Letter: Myopia over nuclear risks

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The Independent Online
Sir: For Roger Hayes, director-general of the British Nuclear Industry Forum, to argue that nuclear power is the clean energy, without any mention of the liabilities of nuclear waste and decommissioning defunct nuclear facilities, or of the radiological contamination created by nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl, demonstrates a disturbing myopia ('Nuclear: clean, green and better for you', 5 October).

A similar myopia was shown in BNIF's submission to the recently completed nuclear review, where it promoted the case for a massive expansion of nuclear trade, but made no reference to nuclear proliferation, terrorism or the need for safeguards against clandestine diversion of weapons-useable nuclear materials. In my own submission, I argued that the potential military misuse of nuclear materials, or the environmental contamination threat posed by an attack on nuclear facilities releasing liquid or gaseous radioactive materials, makes nuclear energy qualitatively the least environmentally benign of electricity-generating technologies.

To mitigate the huge security problems posed by the vast stockpiles of plutonium already in existence, when a bomb can be made with just one kilo, I proposed a massive increase in the resources committed to international nuclear safeguards. These costs should be charged to the cause of the problem - the nuclear industry.

On 11 January this year, Energy Minister Tim Eggar told me in a written reply that on no fewer than 571 occasions, nuclear material of civil origin in the UK had been withdrawn from international safeguards applied under article 14 of the 1978 trilateral agreement the UK signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency and Euratom. This legalised diversion undermines the credibility of nuclear safeguards. I proposed that this permissive article 14 be cancelled.

To borrow a popular current phrase: we need to be tough on nuclear proliferation, and the causes of nuclear proliferation - and not promote it as do Mr Hayes and the members of BNIF.

Yours sincerely,


MP for Blaenau Gwent (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

6 October