Friday, 28 June 2019

Sellafield security questioned by official UK nuclear regulator

A week ago the UK national nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), released its annual report and accounts to zero media attention.(

But embedded in its 164 pages was the following intriguing revelation:

"Early in the reporting year, a number of security events required us to apply regulatory attention to several of Sellafield Ltd's security investigations."

It then added: " Appropriate lessons have been identified and we will continue our regulatory focus on security culture and on influencing improvements in the security competence of the internal assurance function."

Sellafield is a big nuclear site that, inter alia, holds 140,000 kilogrammes of plutonium. A devastating warhead can be made with  just 5kgs

We cannot afford any serious security even ts at Sellafield!

Below is a salutary tale of trying t find the uranium cubes lost from the Nazi nuclear bomb programme, to show how sensitive nuclear material can go missing for decades...

Physics Today, 1 May 2019 in People & History  

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Nuclear power cannot be accurately described as "clean energy"

Letter submitted to The Guardian:

I was really surprised to read this sentence in your new energy correspondent Jillian Ambrose’s report on electricity generation going greener (“Fossil fuels produce less than half of UK electricity for first time,” 21 June; viz: "UK homes and businesses will rely more on clean electricity generated by wind farms, solar panels, hydro power and nuclear power reactors."

I cannot understand how she could put renewable energy conversion technologies alongside nuclear, and describe both as ‘clean.’


The former, to be sure, are virtually clean (after manufacture of the conversion technology, such as turbines or panels), but nuclear is certainly not "clean."


Aside from routine radioactive emissions and the huge contamination of the entire nuclear plant in operation leaving a decommissioning nightmare, there is also the creation of nuclear waste, for which no nation has a long term management solution, and the cataclysmic consequences of accidents, with Fukushima fallout costing a fortune to clean up;  and Chernobyl's  radiological contamination still persistent in the far away Alpine uplands in Austria as well as in close-by Belarus and Ukraine.


Additionally, nuclear is not ‘carbon-clean’ either, when the full nuclear fuel chain is a examined, as I pointed out 14 years ago in The Guardian. (“There is nothing green about Blair's nuclear dream: To assess the industry's environmental impact, we must look at the whole fuel cycle,” 20 October 2005;


The nuclear industry lobby has tried to brand nuclear as part of a suite of "clean energy technologies." It demonstrably isn’t. Please don't adopt this inaccurate and highly misleading shorthand in The Guardian.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Iran and Gulf of Oman oil tanker attack: why Corbyn's caution merits consideration

Letter submitted to the Daily Mail :

You report on Monday that Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has disagreed with his namesake , Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the Official Opposition (Mail, June 17) over who was responsible for the attack on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, describing the latter’s scepticism and request for evidence of Iran’s guilt as “pathetic.”

I do not know who carried out the attack, but in such a sensitive unstable global region, it surely makes sense to determine with certainty the pre perpetrator before pointing the finger or taking action.

A very interesting 1000-word article (“Was Iran Behind the Oman Tanker Attacks? A Look at the Evidence,” June 14; attempting to sift assertion from fact appeared in the New York Times last Friday, written by Eliot Higgins, the British–born managing director of the investigative collective Bellingcat. (

The author points out correctly that there has been considerable cynicism worldwide about American claims that the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday were conducted by Iran. These include the German defence minister.

Iran has denied the accusation, and on Twitter, the term “Gulf of Tonkin” trended alongside the “Gulf of Oman.”

[That historical reference is telling, Higgins explained " It was in citing the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” — the North Vietnamese were accused of attacking American destroyers in that gulf in 1964 — that President Lyndon B. Johnson persuaded the Congress to authorize greater American military involvement in Vietnam. Historians have concluded that the attack never happened and Johnson’s ploy is now seen as the quintessential false flag operation."]

He argues, sensible, that “with tensions rising in the region since attacks on four tankers off the United Arab Emirates in May, understanding what happened and who is to blame is crucial.” and points out “ Thanks to the internet and the range of publicly available information, confirming or denying such an attack has become far easier since the 1960s. A distance of several thousand miles does not mean much today.

Tools and information like satellite imagery that was once only available to intelligence agencies can now be found on everyday tools such as Google Maps. Social media allows far-flung people to share information.”

Mr Higgins concludes that what the videos and photographs published by the United States don’t show us is important, pointing out  that while the object on the side of the Kokuka Courageous oil tanker is described as a “likely limpet mine” the images presented aren’t clear enough to verify that.

Nothing presented as evidence proves that the object was placed there by the Iranians. The video shows only that the Iranians chose to remove it for an as yet unknown reason.

He ends asserting:” In the escalating conflict between the United States and Iran we have to work on all the information available, not just what one side presents.”

So what is now important is Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt publishes the evidence he claims to have to prove that Iran was responsible.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Lessons learned from Lithuanian reactor closure for UK's cracked reactors

Letter submitted to The Guardian:
I was very interested to read  Neringa Rekasiute’s article on the ‘nuclear oasis‘ of Ignalina’s giant nuclear  complex in Europe Now (“In a Soviet-era nuclear town, I brought Lithuania’s forgotten side to light, “ The Guardian, 12 June 2019; having visited the vast site several years ago as part of a visit by the Vienna-based World Institute for Nuclear Security. (WINS).

During that visit to the site - which contains a decommissioned turbine halls so huge that several jumbo jet  aircraft could comfortably be accommodated inside - I learned of an extremely alarming security incident involving  the theft of a full-sized nuclear fuel rod from the site. Although since recovered, it demonstrated how important it is to properly secure even sites of closed reactors.

Last week I attended the European Commission-sponsored Euradwaste conference in Pitesti, Romania, (, where a presentation on decommissioning Ignalina was made by scientists (Prof. Poskas & Dr Narkunas) from the nuclear engineering laboratory of the Lithuanian Energy Institute in Kaunas, the nation’s second city after capital Vilnius.

Their work has been on assessing and modelling the distribution of radioactive carbon-14, in the very high stack of graphite blocks around the reactor core prior to dismantling. This suggests that even though Ms Rekasiute feels the Lithuanian government “mainly pretends” the adjoining company city of Visaginas “isn’t there”, the government in Vilnius is seriously trying to find safe ways to dismantle the plant using the trained local workforce.  

The experience gained will certainly prove useful to the UK, which has several reactors either already closed, or close to closure, such as the troubled Hunterson reactors near Glasgow, where hundreds of cracks have been discovered in the graphite core. (“Footage of cracks in North Ayrshire nuclear reactor released,” Guardian, 8 March 2019;

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

When a candidate for British Prime Minister facilitated GBH on a fellow journalist

I submitted this letter to the Conservative cheerleading Daily Mail. Unsurprisingly they declined to publish it, but as today Boris Johnson launches his  Conservative leadership ( and concomitantly Prime ministership) campaign, this matter needs a public airing.
I was very interested in your Comment on Tuesday (Daily Mail, 11 June 2019) call to Boris Johnson to come out of his bunker.

What reason could the lead candidate to be our next Prime Minister  have to hide away from the media, especially as he was once a journalist himself?

One reason might be some of the nefarious activities in which Mr Johnson indulged when he was a reporter, which some might regard as far worse than taking Class A illegal drugs.

The most notorious occurred in 1990, when Mr Johnson was Brussels correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

The tale involved Johnson’s old Eton School friend, Darius Guppy, who became worried that a News of the World reporter, Stuart Collier, was sniffing around about his past  his dubious activities, and might be about to expose them.

Guppy wanted Collier to be frightened off by an attack on him, but he did not know where Collier lived

He asked Johnson to help him find it, and his phone conversation was secretly recorded by Peter Risdon, a business associate of Guppy, who distrusted him.

In the call, Guppy tells Johnson one of the London heavies who was lined up to beat up Collier was becoming impatient.

Shortly after,  Johnson revealed that his anxiety that the man from the News of the World could discover  that he was involved, saying:

 "He is extremely dangerous, extremely dangerous. If you f--k up in any way, I mean frankly if he suspects that I am involved in this ... forget about me. Honestly, Darius, you have really got to think whether it's worth your while."

Mr Johnson blurted out he had approached 4 individuals to try to get Mr Collier's details, only two of whom he could fully trust. "If it got widely known that he'd been beaten up, it would inevitably get back to the contact I've used."

Johnson anxiously asks Guppy: "How badly are you going to hurt this guy?"

Guppy answers: "Not badly at all."

Johnson then asks "If this guy is seriously hurt, I am going to be f--king furious." Guppy: "I guarantee you he will not be seriously hurt."

Johnson worriedly asks: "How badly hurt will he be?"

Guppy responds: "He will not have a broken limb or a broken arm and he will not, er, he will not be put into intensive care or anything like that. He will probably get a couple of black eyes and a, and a cracked rib or something like that."

Mr Johnson: "A cracked rib."

Guppy: "Nothing which you didn't suffer in rugby okay but he will get scared and that is what I want him to do, I want him to get scared..."
Fellow journalists should ask Mr Johnson to defend this action when he does surface.

Is someone prepared to facilitate GBH on an innocent reporter suitable to lead the Conservative Party and be our next Prime Minister?