Thirty years ago, before some of you here at this demonstration were born, in 1980, the then London Ecology Party (now the Green Party) published a major in-depth report on the transport of spent nuclear fuel through London: it was called “Carrying the Can” and we owe a real debt to the memory of its author, Mike Barker
In the report he said, in language which now sounds a little dated and sexist: It is beside the point for the man in the street to declare himself in favour of nuclear power as long as the reactors are situated many miles away, when the irradiated fuel from those reactors is being carried within a half-mile of his home.
The report also says that: nuclear safety should not be regarded as a series of isolated danger spots on remote parts of the coastline, but as a single entity, the shape of which corresponds to the transportation network (at present mostly rail) linking the reactors with Windscale (now Sellafield)
That is still true today – the nuclear industry is a network, formed by transport routes, because there is still a problem in dealing with the toxic by-products of that industry. And it is worth remembering the effects of those toxins as we approach the anniversaries of the horrendous Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in early August. The effects of any major release of radioactivity from spent fuel during its journey are potentially devastating: no less shocking than the effects of the London tube bombings.
Nuclear sites and the transport for nuclear fuel and spent fuel have long been seen as potential targets for terrorist attack. If you were planning a so-called “spectacular”, the Olympic Games are an obvious target as we have seen in past on at least two occasions.
In 2001, an enquiry by the London Assembly into the transport of nuclear spent fuel through London raised a number of concerns about trackside security, emergency response planning, the ability of public services to cope etc. That is an area to return to when we are facing vicious cuts to public services.
In May this year, Green Member of the London Assembly Darren Johnson, asked the current Mayor the following question:
What reassurances or information can you provide to Londoners whilst the North London Line is closed, and with the prospect of the route running through the site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games? Have you liaised with the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, the Metropolitan Police Service and the relevant Government departments?
As you might expect, given that this Mayor is rather different to his predecessor, his answer was not what we would have hoped for:
“It falls outside of my jurisdiction,” he said. “… I am therefore unable to confirm if nuclear waste will be transported through London during the 2012 Games. However I have no concerns regarding the transportation of nuclear waste, and have full faith that the government agencies responsible undertake this in a safe manner which poses no risk to Londoners or visitors during the Games.”
So that’s all right then – I feel very reassured, as I’m sure you do. He went on to say: “May I suggest your question is better placed to the Government? ”
So, the Mayor of London “has no concerns”…. Many of us do. That’s why we’re here today!
So, we will “take it up with the Government”. And when we do – will make the point that the plans of the previous (Labour) Government for 10 new nuclear power stations (many using existing sites) will keep this nuclear web in place.
We will also make the point that there are safer alternatives in real, renewable energy – not the greenwash treatment currently being given to nuclear power.
Only this week, Germany’s Federal Environment Agency announced that: Germany could derive all of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050 and become the world’s first major industrial nation to kick the fossil-fuel habit. Germany has a nuclear moratorium thanks to the Greens. Last month a report by the UK’s Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, mid Wales, said Britain could eliminate all its carbon emissions by 2030 by overhauling its power supply (and not including nuclear power)
We are being told that nuclear energy is necessary for a low-carbon future, in order to help combat climate change. Climate change is a debt from our past to us, now and for future generations. Nuclear waste – containing some of most deadly substances known in the world today – is another debt to future generations and a real risk to us now.
We have to tackle this environmental debt-crisis: we have to switch off our fossil-fuel habit and switch on to real renewable energy. That will permanently stop the transport of nuclear waste through London and make this world a safer place.
Jean speaking at the anti-nuke trains demonstration in Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, on Saturday, July 10th.