Nuclear Bristol & High Level Omissions

We only get one shot at this precious and vulnerable life so our words matter – our actions matter.   Our lives are fleeting in the measure of geological time (unlike nuclear wastes).  Seeing the massive crowds of young folk just starting out in their lives gathered in Bristol, all engaged with wanting to protect life on planet earth should be life affirming. 

So why do I feel so desperately sad every time I dwell on it.

The Final Solution?

I feel sad because I saw the tweets ahead of the Greta Thunberg visit. 

George Monbiot with his “friend and hero” Greta, talking about “every aspect of the climate emergency.”   Presumably that meant talking about the “solutions.”   For a long while now the UK’s foremost environmentalist (according to the Guardian) has been promoting new nuclear as a solution.  Using his considerable platform for attacks on scientists who (increasingly bravely) speak out against the impact of the nuclear industry is bad enough.  But Mr Monbiot also wrote on separate occasions directly to more than one grassroots antinuclear campaigner..  The gist of his words was to tell activists to cease and desist with their antinuclear “bullshit” and to stop putting a spanner in the works of new nuclear.

Photo of the blockade of Hinkley Point, 3 October 2011.  Stop New Nuclear

Imagine the impact of these messages on beleaguered anti nuclear campaigners who are already operating from the unpleasant position of no support from mainstream NGOs.  Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have told me frequently that “nuclear campaigning is no longer a priority for us”. This shift away from campaigning against nuclear power by mainstream NGOs started during Tony Blair’s era.  CND alone is bravely leading the way in being active in making the link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons – while Extinction Rebellion “has no position on nuclear power” but are opposed to nuclear weapons (which require nuclear power to keep the whole shebang going).

Hinkley Point C (HPC) is now the biggest building site in Europe, less than 30 miles from where Greta and supporters were gathered.  This massive building site on an inhuman (and inhumane)  scale is right next to the cracked graphite reactors of the now closed Hinkley A and the operational but dodgy old reactors at Hinkley B.  At the moment reactor 4 is offline because of the state of the ever increasing cracks in the irradiated graphite.   Bristol City Council has said that “it has a number of plans”   and is “confident” that it would be told of an emergency at Hinkley “very quickly”.  It is of real concern that the biggest pour of concrete ever in the UK has taken place at HPC – this seismic loading is right next to cracked nuclear reactor cores “The problem that cracked bricks present to the core is that they may allow more freedom of movement of the core structure, particularly during faults such as an earthquake”  says the Office for Nuclear Regulation.   Seismic loading is known to cause earthquakes.

I feel sad because so many of the enthusiastic and motivated children at Greta’s Climate Strike would have no idea about the close proximity of Hinkley – or if they do, they may have seen climate hero, George Monbiot say that a Fukushima type accident at for example Hinkley would have a “small impact.” 

In 1999 an article appeared in the Ecologist by Dr Rosalie Bertell to mark the anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.  The author demolishes claims from the International Atomic Energy Agency that “only 32 people died.”  This number of 32 was told to me some years ago by Margaret Thatcher’s right hand ‘Chernobyl disaster man’, Sir Christopher Audland who died aged 93 in January this year.  I liked him, but I didn’t believe him.  So many ongoing generations of Chernobyl Children do not have the chance to live to a ripe old age. 

Dr Rosalie Bertell pointed out that: “The essential problem is that both the IAEA and the ICRP (International Commission of Radiation Protection) are dealing not with science but with politics and administration; not with public health but with maintaining an increasingly dubious industry. It is their interests, and those of the nuclear industry, to play down the health effects of radiation.”

Restrictive Definitions
The main way in which the “radiation protection industry” has succeeded in hugely underrating the ill-health caused by nuclear power is by insisting on a group of extremely restrictive definitions as to what qualifies as a radiation-caused illness statistic. For example, under IAEA’s criteria:

If a radiation-caused cancer is not fatal, it is not counted in the IAEA’s figures

If a cancer is initiated by another carcenogen, but accelerated or promoted by exposure to radiation, it is not counted.

If an auto-immune disease or any non-cancer is caused by radiation, it is not counted.

Radiation-damaged embryos or foetuses which result in miscarriage or stillbirth do not count

A congenitally blind, deaf or malformed child whose illnesses are are radiation-related are not included in the figures because this is not genetic damage, but rather is teratogenic, and will not be passed on later to the child’s offspring.

Causing the genetic predisposition to breast cancer or heart disease does not count since it is not a “serious genetic disease” in the Mendelian sense.

Even if radiation causes a fatal cancer or serious genetic disease in a live born infant, it is discounted if the estimated radiation dose is below 100 mSv [mSv= millisievert, a measurement of radiation exposure. One hundred millsievert is the equivalent in radiation of about 100 X-Rays].

Even if radiation causes a lung cancer, it does not count if the person smokes — in fact whenever there is a possibility of another cause, radiation cannot be blamed.

If all else fails, it is possible to claim that radiation below some designated dose does not cause cancer, and then average over the whole body the radiation dose which has actually been received by one part of the body or even organ, as for instance when radio-iodine concentrates in the thyroid. This arbitrary dilution of the dose will ensure that the 100 mSv cut-off point is nowhere near reached. It is a technique used to dismiss the sickness of Gulf War veterans who inhaled small particles of ceramic uranium which stayed in their lungs for more than two years, and in their bodies for more than eight years, irradiating and damaging cells in a particular part of the body.”

The sad fact is that half of the young people at the Bristol Climate Strike will suffer from cancer/radiation linked diseases. This is well documented. Increasingly cancer is a disease of young people and is the reason why Germany is phasing out nuclear power. Although Germany is phasing out nuclear power it still has a massive nuclear waste problem. German spent nuclear fuel (waste) was sent to the Sellafield site in Cumbria, UK for reprocessing (stripping out the plutonium and uranium with massive amounts of acids). Now ‘vitrified’ Highly Active Waste is to be sent back to Germany. They don’t want it back.

Nuclear Waste arriving back at Germany

“The waste will be transported by sea on a specialised vessel to a German port then onwards by rail to the final destinations. INS has contracted with Daher Nuclear Technologies GmbH, to safely manage the overland transport in Germany.” Germans do not want this stuff back and who can blame them. The first shipment is due, we have been told, possibly in the next week. It will go by train from Sellafield along the beautiful coast of West Cumbria to  Barrow’s Ramsden Dock and then onwards by sea to Germany. Radioactive wastes and materials constantly criss cross the planet using massive amounts of fossil fuel and putting us all in harms way.

The University of Bristol is recieving massive funding from the South West Nuclear Hub and, it seems, has a remit to sex up nuclear waste. “A team of physicists and chemists from the University of Bristol hope to recycle radioactive material directly from a former nuclear power plant in Gloucestershire to generate ultra-long-lasting power sources.”

This is a nuclear ‘feel good’ story about so called “Diamond Batteries.” which would have “very low power” – ie less than a small battery in a mock candle but would require mega amounts of fossil fuel to manufacture and a net result of more nuclear waste.

Bristol is living in the shadow of nuclear power.  The City receives huge funding from the public purse to keep the whole nuclear shebang going and people complicit.  EDF has offices in the City with globe trotting staffers. The ongoing spectacular nuclear nonchalance (and worse) is putting young folk in the direct path of harms way.   Not to mention that new nuclear would make the planet burn faster and hotter.

In the event of an accident at the existing plant, Simon Creed, Civil Protection Manager for Bristol City Council, has said:“the threat to Bristol would be the danger of a plume threatening the city, in these circumstances the advice would likely to be to shelter not to evacuate.”
Hinkley Point is less than 30 miles from Bristol, and Mr Creed admitted to the Bristol Post: “The issue is we would have 40 to 50 minutes to evacuate the whole city. The only way this would be possible was if there were buses all lined up with their engines running.”

Young people are being misled by nuclear high level omission. The grown ups, the NGOs, the Environmentalists are all culpable – all should take responsibility for the Nukiller future that could be (and increasingly is) the cause of wiping out all life on planet earth.

Fallout Zones Applied to UK Nuclear Power Stations (courtesy of No2NuclearPower). Sellafield Nuclear Waste site is not represented – the map would have to be planetary. There is No Planet B – but if there was it would have to be on this map if Sellafield were to be included!


Chernobyl Fallout Map

This interactive map overlays the actual fallout from the Chernobyl accident as it affected Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and other nearby countries applied to each of the nuclear power station sites in the UK. It is not a modelling exercise of potential accidents to UK nuclear power stations, but does illustrate the widespread impact a nuclear accident can have. 

The original map was produced by Keep Wales Nuclear Free. The interactivity was developed for by

The above is a personal Response to the Climate Strike in Bristol.
Written by Marianne Birkby anti-nuclear activist and founder of Radiation Free Lakeland

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