Monday, 19 October 2020

Probing nuclear opposition: military and civil

Letters sent respectivelyto:- The Times: Former Conservative Party leader Lord Howard of Lympne (“Reactionary left,” The Times, Letters, 16 October 2020; asks whether those who used to argue vehemently for CND have “moved on”? Actually, no. Indeed on the weekend his letter was published, CND was holding the second day of its annual two-day meeting, enforced on line, focused on “real security in a COVId-19 world.” This involved one analytic presentation by eminent professor of security studies, Paul Rogers of Bradford University, and a political speech by Jeremy Corbyn, like Lord Howard, a former leader of the opposition, but of more recent vintage. Prof Rogers pointed out: “If the COVID-19 pandemic shows us one thing, it is that Britain’s defence posture, especially its nuclear force, is irrelevant in responding to the worst challenge facing the country in generations…If you leave aside everything else there is also the issue of cost coupled with the huge waste of advanced of technical technological abilities when there is so much else to do. The new system, including a new British-developed thermonuclear warhead, is unlikely to cost much less than £200 billion over its full life time which is not far short of the £210 billion pledged by the government to respond directly to the pandemic.” Mr Corbyn stressed the recent powerful call by António Guterres the Secretary General of the United Nations on who said to the High-Level Meeting called by the UN on 2 October to Commemorate and Promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons: “Nuclear disarmament has been a priority of the United Nations since the very beginning of the Organization’s existence.. The only treaty constraining the size of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals is set to expire early next year, raising the alarming possibility of a return to unconstrained strategic competition.” ( CND is needed more than ever, but the media tends not to report its actions with competition from the pandemic and recently Brexit again presently dominating their attention. But it does not mean the problem of the existential threat from nuclear weapons has gone away. Or the campaign to rid the world of nuclear weapons has lost impetus. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> To the Daily Mail: Your City Editor Alex Brummer (who reported for so long with much sense from Washington DC) pointed out on Friday in his perceptive financial commentary (Mail) that Rolls-Royce hopes to be bailed-out by £2bn of taxpayers’ money to support their new nuclear power concept, the so-called Small Modular Reactor (SMR). However, we know that Rolls Royce has an additional covert agenda, which it let slip in a publicity brochure in 2017, when it described the merits of SMRs thus: “..the expansion of a nuclear capable skilled workforce through a civil nuclear UK SMR programme would relieve the [UK Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability.” Even SMR advocates know such mini-plants ( they are actually planned to be pretty similar in electrical capacity to the first generation UK Magnox plants) in order to have any chance of coming close to producing competitively-priced power, ie that which would interest private sector investors, then the owner must be able to sell the surplus heat. Indeed, a new study, Nuclear cogeneration: civil nuclear energy in a low-carbon future issued on October 8th, by the British Royal Society, (\), written by Professor Robin Grimes of London’s Imperial College – who is also chief scientific adviser in the UK Ministry of Defence for nuclear science and technology- argues very strongly that “SMRs present a particularly interesting proposition for cogeneration.” But what Professor Grimes omits to address is the acute licensing problems any such near-city deployment would face, as, in order to maximise gain from re-use of the surplus heat generated, SMRs would necessarily need to be build adjunct to urban areas, or at the very least in industrial parks close to densely populated areas. In my experience of being involved in British nuclear planning inquiries since the one held for Sizewell B in 1983-85, no licensing regime would give the green light to any reactor proposed to be cited so close to where people live. The problems it would create for emergency planers, for the state civil contingencies and resilience apparatus to protect against terrorism, and the sheer public opposition to new nuclear, when the comparative merits of the SMR competitor, wind energy, are seen alongside the transparent de-merits on mini-reactors, would ensure any such project dead in the water. A prudent government would jettison SMRs now, declaring them dead at birth. Instead, we have perhaps the most persistent business lobby moving into top gear, desperately trying to save their failing industry. They have even roped the United Nations into the lobby effort, through its own nuclear body, the Vienna- based International Atomic Energy Agency. (IAEA) In an international webinar on 15 October, hosted by the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), the IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi extraordinarily asserted: “the IAEA are not nuclear lobbyists but provide scientific and empirical data to allow the nuclear’s case to be made.” He later said the IAEA would be pushing hard for nuclear place at the high table at the global climate change conference (COP26) being hosted next autumn by the UK Government in Glasgow. Of course, that is not lobbying!

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