Letters: Dungeness is no Fukushima

These letters appear in the Thursday 20th March edition of the Independent

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The Independent Online

The bare bones of your front-page story “British nuclear power plant’s ‘Fukushima alert’” (19 March) are that as the result of a routine review of safety, EDF, unprompted and erring on the side of extreme caution, decided that the shingle beach at Dungeness could no longer provide adequate protection against flooding and that they should, to be perfectly safe, shut the reactor down while an additional flood- protection wall was built.

This is the kind of decision that managers of technical systems take every day of the week. No crisis of any kind, no hint of a disaster, but news of this was apparently enough to send your environment editor into hysterics.

Apart from the fact that Dungeness is a nuclear-power plant near the sea, there are no parallels between this and Fukushima, whose location has long been known to be prone to earthquakes and tidal waves.

David H Bebbington, Broadstairs, Kent

Nuclear power is dangerous – quite literally because it is so toxic, and because it distracts attention from the investment we need to be making in harnessing the free energy of the sun,  the wind, the waves and  the tides.

We need a green-energy revolution in this country – and nuclear should be absolutely no part of it. Since this winter’s extreme weather this country has finally woken up to the dire threat of climate and weather chaos – threats which undermine severely the case for nuclear-power stations, virtually all of which are sited on the coast, because of how hungry they are for cooling water and for water to discharge into.

Nuclear is so last-century – and so pre-floods.

Rupert Read, Green Party, Norwich

The operator of the Dungeness power plant recognised an emergent risk to their facility. They reviewed and assessed that risk and as competent operators decided to shut down the facility until remedial work could be carried out thus minimising the risk to all involved. They have undertaken the work and can now ensure the continued secure energy supply to the UK.

Congratulations EDF

Marc Owen, North Ferriby,  East Yorkshire

Britain, after Tony Benn

The passing of Tony Benn highlights, for me, not what might have been but what we now have. A majority of benefit claimants are now in full-time low-paid work; television programmes (Famous, Rich and Hungry) end with appeals for donations to food banks for our British citizens; and taxpayers’ money is poured into enabling ever more house purchases that are driving up prices (and debt) yet again.

Three decades of Thatcherism have delivered a low-wage economy and poverty so widespread that it is now subsidised by income tax to jack up employers’ low-wage jobs and middle-class aspirations.

And they called Tony Benn the most dangerous man in Britain.

Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Gwent

OK Prue Bray (Letters, 18 March). Tony Benn argued passionately, educated and informed us, stood up for and advanced the rights and interests of ordinary working people and the disadvantaged. He entertained and charmed us but sometimes infuriated us as well. He stimulated debate, united and divided, gave us insights into politics and government in his diaries, challenged the cant and arrogance of right-wing and centrist politicians.

He was an honest, caring, humorous and highly intelligent man. Isn’t that enough?

Robert Heale, Bedford

When Tony Benn was Minister of Technology he enthusiastically supported Concorde, built in his constituency of course. At the same time he cancelled the UK government’s financial support for the then infant Airbus project, leaving it to the French and Germans. He didn’t think it would be a commercial success!

Andrew Scholes, Whitwell, Hertfordshire

Do the Scots really want this vote?

Your perceptive editorial “The power of No” (18 March) says “given the public appetite for such a ballot, this newspaper can only support it being held”.

Are you sure that there is a public appetite? Sure most, not all, politicians want a ballot – so do Edinburgh-based journalists and BBC Scotland. But my impression is that the public want to get on with their lives, and don’t fancy having to make a choice between seeming to be patriotic Scots and remaining part  of Britain.

There are hundreds of thousands of what Jim Sillars memorably called “80/90-minute Scots” who would roar our heads off at Murrayfield or Hampden Park but have no appetite for being required to make a judgement on the future constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom.

Tam Dalyell, Linlithgow, West Lothian

I read parts of the Scottish White Paper on independence in Oban library yesterday, while waiting for the ferry home. It is made up of shoulds, coulds and woulds and SNP manifesto commitments for the 2016 Scottish elections. I don’t understand why anyone takes it seriously. As James Cusick points out (18 March) the time given for the many negotiations that have to take place is ridiculously short.

But once there is a yes vote, there is no reason why Alex Salmond cannot postpone the 2016 elections until the negotiations are complete. Referring to the transition period, the White Paper states that legislation will “provide for continuity of laws: all current laws, whether in currently devolved or reserved areas, will continue in force after independence day, until they are specifically changed by the independent Scottish Parliament”.

David Pollard, Salen, Isle of Mull

New-look pound coin

The choice of design for the new pound coin, which is reminiscent of a threepenny bit, is inspired. The purchasing power of the pound will soon be equivalent to that of the threepenny bit when it was discontinued.

Nigel Scott, London N22

The West precipitated Crimea crisis

Hillary Clinton’s description of the Crimea crisis as being about “our values” versus Vladimir Putin’s “aggression” overlooks the West’s role in precipitating the crisis (report, 19 March). At the end of the Cold War the US assured Russia that German reunification and the Soviet withdrawal from Eastern Europe would not occasion an advancing US military threat. Yet instead of abolishing Nato as a Cold War relic, the alliance was actually pushed eastwards with Ukrainian membership touted as a goal. This was perceived in Moscow as an act of aggression. The imposition of symbolic sanctions and the knee-jerk support of the politically dubious new Ukrainian government has further escalated tensions.

Winding up Nato would be more useful than winding up Putin.

Dr Nick Megoran,, Lecturer in Political Geography, Newcastle University

Patrick Lavender’s letter (17 March) brilliantly details US hypocrisy when it comes to foreign policy, but it beggars belief that the EU has joined in.

Everyone seems to forget that Ukraine’s legitimate government was overthrown by terrorists. Then Russia, rather than react against this, simply went to protect those who speak Russian and see themselves as Russian. In order to do this properly an election took place which confirms what everyone knows, that Crimea wants to be part of Russia. But when it comes to foreign policy the US does not believe in democracy.

Then everyone goes on about “international law”, something Israel has defied for at least 40 years, yet never faced any sanctions for. One rule for one...

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey

Many in the West have difficulty in taking seriously either the US Secretary of State John Kerry or the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Russia has the same problem. Vladimir Putin mocked their “baffling, primitive, and blatant” Crimean posturing saying it was a little late in the day for the West “to take a lead on observing international law”.

It had recognised Kosovo’s secession from Serbia as legitimate arguing that “permission” from the central authority for a unilateral declaration of independence was unnecessary”.

In view of our recent record of invasions and international interference which set ablaze the entire Islamic Crescent, it is difficult to argue that  the Russian president is being unfair.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews

Whatever viewpoint one takes on the current “crisis” in the Crimea, the people voted and declared their preference – and a huge majority voted to cut links to the Ukraine. The referendum might be illegal in the eyes of the likes of Hague, Obama and possibly some of the EU but nonetheless is hugely telling. 

Ewa Maydell  & Derek Fabian, Milton, Dumbarton