Lakeland Story for All Hallow’s Eve: The Beast of Beckermet

The Beast of Beckermet at Nursery Woods Looking Out over the River Ehen

The Beast of Beckermet

“What am I? Nosing here, turning leaves over
Following a faint stain on the air to the river’s edge
I enter water. Who am I to split
The glassy grain of water looking upward I see the bed
Of the river above me upside down very clear”

Wodwo by Ted Hughes

A Spooky Letter

Readers of the Whitehaven News were told a spooky tale via a letter written into the paper in 1998. The anonymous letter appears to be written in all seriousness and says:

“While walking my dog on the evening of Sunday, January 25th on the road out of Beckermet towards the A595, I passed Nursery Woods. The time was approximately 16.45hrs. It was starting to get dark so my visibility was not that good, but as I walked past the woods I heard the snapping of branches. Thinking it was a deer or another animal, I stopped to try and see what it was. Looking through the tree’s I noticed a large creature covered in sort of ginger brown hair that seemed to be drinking from a pond about 150 metres into the woods.

“As the lighting was getting bad I was straining to make out what the animal was but as I stopped and stared it appeared to see me, at which point it reared up onto its hind legs and made off slowly further into the woods. I would estimate its height when upright to be approximately six feet and six inches and its weight to be about 14 stone.

“This was not a man as it was naked except for its covering of hair. Also it was not a deer as it made off on its hind legs. After the sighting I rushed to my home in Beckermet and told my wife what I had witnessed. Let me assure you that this is not a hoax. I was going to report the incident to the police but my wife persuaded me not to for fear of ridicule.

“I have lived in Beckermet for seven years and walk past these woods almost every day and have never witnessed anything like it before or since.”


So what is this Beast of Beckermet? In the Cathedral at Carlisle there is a carving from the early 1400’s depicting a Hairy Wildman of the woods also known as Woodwose.

The Woodwose of Medieval Europe is interchangeable with the guardian of nature, the Green Man and very easy to dismiss as medieval legend. But somehow the legend is persistent especially it seems at important sacred sites such as cathedrals, stone crosses and stone circles.

Rare Habitat

The Whitehaven News’ letter writer referred to Nursery Woods at Beckermet. Nursery Woods are Ancient semi natural woodland. Miles of ancient hedgerow radiate out from this woodland, both habitats are increasingly rare and getting rarer in West Cumbria. Incredibly this is just a part of the vast site earmarked by NuGen (Nuclear Generation) for “the biggest nuclear development in Europe.”   The principal developers are Toshiba and they have called the plan “Moorside.”


With Friends Like These

Friends of the Lake District are opposing the pylons but incredibly are not lending their weight to opposing ‘Moorside. ’ But they have said that: Loss of Nursery Wood (Ancient Semi Natural Woodland) would take place under the current plans as it would be buried under the screening mounds. This would be a very significant loss of irreplaceable habitat and landscape features within the Moorside site”. This strong statement is then undermined by FoLD helpfully suggesting that the loss can “be compensated for. Compensation should be put in place as quickly as possible to ensure no net loss of biodiversity”. Really?!

Old Mines

I can see the Beast of Beckermet (B.O.B) coming up out of the vast network of old mine workings under the Beckermet area  especially to raise an eyebrow at that suggestion.  Interestingly there is a follow up to the B.O.B letter. Alan Cleaver, former Deputy Editor of the Whitehaven News (one of the founding members of ASSAP and creator of the Strange Britain website) tells of a response to the spooky letter.

“On January 25 I attended the birthday party of a friend at The White Mare, Beckermet. I was told the party was to be fancy dress…..I ordered a taxi and was duly dropped off at Beckermet approximately 16.30. Imagine my surprise when I entered the pub bar dressed as an orang-utan, to be met by all my mates dressed in jeans and shirts. The fancy dress had been cancelled.

I ran out of the door to a chorus of laughter, before anybody knew who I was. I thought the quickest way home without being seen would be over the fields, so off I fled. As you can imagine this is no easy thing dressed as I was. I came to a pond in a small wood, stopped and knelt down for a drink of water. Just as I finished my drink I heard a dog bark and turned to see a man staring at me….”

This is just as perplexing as the original B.O.B story. From Beckermet’s White Mare, Nursery Woods really doesn’t lead to anywhere except Sellafield and the Irish Sea. Also there aren’t many people I know of who would take a drink out of a muddy puddle in such close proximity to Sellafield.

The Meandering River Ehen

The river Ehen flows from Ennerdale to the proposed Moorside site. The Ehen loops and meanders along an area known as the Boggles (Bog Holes) parallel to the Irish Sea. At low tide the rivers Ehen and Calder merge and cross the beach as one. Sadly the last reaches of the Ehen’s sister river, the Calder no longer meanders brimful of salmon, freshwater pearl mussels and eels to the sea, but has been straightened and made into an industrial channel running through the Sellafield reprocessing plant. NuGen are not hanging around waiting for results of consultations or for the government’s expected rubber stamp on the Development Control Order but are already using the river Ehen as a dumping ground for 300 “exploratory” borehole wastes on the “Moorside” site. The liquid and solid wastes from these deep boreholes will inevitably contain decades worth of leakage from Sellafield.

Incredibly there are no raised eyebrows, no outcry from conservation, farming, fishing or wildlife groups, only the pylons have come in for criticism.   Deep concrete foundations, chemical/oil run off and industrialisation would irreversibly damage the Ehen and the groundwaters, even without any nuclear reactors ever being fired up.

Even Cumbria Wildlife Trust have chosen to nail their colours to the nuclear mast and NuGen are of course more than happy to use CWT and also the Wild Ennerdale project as greenwash: “Volunteers, including CEO Tom Samson and members of NuGen’s senior management team, joined teams from Cumbria Wildlife Trust and The Forestry Commission to construct dams and improve natural drainage in this rare landscape that provides a habitat for a number of protected species. NuGen’s Environmental Sustainability Manager, Alexandra Brennan, said: “NuGen is committed to protecting the environment close to our Moorside Project, which is home to some very special, important and increasingly rare habitats – the peatland at Gillerthwaite Mire is a really good example and that’s why we jumped at the opportunity to volunteer our time and help with this work”.

It seems the official bodies tasked with protecting our wildlife have been well and truly nobbled by the insidious many-headed nuclear beast. Maybe the Woodwose as protector of the woods and wildlife is needed now more than ever? But who will protect the habitat of the Beast of Beckermet?

Wodwo A Poem by Ted Hughes

Many thanks to The Ecologist magazine for publishing the story with additions 











PYLONS IN CUMBRIA – Just Like a Halloween Movie.

Last night supporters of a Radiation Free Lakeland went along to the meeting called by Power without Pylons.  The meeting at the pretty village of Broughton in Furness was attended by a whole host of people who have been given the green light by the great and the good to vehemently oppose the Pylons while ignoring the Main Event.

We stood outside and leafletted – many people nodding in agreement at the sight of the nuclear waste barrel – the lasting legacy product of nuclear power.


The organisers of the meeting made it clear that we were not welcome “this is a meeting about the pylons”  and during questions I held my hand up patiently for an hour and was studiously ignored.  One of our supporters did manage to get a question in, and was greeted with howls of laughter.  The question was actually the most intelligent thing said all night: what would happen in the event of a pylon or pylons being toppled by accident or by design?  

No One provided an answer to this – but John Woodcock MP helpfully mimed a pylon toppling over.

No one at the meeting seemed to appreciate the fact that nuclear reactors need electricity going TO them.  If transmission to “the biggest nuclear development in Europe” was cut by toppling pylons the consequences would be dire – certainly no laughing matter for us or our European neighbours.  “Chernobyl on steroids” is how Arnie Gundersen has described it.

John Woodcock illustrated the point that accidents happen by dropping his cup of tea.

John Woodcock MP’s Little Accident

The meeting was well attended and well constrained into deliberately ignoring the big issue. Cumbria is being played like a fiddle and John Woodcock MP is one of the chief fiddlers.  We came away from the meeting feeling like we were in the grip of some creepy Halloween movie.

A letter sent to the press – unpublished.

Friends of the Lake District are jubilant: “Lakes Saved From Pylons” shout the headlines in all media.

A visitor from Mars would assume that the pylons were the very worst thing about the plan for “biggest nuclear development in Europe.”

The pylons would last 60 years while the nuclear wastes from “Moorside” would have to be kept separate from the biosphere  into eternity.  

NO mention by any of the wildlife or conservation groups that the plan includes concreting over 1400 acres of irreplaceable greenfields, ancient woodland, floodplain and special sites of wildlife “protection.”

All legal protections are effectively null and void in the face of this Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.

SO instead of rallying all their forces to protect the 1400 acres and the estuaries and seas around the West Coast of Cumbria, the conservation, wildlife and countryside groups have instead just rolled over.

Cowed in the face of such a big nasty project they have dutifully focussed all their attention on the pylons.

This is exactly what the industry and our pronuclear government want. Cumbria is being played like a fiddle and the tune is fitting for Halloween.

There is Resistance to the plan from ordinary people, almost 11,000 of whom have signed an ongoing 38Degrees petition to Stop Moorside. A similar Friends of the Lake District petition opposing just the pylons has attracted around 1000 signatures but guess which has received far more media attention. Yep, the pylons.

The more real help we can get to Stop Moorside the better chance we have of actually protecting Cumbria and our European neighbours from this diabolic plan of which the pylons are the least obscene thing. 


NuGen Partner Says: Renewable Energy is the New Norm – OK – So ….STOP MOORSIDE!

Roe deer, Moorcide
Roe Deer on the 1400 acres earmarked for The Biggest Nuclear Development in Europe – #StopMoorside!

Dear Friends,

Thank you for all your actions to Stop Moorside, the biggest nuclear development in Europe.

Now one of the partners behind the proposal – Engie has said that: *Renewable energy is the new norm*

So, even Engie’s chief executive, Isabelle Koche believes that nuclear is literally a dead end.

Please write to Engie and tell them to get out of the NuGen project.

There is a sample letter below.

Many Thanks! Marianne

Email Contact form here:

or Address Here: Isabelle Kocher, Group Chief Executive Engie, 40 Holborn Viaduct London, EC1N 2PB

For the Attention of Isabelle Kocher,

Group Chief Executive Officer of Engie,

Nearly 11,000 people have signed an ongoing petition opposing the proposed Moorside nuclear plant in Cumbria. 

The Copeland area’s 2016 Local Plan said that there should be no new hazardous build or population expansion next to Sellafield. This essential precautionary approach has been ignored in the push for new nuclear. 

I agree with your recent statement to that: Renewable Energy is the new norm. I would like to know if you are happy to be repsonsible for pouring concrete over 1400 acres of greenfields, ancient woodland, hedgrows and flood plain at the village of Beckermet? 

I would like to know if you are happy to be held responsible for the inevitable  radiation linked diseases that would result from new nuclear reactors in Cumbria? 

The nuclear industry has a Compensation Scheme for Radiation Linked Diseases for the workforce but not for the infants in the school just 700 metres from the Moorside proposal.

Please pull out of the NuGen project and urge your partner Toshiba to abandon this plan which is dangerous not just for Cumbria but for our European neighbours too. 

your sincerely,




Radioactive Leak At Reactor in Norway

The Independent 25.10.2016



The leak at the Halden in southern Norway spilled radioactive isotopes on
Monday and was due to a technical failure.
The Radiation Protection Authority says emissions are low. Staff were
evacuated immediately and no one was hospitalised.
The protection agency is investigating and not happy the incident was not
reported until the next day.

Comment from a supporter of Radiation Free Lakeland: “This casual attitude to nuclear leaks is common throughout the industry with an immediate reaction of playing down any dangers.The nuclear power industry has an inherent danger of “technical failures”.

Friends of the Lake District Call For Celebrations over Pylons – What about the 250Million years+ of Nuclear Waste!?

HOT 15
Wastwater Chronicles


A. PYLONS From Moorside – 60 Years



Recieved this today from Friends of the Lake District.  It is beyond satire FoLD and all other conservation, wildlife, countryside and other  groups tasked with “protecting”  Cumbria are clamouring to stand up and say a vehement  NO to the sight of pylons, good for them, but this is meaningless while studiously ignoring the elephant in the room.  The sight of pylons in Fukushima and Chernobyl is an irrelevance.


From Friends of the Lake District – sent to all supporters……

** BREAKING NEWS: Lake District spared from 50m tall pylons ———————————————————— Dear Marianne We received the news from National Grid today that they are to spare the Lake District from 50m tall pylons and bury all connections within the Lake District underground. We’ve been working with National Grid and campaigning with our members to see off the threat of 50m tall pylons being built through the Lake District for more than 5 years and today we’ve had the wonderful news that National Grid plans to put 23.4km (14.5 miles) of new line underground through the entire western section of the Lake District National Park. This could also see the existing lines there being removed completely, leaving this part of the park free of pylons for the first time in more than 60 years. We are hugely indebted to every member, supporter, donor, partner and campaigner for your amazing support and tireless efforts. We’re delighted with this announcement and you should be too! We still have concerns about areas in the south west of Cumbria which lie very close to the Lake District boundary where National Grid is still proposing pylons as the solution for connection. We feel that the Duddon Valley and other visually sensitive areas south of the National Park should also be considered for undergrounding or possibly a tunnel across the Duddon Estuary. We will be raising this as a concern during Grid’s consulted on between 28th October 2016 and 6th January 2017 and advising on how you can do the same. We will send you another email on 28th October with links to the consultation and our campaign page where you will be able find out more information about how to respond to the consultation. (I’ve included a copy of our press release sent by Friends of the Lake District today. I thought you’d like to share the good news!) You’ll find more information updates on the campaign section of our website. Click here to visit ( If you are not already a member, will you consider joining us? From only £2.25 a month you can add your voice to the thousands already standing with us to protect Cumbria’s fragile landscapes. It is only with our members’ support that we can afford to campaign about these issues. You can find out more here With best wishes, Kate Dr Kate Willshaw Policy Officer

Off Message? Never Mind the Pylons, Stop Moorside!



@Broughton Victory Hall on 28th October

On 28th October at 6.30pm at Broughton’s Victory Hall, Pro-Moorside MP will address a meeting called by Power Without Pylon campaigners.

The pylons have been flagged up remorselessly in the media as the biggest threat from Moorside. The Pylons would be the least of it. This focus by the media and vested interests is a ploy to limit and contain the opposition to Moorside itself.

 Despite this,  when the North West Evening Mail ran a Poll on the Pylons which (unlike the Moorside Consultation) gave the option to say No to Moorside… 70% did just that!

The industry and those with vested interests like ProNuclear and ProTrident MP John Woodcock want nothing better than to focus on the pylons and limit opposition to the actual diabolic plan for Moorside.

Please Come Along and show opposition to Moorside itself. We will be standing from 5.30pm peacefully with banners and leafleting before the meeting and then will go in to take part.

Never Mind the Pylons – Stop Moorside!

From the North West Evening Mail

“Barrow MP to join campaigners at meeting over plan to build giant pylons as big as Nelson’s Column

A POLITICIAN will speak at a public meeting alongside campaigners who are opposed to plans for giant pylons to be installed along the Furness countryside.

John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness, and members of the Power Without Pylons group are jointly hosting a public meeting in Broughton Victory Hall on Friday October 28 from 6.30pm.

National Grid plans to export electricity from a proposed nuclear power station at Moorside near Sellafield to the Lancashire coast via a tunnel underneath Morecambe Bay………

Power Without Pylons secretary Graham Barron said: “We are campaigning for a solution that avoids putting up giant pylons in and around the national park and that keeps the means of connection out of sight.

“We believe the best option is to put the connection offshore but, failing that, undergrounding the whole route south of Moorside is the only acceptable alternative.”

NO – The ONLY acceptable alternative is to STOP MOORSIDE

Never Mind the Pylons: Stop Moorside Say 70% on Evening Mail Poll



Letter Sent to *All South Lakeland and Copeland Parish Councils ahead of
the Pylon Consultation for the Biggest Nuclear Development in Europe.


Dear *Lakes Parish Council,

Thank you for teaming up with neighbouring councils to fight the pylons.
Cumbrians are increasingly concerned about all the impacts from Moorside.
The online poll in the North West Evening Mail under the article “Councils
Present United Front Against Pylon Plans” reflects this concern.
The Poll asked “What would you prefer?”
6% Said Yes to Pylons;
17% Said Yes to Underground Cables;
7% Said Yes to Offshore Cables and
70% Said No to Moorside.
This is remarkable given that media coverage has focussed narrowly on the
impacts of the pylons rather than the wider impacts from Moorside itself.
We support the councils in opposing the pylons but would suggest that as
with all the many damaging impacts from the proposed “biggest nuclear
development in Europe”, the pylons are being heavily underestimated.

Radiation Free Lakeland have been in correspondence with former US nuclear
regulator Arnie Gundersen who has visited the site and tells us that:

“The position of the transmission corridor (pylons) is critical to plant
reliability and safety. The Moorside corridor is too narrow, being bound
by the sea on one side and the National Park on the other. This means
that extreme weather events can prevent the entire output of the plant
from reaching customers (reliability), and more importantly, it can
prevent emergency power from getting to the plant to keep the atomic
reactor cooling pumps operating (safety). Remember when a nuke shuts
down, it has so much residual heat that it must have ongoing cooling or it
will meltdown. To assure reliability from severe weather, the generated
electricity being transmitted to customers is transmitted in several
directions on different corridors. The proposal for the Moorside atomic
reactors is for 3300 MWe of power generated by three AP1000 nuclear power
plants necessitating several very wide transmission corridors, which the
land itself is unable to sustain. In all likelihood, underground
transmission lines would significantly improve the reliability of the
electric transmission to customers, because the area’s severe
thunderstorms would no longer be an issue. However, underground
transmission corridors would be very expensive, perhaps making the cost of
the site astronomical, and such immense costs would most likely be passed
on to consumers.”

Arnie Gundersen’s statement that there would need to be several
transmission corridors is borne out by the experience at Sellafield where
there are no operational reactors but huge amounts of energy are required
for cooling the wastes and for reprocessing. The Stress Test carried out
for Sellafield in 2012 following the ongoing Fukushima disaster states:
The Sellafield site is a node connection point on the 132 kV District
Network electrical grid in West Cumbria and benefits from several supply
connections to the national grid network. These lines are configured in
pairs with each pair supplied from an independent grid supply and using
different pylon routings. Any single 132 kV grid onnection can supply the
entire site electrical load. Additional lines deliver power to Sellafield
from the adjacent Fellside Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant. However
Fellside is not self sufficient; it requires at least one of the 132kV
grid connection lines to start up and/or to continue to operate. Therefore
Sellafield cannot operate in an “island” mode with supplies from Fellside
alone. The diverse sources of the lines ensure that grid disturbances are
unlikely to affect all of the lines and it is policy never to have more
than two of these feeder lines out of service at any one time for planned
maintenance. Offsite power can fail for a number of reasons and sufficient
operational history exists to evaluate the likelihood of such failures”.
“On grid failure there are significant fuel supplies in onsite storage
tanks to last for several days. Under normal circumstances the fuel supply
contractor can respond with a tanker delivery within forty eight hours
(i.e. well within the duration of the onsite reserves) with further
deliveries being required daily thereafter.”

We wonder how much electricity the government and industry plan to be
directed from Moorside to Sellafield and if that is the reason for the
lack of “several” transmission routes that a former US nuclear regulator
has predicted would be required for Moorside.

Isn’t the West Coast of Cumbria already under enough of an intolerable
nuclear burden without ever more nuclear installations?

Certainly people responding to the Evening Mail poll present a united
voice in saying:

Never Mind the Pylons Say NO to Moorside!

Yours sincerely,
Marianne Birkby
On behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland

Councils Present United Voice Against Pylon Plans

85% of Cumbrians Say No

Sellafield Stress Test

Arnie Gundersen in Keswick 2015
We Need to Talk About Moorside

Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 New Nuclear Power Station Piping Defects Appear Never-Ending; Any Part You Want, As Long as It’s Defective?

MAny Thanks to Mining Awareness for this Expose. MEanwhile in Cumbria we are smothered with spin for this obscenity to be built at the village of Beckermet ….they call it “Moorside”

Mining Awareness +

On September 29th, the US NRC reported piping deviations for the Vogtle AP 1000 “two flanges identified with deviations on Passive Core Cooling System pipe spools for the Vogtle Unit 3 AP1000r project had incorrect raised-face dimensions. This appears to have been caused by the two flanges being transposed due to an inadvertent fabrication error that occurred at the pipe spool supplier’s facilities (CB&I Laurens). The error was subsequently discovered after delivery to the fabrication facility (Aecon Industrial).” And, what does this mean? Did they replace it? Or? An expert assures me that this means that they did the equivalent of forcing a door shut, which doesn’t want to go. It should have been replaced rather than corrected: “The flange configuration was corrected and the Q223 Mechanical Module was delivered to the Vogtle Unit 3 site… Thus, Aecon is potentially producing defective “modules” in…

View original post 3,094 more words

You Can Stop Moorside! Fighting Fund

Dear Friends


We are raising money to Stop Moorside.

With your help we can commission a report into the dodgy design of the untried, untested nuclear reactors proposed.

Already we have, thanks to  your generosity, commissioned an expert report (to be published in 2017) into the health detriment.

Now we would like to be able to cover the costs of an expert report into the design of these diabolic reactors and why they should not be built anywhere, never mind next to this most dangerous nuclear site …Sellafield!

DONATE Please Help us to Stop Moorside @ JustGiving

Thank You!

Atomic Siamese twins: how the UK promoted the birth of nuclear proliferation.

Calder Hall – Now Sellafield.  See how the River Calder meanders to the Irish Sea – Now that river is a straightened “lets get the crapola away from us” radioactive sewer amid Sellafield’s nuclear sprawl.   The Sellafield site discharges radioactive wastes into the River Calder- as well as dumping into the Irish Sea.  The same fate awaits the River Ehen unless the plan for Moorside is stopped.


Atomic Siamese twins: how the UK promoted the birth of nuclear proliferation

by Dr David Lowry

This week will see the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Calder Hall nuclear production facility at Sellafield on 17 October 1956.

Indeed, the Beacon Museum in Whitehaven, a short distance along the coast from Sellafield in Cumbria is holding month long celebration exhibition of the Calder Hall plant.

Calder Hall was opened by the young Queen Elizabeth on 17 October 1956, but it was never a ‘commercial’ civil nuclear plant. Her script writer penned the following for Her Majesty to say from the podium: “This new power, which has proved itself to be such a terrifying weapon of destruction, is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community.”

It was hailed as an “epoch-making” event by then Lord Privy Seal, Richard Butler. It was, however, a gross deception of the public

In fact it was clearly stated at the time of the plant’s opening, in a remarkable little book entitled Calder Hall: The Story of Britainís First Atomic Power Station, written by Kenneth Jay, and published in October 1956 by the Government’s Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell to mark Calder’s commissioning. Mr Jay wrote:

Major plants built for military purposes such as Calder Hall are being used as prototypes for civil plants . . . the plant has been designed as a dual-purpose plant to produce plutonium for military purposes as well as electric power . . . it would be wrong to pretend that the civil programme has not benefited from, and is not to some extent dependent upon, the military programme.”

An atomic “clock” registered the first generated nuclear power

Calder Hall was closed in March 2003, fifty years after its construction bagan. Interestingly, the first ñ nominally commercial – reactor at Hinkley, the Magnox ëAí plant, was operated for military production purposes too.

The first public hint came with a public announcement on 17 June 1958 by the Ministry of Defence, notably not the Ministry of Fuel and Power that oversaw the civilian nuclear programe – on: ìthe production of plutonium suitable for weapons in the new [nuclear ] power stations programme as an insurance against future defence needs in the Hinkley reactor. .

A week later in the UK Parliament, the Conservative Cabinet minister Paymaster General, Reginald Maudling told MPs: “At the request of the Government, the Central Electricity Generating Board has agreed to a small modification in the design of Hinkley Point and of the next two stations in its programme so as to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted should the need arise.

The Government made this request in order to provide the country, at comparatively small cost, with a most valuable insurance against possible future defence requirements. The cost of providing such insurance by any other means would be extremely heavy.”

(Hansard 24 June 1958 columns 246-8; )

(The first nuclear power plant on the Hinkley Point site in Somerset was built in the 1960s.)

This was challenged by Mr Mason, who asked:

“Is the Paymaster-General aware that, as far as I am concerned, it is a disgusting imposition on what was primarily termed a peaceful programme in nuclear energy? Of course, I am pleased to hear that it does not interfere with the atomic energy programme prepared by the Government although I accept that with some measure of reservation? Was this really necessary, in view of the fact that we are producing, perhaps at a slow rate, plutonium.Particularly having regard to the fact that the Dounreay atomic breeder is coming into production very soon, was this imposition on our peaceful atomic power programme really necessary?”

The minister retorted:

“The hon. Gentleman says that it is an imposition. The only imposition on the country would have arisen if the Government had met our defence requirements for plutonium by means far more expensive than those proposed in this suggestion.”

The headline story in the Bridgwater Mercury, serving the community around Hinkley, on that day (24 June} was:

“MILITARY PLUTONIUM To be manufactured at Hinkley”

The article explained:

“An ingenious method has been designed for changing the plant without reducing the output of electricity”

CND was reported to be critical, describing this as a “distressing step” insisting:

“The Government is obsessed with a nuclear militarism which seems insane.”

Sadly, with the blinkered push to replace Trident today, not much seems has changed in the 58 years since!

The left wing Tribune magazine of 27 June 1958 was very critical of the deal under the headline

‘Sabotage in the Atom Stations’

“For the sake of making more nuclear weapons, the Government has dealt a heavy blow at the development of atomic power stations.

And warned:

“Unless this disastrous decision is reversed, we shall pay dearly in more ways than one for the sacrifice made on the grim alter of the H-bomb.”

The late Michael Foot, that great inveterate peace-monger, who later became Labour leader, was then the Tribune editor.

Then, on 3 July 1958, the United Kingdom and United States signed a detailed agreement on co-operation on nuclear weapons development, after several months of Congressional hearings in Washington DC, but no oversight whatsoever in the UK Parliament! As this this formed the basis, within a mere five years, for the UK obtaining the Polaris nuclear WMD system from the UK, and some 20 odd years later for the UK to buy American Trident nuclear WMDs , the failure of Parliament to at least appraise the security merits of this key bilateral atomic arrangement was unconscionable.

A month later Mr Maudling told backbencher Alan Green MP in Parliament that:

“Three nuclear power stations are being modified, but whether they will ever be used to produce military grade plutonium will be for decision later and will depend on defence requirements. The first two stations, at Bradwell and Berkeley, are not being modified and the decision to modify three subsequent stations was taken solely as a precaution for defence purposes.”


“It in no way reflects any change in the assessment of the economics of the British nuclear power stations, and there is therefore no reason whatever why the sale abroad of British nuclear equipment should be in any way affected.”

(Hansard, 1 August 1958 vol 592 cc228-9W;

Following further detailed negotiations, the Ango-American Mutual Defense Agreement on Atomic Energy matters (defence is spelled with an ìsî even in the UK version of the Treaty, demonstrating the origin of the drafts!) , to give it its full treaty title, was amended on 7 May 1959, to permit the exchange of nuclear explosive material including plutonium and enriched uranium for military purposes.

The Times science correspondent wrote on 8 May 1959 under the headline

“Production of Weapons at Short Notice”

“The most important technical fact behind the agreement is that of civil grade – such as will be produced in British civil nuclear power stations- can now be used in weapons”


Within a month, Mr Maudling in Parliament told Tory back bencher, Wing Commander Eric Bullus who had asked the Paymaster-General what change there has been in the intention to modify three nuclear power stations to enable plutonium suitable for military use to be extracted should the need arise.

“Last year Her Majesty’s Government asked the Central Electricity Generating Board to make a small modification in the design of certain power stations to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted if need should arise. Having taken into account recent developments, including the latest agreement with the United States, and having re-assessed the fissile material which will become available for military purposes from all sources, it has been decided to restrict the modifications to one power station, namely, Hinkley Point.”  Hansard, 22 June 1959 vol 607 columns 847-9

And so it may be seen that the UKs first civil nuclear programme was used as a source of nuclear explosive plutonium for the US military, with Hinkley Point A the prime provider.

Two decades later, Wales national daily, the Western Mail, on 8 October 1984 reported that the largest Magnox reactor in the UK, at Wylfa on Anglesey, had also been used to provide plutonium for the military. Plutonium from both reactors went into the UK military stockpile of nuclear explosives, and could well still be part of the UK Trident warhead stockpile today.

Subsequent research by the Scientists Against Nuclear Arms, published in the prestigious science weekly journal, Nature and presented to the Sizewell B Public Inquiry in 1983-4 and Hinkley C Public Inquiry in 1989, has demonstrated that around 6700 kilogrammes of plutonium, was shipped to the United States under the military exchange agreement, which stipulates explicitly that the material must be used for military purposes by the recipient county.

To put this quantity into context, a nuclear warhead contains around 5 kilos of plutonium so this is a very significant quantity

Earlier this month, a commentary article by Oxford University academic, Dr Peter Wynn Kirby, in The New York Times ( “Britain’s Nuclear Cover-Up, October 11, discussed the possibility that he first newbuild nuclear reactor to be built in 20 years in the UK, at Hinkley C, also has military links, this time not to nuclear explosives production, but to nuclear reactor propulsion.

As Dr Kirby states: “A painstaking [100-page] study of obscure British military policy documents, released last month by the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, demonstrates that the government and some of its partners in the defense industry, like Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, think a robust civilian nuclear industry is essential to revamping Britain’s nuclear submarine program.”

Nuclear deception has a long and undistinguished history: it seems we have come full circle 60 years after the birth of nuclear power as the Siamese twin of military nuclear technology six decades after Calder Hall’s opening.