We held our usual commemoration on Aug. 6th 2011 on the riverbank at Canbury Gardens We were very pleased to welcome several Japanese participants – 2 of whom brought trays of sushi – a delightful gesture. A stiff onshore breeze prevented the boats floating out well, but we did have a good photo in the Surrey Comet 12th August 2011 of Norman Smith’s boats – still good after 20 or so years. Thanks to Noel and the Deputy Mayor Geoff Austin for their fine contributions.
We've lived through nearly 10 years of war. October 8th must raise the stakes in terms of antiwar mobilisation and in terms of the political cost of these disastrous wars for our own government. For that reason we will be taking over Trafalgar square, turning it into a space to give voice to all the issues encompassed by the war – Afghanistan centrally, but also Libya, Iraq, Palestine, Islamophobia, civil liberties and the huge financial cost of the war at a time of massive public spending cuts. There will be rallies, screenings, music, speak-outs, street theatre and more.
At this stage exact arrangements are still in process and the assembly will be shaped by everyone taking part in it. But to give a flavour of what October 8th will look like below are a few examples.
John Pilger, Len McCluskey, Brian Eno, Ahdaf Soueif, Jemima Khan & Tony Benn will be there. 3 weeks since the pledge was launched 1,300 people have added their names, but we need thousands more to build the momentum. Please sign the pledge that you will be there at antiwarassembly.org
The main stage will feature a large scale screen where films will be shown. As part of this we're runnng a video competition on the antiwarassembly youtube channel. The theme is '10 years of war'. Whichever video gets the most hits will be screened in Trafalgar Square. We hope to have a second stage (subject to negotiations) where Stop the War groups can delegate a member of their group or other representative for a speak-out against the war.
Many other organisations will be taking part. Unite and PCS are now officially backing the protest. We hope to divide the space into areas representing different issues and organisations. For example there will be a civil liberties area with stalls, marquees etc dealing with torture, rendition and extrajudicial detention.
Military families and soldiers will be joining the assembly. Among them will be several new families and former soldiers, including Lillian Lyons, wife of Michael Lyons who is currently in military prison for refusing to fight in Afghanistan. They will be speaking out for the first time and October 8th is a chance to stand with them in solidarity. Later in the day the families will lead a contingent down Whitehall to deliver a petition to Downing Street.
Kingston Peace Council/CND members will be attending this rally with our banner – please come along. More details in October newsletter.
Have we got our priorities right? In this country we spend around £6 million a day to maintain our nuclear weapons system and plan to spend £76 billion replacing it, while at the same time cutting 50,000 health service jobs and a third of local council services. Government funding for military-related research and development is over four times that for health. Globally, the cost of eradicating hunger has been estimated at £20billion: about as much as the world spends on the military every eight days. How does our militaristic culture affect the well-being of people in this country and across the world?
6.30pm – 8.45pm C-SCAIPE Debating Chambers, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston, KT1 2EE.
Refreshments available. Fully accessible. All welcome.
It is a monumental scandal that the Mox plant, the closure of which was announced on Wednesday , was ever given the go-ahead in the first place, since it was a no-hoper from the start. It was built by the Tory Government. in the mid-‘90s at a cost of £500million, but without a licence to operate. This could only happen in the nuclear industry.
After the 1997 election BNFL pressed for a licence on the grounds that there was an international market for mixed oxide fuel for reactors in Japan and other countries. – a net revenue gain each year of £150 - £200 m was predicted – this proved utterly false. The whole project has wasted £1.4 bn of taxpayers money. The plant was supposed to produce 120 tonnes of Mox a year (960 tonnes over 8 years of operation) – it actually produced 13 tonnes in 8 years - 1.3% of its target.
As Environment Minister from 1997 -2003 I opposed the licensing from the start as BNFL could produce no reliable evidence of the likely markets,….. but was ultimately overruled by Tony Blair who was far too easily bamboozled by industry lobbying without either understanding or even taking an interest in the full financial, economic and technical implications.
There are now 100 tonnes of plutonium sitting at Sellafield that nobody knows how to dispose of safely. The government still intends to build another 10 nuclear reactors which, after the £75 bn cost of decommissioning existing nuclear plants, the Fukushima disaster and now the the Mox fiasco , is criminally irresponsible.
Hard though it is to believe, the Government has been preparing to build a second Mox plant at a cost of a further £2 3 bn of tax-payers money, when what we really need is a public enquiry into how £1.4 bn was wasted on the first one, which is what I am now writing to the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office to demand.
Brian Haw heard the U.S. Secretary of State say that the death of half a million Iraqi children as a result of Anglo-American policy was “worth it”. He heard the U.N.’s Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq resign saying “we are in the process of destroying an entire society. It’s as simple as that”. With Tony Blair continuing the policy into his second term in government, Brian set up his protest outside Parliament in June 2001.
His protest display began with three placards. World-famous artists and ordinary people alike contributed to it as it spread along one side of Parliament square.
After September 11, 2001 George Bush declared ‘war on terror’ - on Afghanistan and then on Iraq. Brian became a symbol of opposition to it.
The authorities must have hoped that winter would see Brian off; it didn’t. People dived in to help, as they would from then on. Tony Blair noticed him, telling George Bush “when I pass protestors every day at Downing Street … I may not like what they call me, but I thank God they can”.
But the authorities weren’t “thanking God” for Brian’s protest. Instead they were charging him with being a ‘nuisance’ and ordering him to leave. It back-fired: prominent people came forward to say that Brian wasn’t the ‘nuisance’ - government policy was. The authorities sensed defeat and went to the High Court to have him removed for ‘illegal advertising’ and ‘obstruction’ instead. The court refused.
The foreign media noticed him. Early on the British media ignored him.
Smiling, he railed against the “vicious” policeman who “forced” a cup of tea and a bun on him at 6 each morning. With real rage he denounced the police who used “the curious case of the car-bomb in the night-time” to arrest him under the Terrorism Act and to seize and smash up his display.
The authorities said he was “deranged”. But you couldn’t get more “deranged” than the government minister in the House of Lords who dementedly invented a conspiracy whereby “they have all got their act together and are skilfully working in concert to subvert the law” in Parliament Square.
A few months later in a House of Commons debate ‘honourable members’ mentioned Brian by name forty-five times in three hours.
The authorities set about crafting a law aimed at evicting Brian, proposing to criminalize “spoiling the visual aspect of Parliament Square”. Someone must have pointed out that a law aimed at one man was likely to come unstuck. So the government changed it at the last moment and required all demonstrators to apply for ‘permission’. But the High Court ruled that Brian was the only person that the ‘Brian Haw’ law didn’t apply to - since he had been there before it came into effect.
Brian stood for Parliament as a “Peace and Justice” candidate in the 2005 general election from his registered address in Parliament Square.
When the authorities finally got the law ‘sorted out’ they came with 78 police at 2.30am, aiming to remove Brian’s display by sunrise. But 7 hours later the eviction was still going on at the height of the rush-hour. And 8 months after that the whole display had been carefully recreated as a prize-winning exhibit in the Tate Britain gallery a few minutes down the road.
By then Brian had soundly beaten Tony Blair to win the Most Inspiring Political Figure of the year award by 54% to 8%. Later that year Blair resigned.
Brian fought on for another 3 years, winning the large majority of his court cases, before falling ill with lung cancer. His single-minded resolution and determination had driven him to Parliament Square and kept him there. But the justice of his cause and the unfolding disaster of the war drive was decisive in attracting widespread support.
Early on he had been subject to a media blackout. His death was headline news.
"When you cut facilities, slash jobs, abuse power, discriminate, drive people into deeper poverty and shoot people dead whilst refusing to provide answers or justice, the people will rise up and express their anger and frustration if you refuse to hear their cries. A riot is the language of the unheard."
Does anyone know if it was published?
Too many of our leading politicians are shouting the ‘mindless violence’ response to what is happening around London ('London in flames....', 9.8.11). Our disaffected youths in the poorer areas of our cities are constantly bombarded with images and descriptions of ‘must have’ objects which they find eminently desirable but can never possess. These are kids with a miserable present and little future. Some of them are violently venting their anger. They are being told that violence is wrong by our politicians who are fighting unjust wars and killing uncounted numbers of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan.
George Miller. 2010, Medlar Press, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-907110-24-5
KPN members, having read George Miller’s excellent article on Just War in the July issue, will be interested to learn that he has written an interesting book which deals with matters of war and peace in the form of an entertaining fable. A traveller arrives at the land of Zinn, which is ruled by despotic leaders who oppress and brutalise the people. Zinn has become a militarised nightmare society, where force and oppression prevail: the only escape is to flee and live in the forest outside, where life becomes a more gentle affair, interrupted from time to time by the need to flee to dark caves when Zinnian central authority decides to wage a merciless war on these dissidents and anarchists. In fact, Zinn is rather like today’s real world. It would not be fair reveal the ending. Suffice to say it is as happy as possible, given the situation. Harry Davis
Bruce Kent comments: I found it gripping and very interesting. Miller has an amazing imagination and ability to keep the story within the limits of credulity
George Miller’s book is a very good story and a half. The writer has been ambitious in his first novel, and has pulled off a work of epic proportions. Mavis Nicholson, Tanat Valley Chronicle.
Miller sees himself in the tradition of Swift and Orwell, using fantasy to undermine the hypocrisies and expose the horrors of a contemporary reality. . . . The Buzzards of Zinn is perhaps the first imaginative portrayal of such current phenomena as ‘war on terror’, ‘asymmetric warfare’, and ‘collateral damage’, in which the most powerful nations attack broken and impoverished societies, destroying uncounted numbers of lives in the process. Jill Gough, Heddwch
George Miller has produced a rich fantasy tale, but also one that sheds thought-provoking light on the real world. Sue Gilmurray, Abolish War
The Buzzards of Zinn may be ordered from Amazon, but can be obtained more quickly by a direct application to George Miller, 10 Upper Church Street, Oswestry, Shropshire, SY11 2AE
Thanks to Jim McCluskey for sending this article
The decommissioning of the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant is delayed by a single problem: Where to dispose of the uranium fuel rods? Many of those rods are extremely radioactive and partially melted, and some contain highly lethal plutonium.
Besides the fissile fuel inside the plant's six reactors, more than 7 tons of spent rods have to be removed to a permanent storage site before workers can bury the Fukushima facility under concrete. The rods cannot be permanently stored in Japan because the country's new waste storage centers on the northeast tip of Honshu are built on unsuitable land. The floors of the Rokkasho reprocessing facility and Mutsu storage unit are cracked from uneven sinking into the boggy soil.
Entombment of the rods inside the Fukushima 1 reactors carries enormous risks because the footing of landfill cannot support the weight of the fuel rods in addition to the reactors and cooling water inside the planned concrete containment walls. The less reactive spent fuel would have to be kept inside air-cooled dry casks. The powerful earthquakes that frequently strike the Tohoku region will eventually undermine the foundations, causing radioactive wastewater to pour unstoppably into the Pacific Ocean. The rods must therefore go to another country.
Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by Japan in 1970, Washington's negotiators stipulated that used nuclear fuel from Japanese reactors must by law be shipped to the United States for storage or reprocessing to prevent the development of an atomic bomb. Washington has been unable to fulfill its treaty obligations to Tokyo due to the public outcry against the proposed Yucca Mountain storage facility near Las Vegas.
A panel convened by the Obama administration has just recommended the set up of a network of storage sites across the United States, a controversy certain to revive the anti-nuclear sentiments during the upcoming election campaign. The American nuclear industry has its own stockpile of more than 60,000 tons of spent fuel - not counting waste from reactors used for military and research purposes - leaving no space for Fukushima's rods inside the Nevada disposal site, if indeed it is ever opened.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has allocated 1 trillion yen ($12 billion) in funds for nuclear waste disposal. Areva, the French nuclear monopoly, has teamed up with Tepco to find an overseas storage site. So far, the Tepco-Areva team have quietly contacted three Asian countries - Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia -- to set up a center for "reprocessing", a euphemism for nuclear dump site.
Among the threesome, China was the top choice for the Japanese nuclear establishment, which has confidence in Beijing's ability to safeguard nuclear secrets from its citizenry and even from the top leaders. Japan's space agency, which keeps 24-hour satellite observation over every nuclear-related facility in China, possesses the entire record of radiation leaks there. Since Beijing withholds this sort of data from the public, the Japanese side felt it had the necessary leverage in talks with Chinese nuclear officials.
Though the nuclear-sector bureaucrats were initially eager to receive bundles of yen, the proposal was blown away by the salt craze that swept over China. Within a couple of weeks of the Fukushima meltdowns, millions of shoppers emptied supermarket shelves on rumours that iodized salt could prevent radiation-caused thyroid cancer. The Chinese public is rightfully fearful of health-related scandals after discoveries of melamine in milk, growth hormones in pork, pesticides in vegetables, antibiotics in fish and now radioactive fallout over farmland.
A nuclear disposal deal would require trucks loaded with radioactive cargo to roll through a densely populated port, perhaps Tianjin or Ningbo, in the dead of night. There is no way that secret shipments wouldn't be spotted by locals with smart phones, triggering a mass exodus from every city, town and village along the route to the dumping grounds in China's far west. Thus, the skittishness of the ordinary Chinese citizen knocked out the easiest of nefarious plans.
A more logical choice for overseas storage is in the sparsely populated countries that supply uranium ore to Japan, particularly Australia and Canada. As exporters of uranium, Canberra and Ottawa are ultimately responsible for storage of the nuclear waste under the legal principle of industrial recovery.
The practice of industrial recovery is already well-established in the consumer electronics and household appliances sectors where manufacturers are required by an increasing number of countries to take back and recycle used television sets, computers and refrigerators.
Under the principle, uranium mining giants like Rio Tinto and CAMECO would be required to take back depleted uranium. The cost of waste storage would then be factored into the export price for uranium ore. The added cost is passed along to utility companies and ultimately the consumer through a higher electricity rate. If the market refuses to bear the higher price for uranium as compared with other fuels, then nuclear power will go the way of the steam engine.
Australian and Canadian politicians are bound to opportunistically oppose the return of depleted uranium since any shipments from Fukushima would be met by a massive turnout of "not-in-my-backyard" protesters. The only way for Tokyo to convince the local politicos to go along quietly is by threatening to publish an online list of the bribe-takers in parliament who had earlier backed uranium mining on behalf of the Japanese interests.
The question then arise whether nuclear power, when long-term storage fees are included, is competitive with investment in renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydro and tidal resources. Renewable energy probably has the edge since they don't create waste. Natural gas remains the undisputed price beater wherever it is available in abundance. In a free market without hidden subsidies, nuclear is probably doomed.
In a lapse of professionalism, the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) has never seriously addressed nuclear-waste disposal as an industrywide issue. Based on the ration of spent rods to reactor fuel inside U.S. nuclear facilities, there are close to 200,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste at the 453 civilian nuclear-energy plants worldwide. Yet not a single permanent storage site has ever been opened anywhere.
The Fukushima 1 dilemma shows that the issues of cost-efficiency and technological viability can no longer be deferred or ignored. Ratings agencies report that Tepco's outstanding debt has soared beyond $90 billion, meaning that it cannot cover future costs of storing spent rods from its Kashiwazaki and Fukushima 2 nuclear plants. The Japanese government's debt has soared to 200 percent of GDP. Neither entity can afford the rising cost of nuclear power.
There is a further disposal possibility – Mongolia! Insufficient space here, but to be continued in the next issue.
Newsletter Editor for this issue was Rosemary Addington.
Disclaimer: It is the nature of a newsletter like KPN that views cannot be sought on everything that appears herein, so views expressed are almost never the agreed opinion of the group.