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston, where the warheads are manufactured and maintained, between 2000 and 2025," requires expansion, as not all those opposed to nuclear WMDs would oppose some of this planned expenditure.

The CND briefing says that "This money will be spent on infrastructure building work, servicing costs, upgrading the warhead and studies for development of a replacement."
While upgrading or modernising nuclear warheads is clearly totally unacceptable, making sure those that remain in service deployed until removed from deployment through disarmament surely need to be made as safe and secure as possible, so as to avoid any catastrophic accident.

Similarly, spending on dismantlement verification through the Foreign Office's AWE Blacknest ( centre
, a former country house at Brimpton, near to Aldermaston would be vital investment for disarmament.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Wheww, what a radioactive scorcher!

With the massive fires raging in and near Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta, concern has been raised by Canadian environmental groups over the integrity of the historic 43,000 cubic metres of low activity radioactive wastes stored in the neighbourhood of Beacon Hill.  

An estimated 80% of homes in the Beacon Hill area were destroyed when the wildfire ripped through the region, but the federal Crown Corporation that looks after low-level radiation sites said the fire’s proximity to the waste “poses no risk.” Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) described the waste as low-grade uranium mixed with topsoil. It’s buried in a self-contained cell under a thick layer of clay and 45 centimetres of topsoil.
(“Wildfires deemed to no threat to Fort McMurray radioactive waste site”Edmonton Journal, 9 May 2016

The bulky radioactive wastes are mostly radium-contaminated materials (contaminated soil and sediment along with contaminated docks and building materials for example) from the Northern Transportation Route –the same  route that Eldorado used to carry radium ore and concentrates from the Port Radium mine (on the eastern arm of the Great Bear Lake) to the refinery in Port Hope Ontario from 1931 to 1940, and then -- after nuclear fission was discovered and the A-Bomb program began -- uranium concentrates from 1944 onwards  

The radioactive ore and/or concentrates were carried by ‘Sahtu-Dene’ native men on their backs in burlap sacks and loaded onto a boat called "The Radium Gilbert" that took about 8 hours to cross the lake to the river near the present-day site of Deline.  The ore-carriers would often lie on the sacks as the boat crossed the lake, then they would carry the sacks off the boat and onto a river barge, where the cargo would be carried south to the railhead near the present-day site of Fort MacMurray.  From there it would be either flown or sent by rail to Port Hope.

About 18 years ago Dr Gordon Edwards, director of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (ccnr, Robert Del Tredici, a globally recognised photographer of the atomic age, were jointly invited to Deline to inform the Dene community of the dangers and the ultimate military use of the uranium that was mined at Port Radium.

They record it became clear that the burlap bags sometimes ripped or tore open, showering the ore carriers with radium-bearing material that they were never told could be dangerous. There were no facilities for showering or changing clothes, nor any instructions for the workers to wash thoroughly to remove the radioactive materials from skin and hair.  

In the subsequent years, following the adverse publicity, the Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Office (LLRWMO) was formed within the ranks of AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited). Investigation revealed extensive contamination of docks and soil and buildings all along the Northern Transportation Route.  Much of the contaminated material -- at least the material that was on the surface and easily collected -- was packaged and transported to the Fort McMurray area where it has been stored right up to the present time.
Maude-Emilie Page, a spokeswoman for AECL, said although the waste is in the fire-affected area, there were no concerns about the integrity of the cell and no immediate risk to human health or the environment. Page said there are also no worries about it catching fire, though AECL is monitoring the situation. “It is akin to a field or garden; while the surface vegetation may catch fire, the soil itself won’t,” she said.


How Uranium from Great Bear Lake ended up in A-Bombs

1931 Warning re Health Effects of radium-bearing materials

Port Radium minesite in the 1930's

First shipment of radium concentrates from Great Bear Lake (1931)

Echoes of the Atomic Age, March 14, 1998:

Use of Canadian Uranium in A-Bombs - citations compiled in 1998

Dene people of Great Bear Lake call for federal response to Uranium Deaths

Northern contaminated sites (excerpted from the CNSC web site)

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Israel disproves US luminaries' 'no isolation' case‏

Letter to The Times:

The American  defense and security luminaries who wrote to support to remain argument (" Special relationship and UK’s clout in Europe," Times letters, 10 May, "In our globalised environment it is critical to have size and weight in order to be heard."
Yet they all know from personal experience this proposition is totally disproved by the unquestioning financial and military support the United States has persistently given tiny and isolated  Israel, however appallingly its government behaves towards Palestinians.