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.

Public Lecture: What New Nuclear Build Means to the Northwest.

From Niger to the  North West
Uranium – From Niger to the North West


Public Lecture: What New Nuclear Build Means to the Northwest.

Professor Robin Grimes, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, will give a lecture on 6th November at the Storey in Lancaster on “What New Nuclear Build Means to the North West.”

Radiation Free Lakeland will be holding a demonstration and leafleting outside the event from 5pm. The lecture begins at 6pm. Professor Grimes is an enthusiast of new nuclear build as a solution to climate change, despite there being no solution to the problem of dangerous nuclear wastes.  No solution to the profligate use of public money, militarism, chemicals, fresh water and fossil fuel propping up the most dangerous industry in the world.  Professor Robin Grime’s nuclear new build obsession is an epic diversion and distraction away from renewables and energy efficiency – which can actually deliver climate solutions in the time scales necessary.   Photographs leaked by a whistleblower show that Sellafield wastes have been neglected despite billions spent in public money.  Should nuclear experts like Prof Grimes be promoting an increase in the nuclear footprint….or researching, lobbying and working all out to stop and contain the existing wastes?

What New Nuclear Build Means to the North West:

1. Drives the push for uranium mining worldwide eg. Peru, The Grand Canyon USA, Niger, Australia, Russia

2.Uranium arrives at Ellesmere Port Dock where it is transported by road to Capenhurst. It is enriched at Capenhurst and then taken again by road to the Springfields fuel rod conversion plant near Preston. During all these processes it in the form of a Uranium Hexaflouride

3. The Fuel Making Process produces radioactive wastes which are released to the River Ribble and dumped in Clifton Marsh landfill. Depleted Uranium is stored at Capenhurst.

4. The fuel is taken to nuclear reactors including Heysham which is being restarted despite “a crack in the boiler spine, a metal rod supporting the weight of the reactor” (Institution of Engineering and Technology).

5. Once the fuel is burnt (spent fuel) it travels by rail to Sellafield where it is reprocessed increasing the volume of waste x180. Sellafield uses over £30M of gas every year.

6. Next to Sellafield is 500 acres of beautiful farmland, hedgerows and ancient tracks. This land should be a buffer zone around the worlds most dangerous stockpile of nuclear waste. Instead the government plan to sell it to the same companies responsible for Fukushima in order to build 3 new nuclear reactors.

7. There is no “solution” to the problem of nuclear waste apart from distributing it to the environment. Not only to the air and sea but also to landfill. And then there is melting down radioactive scrap metal and selling it onto the open market. Finally, the proposal for deep burial of heat generating nuclear wastes.



Professor Grimes : In the context of concerns over climate change and carbon abatement, electricity production via nuclear power plant is firmly back on the world agenda as a source of clean, baseload electricity.  With such a globalised industry it’s easy to forget that the UK has a history of pioneering discoveries and Engineering achievements in this field, and that ‘nuclear’ is a technology with which Lancaster has a special relationship as a result of the specialist research interests of experts at Lancaster University, the power stations at Heysham and its proximity to Springfields and Sellafield.  Robin will review the history and summarise the options for the UK in the future.


More links:






Geological Disposal:

The View from Ireland

Irish Mirror


While the local Cumbrian papers remain schtum and are wondering how best to report on the shocking Sellafield photographs,  the Irish Mirror, not in the pay of Sellafield is free to say it like it is…..

“Sellafield Safety Shocker: Nuclear waste abandoned 40 years ago lies in rotting containers open to the elements…
Oct 31, 2014 06:00 By Pat Flanagan

Whistle-blower’s photos lay bare risk of disaster as expert warns it’s another Fukushima waiting to happen.

Abandoned nuclear waste lying in rotting containers in decaying tanks which are open to the elements
These photos of highly radioactive waste in crumbling ponds proves Sellafield is a Fukushima-like nuclear disaster waiting to happen on our doorstep.

These alarming images show nuclear waste abandoned 40 years ago lying in rotting containers in decaying tanks which are open to the elements.

While Sellafield portrays itself as a modern facility using latest technology the photos paint a picture of wanton neglect and reckless management of the most toxic substance ever created.

The images were leaked by a concerned worker who wanted the world to know parts of the plant – which is nearly 70 years old – are falling apart.

Rusty and corroded pipes and tanks at Sellafield
The concrete walls of tanks where waste was abandoned in the 1970s are crumbling raising fears of a nuclear catastrophe just 200km from Dublin.

If the ponds drain, the spent fuel can spontaneously ignite spreading radiation over a wide area.

Such a disaster would call for mass evacuations along our east coast and a Chernobyl-like permanent exclusion zone in contaminated areas.

Sitting of the abandoned nuclear ponds at Sellafield
Nuclear exert John Large fears a massive radioactive leak.

He told The Ecologist website: “Looking at the photos I’m very disturbed at the degraded and rundown condition of the structures and support services. In my opinion there is a significant risk the system could fail.

“I’d say there’s many hundreds of tonnes in there. It could give rise to a very big radioactive release.

“It’s not for me to make comparisons with Chernobyl or Fukushima, but it could certainly cause serious contamination over a wide area and for a very long time.”

The alarming photos show cracked concrete tanks half-full of water contaminated with high levels of radiation.

On the walkways around the tanks lies a dangerous mess of discarded pipes and equipment while weeds grow from crevices in the cracked concrete.

Alarm bells…Corroded pipes at Sellafield Nuclear Plant
Seagulls regularly land in the deadly contaminated water and carry it on their bodies when they fly off.

In one picture a gull has made its nest a metre above the radioactive soup.

Read the full article here

Truth About Clean Beaches

Truth About Clean Beaches - NW Evening Mail July 5th 2014
Truth About Clean Beaches – NW Evening Mail July 5th 2014
Radioactive Sand in-between toes?
Radioactive Sand in-between toes?


Letter in the North West Evening Mail…..


Holiday time! Beach towels, buckets and spades and children are being gathered up to take along to the beach.

Which beach?

There is loads of choice in Cumbria, which boasts some of the most beautiful coastlines in the UK.

Maybe one of the award-winning beaches like St Bees?  St Bees has a Good Beach flag from the Marine Conservation Society and a Seaside Award flag from Keep Britain Tidy.

Before packing the sandwiches though, it is worth considering that while these awards consider “rigorous water quality tests” they do not consider radioactive pollution as a criteria.

St Bees beach, like many others in West Cumbria, has seen a dramatic increase in radioactive particle finds including plutonium.  The awards encourage children to spend hours playing on the beaches and making sandcastles on beaches known to be contaminated.

Isn’t it about time that these awards included radioactive pollution as a criteria?

Marianne Birkby

Radiation Free Lakeland

Not So Brief Encounter -Nuclear Trains at Carnforth


Not So Brief Encounter Nuclear Trains Carnforth
Not So Brief Encounter Nuclear Trains Carnforth


Nuclear Train Timetable
Nuclear Train Timetable

Many thanks to all the people today who stopped to talk to us at the iconic ‘Brief Encounter’ station at Carnforth.  We handed out around 100 leaflets with many people asking where they could sign a petition to stop the transport of nuclear waste.

The leaflet we handed out said:



Trains pulling containers of highly-radioactive nuclear fuel rods (“Nuclear Trains”) regularly go through Carnforth

These waste trains carrying spent fuel are operated by DRS, [Direct Rail Services owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) which transports this highly radioactive waste through some of most highly populated area in the UK.


Instead of being contained on the original nuclear sites of production the waste is taken to Sellafield where it is reprocessed. Reprocessing is intended to harvest the plutonium and uranium from spent fuel. But it increases the waste volume many times over with 8 million litres of radioactive waste discharged into the Irish Sea every day. Only a tiny fraction of plutonium and uranium has ever been used.


Nuclear trains are the most dangerous cargoes carried on our railways.

The flasks (even when empty) continually leak low-level radiation, and any increase in radiation levels in the environment means an increase in risk of radiation-linked diseases such as thyroid cancer and leukaemia. Women, young children and babies are most at risk.


As a result of a serious accident or terrorist attack the flasks could break open, releasing highly-radioactive material that would blow for miles in the wind and kill thousands of people in the Carnforth area.



Let others know about these waste trains.


Join us in our campaign to stop DRS transporting Nuclear Waste


For more information about the trains see the

Nuclear Waste Trains Action Group website


and Radiation Free Lakeland: contact


Published by Radiation Free Lakeland-



Other Stops On Sellafield Route were leafletted today……

Crewe:  Over 500 leaflets handed out  with people lining up to hear more about the nuclear waste trains.  



And more

Springwatch Sellafield Style

Sellafield Springwatch  23 April 2014
Sellafield Springwatch
23 April 2014


Yesterday Springwatch Sellafield style –

We stood outside Sellafield for the 5th time in a demonstration of opposition to Sellafield’s continuing policy of  experimentation on wildlife (and on us).  We know trees have been planted to entice wildlife into the area previously unfenced and now surrounded by military fences.  The area is we believe a “wildlife monitoring scheme” as recommended by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology  in 1988 and The Deer Intiative in 2012 to record the bioaccumulation of radionuclides in wildlife.  The bioaccumulation of radionuclides does not magically stop at the meaningless fences.


We saw evidence of roe deer and badger just outside the fences by the New Mill beck on our way to Grey Croft Stone circle.

A heron flew accross the site towards the cooling ponds. The fences are meaningless especially while Sellafield continues to reprocess and “decommission” ie fling the waste out to landfill, air and sea. The police were many.


Sellafield Sacrifice - We are the Deer - The Deer are Us
Sellafield Sacrifice – We are the Deer – The Deer are Us



Radiation Free Lakeland have just learned that one of the options for the Sellafield Deer trapped within the newly enlarged security fences is to
retain the deer on site as:

“excellent bio-indicators and sentinels of environmental contamination.
Because of their extremely rapid and efficient deposition of minerals in
bone, they are recognised as important sources of data in respect of heavy
metal and radioactive isotope accumulation. Given the nature of the
industrial work at Sellafield, the regular sampling of deer bone and liver
tissue might be an attractive prospect for those responsible for
environmental monitoring at the site.”

We suspect this was Sellafield’s intention all along to use the deer as an experiment. But then who needs deer as “sentinels” inside the fences when
children are encouraged to play on beaches just outside the fences where increasing
radioactive particles are being found?”

Thermal imaging revealed that between 5-12 deer are on site. Sellafield have admitted that of the 3 deer already culled, tissue has been harvested.

Some years ago this area was flat farmland with an uninterrupted view to the site from Grey Croft stone circle. Sellafield have built a high grassed terraced mound (burying who knows
what beneath it) around the site and planted trees which have been accessible to the deer and other wildlife for several years.

The new fences increase the footprint of the site by including this previously open land. The report from the Deer Initative describes what will happen should grazing animals not be present in this relatively new woodland area

“without such grazing the area will in time become donated by the dense
thicket which may or may not pose security threat to the larger site and
will certainly reduce the biodiversity of the habitat.”

Sellafield told Natural England the deer were a “security threat”  – you can’t have it both ways….unless you are Sellafield and say whatever to further the agenda.

The report describes how the deer have been present for at least several seasons and have been trapped for around 2 seasons with evidence of eating plants normally “unpalatable” to roe deer.

There is debate as to whether or not there were sacrifices at bronze age stones such as Grey Croft.

There is however conclusive evidence of sacrifice by the nuclear industry.

redacted_Deer Report-Sellafield


Sellafield Roe Deer "sentinel"
Sellafield Roe Deer “sentinel”

References for Editors  (well we can hope, although it is common knowledge that editors have been told to soft pedal on nuclear – maybe that will change?)
Note the redacted FOI report attached incorrectly describes Sellafield as
a “power generation” nuclear facility – it has not produced any
electricity since 2006 and uses more fossil fuel than any other user in
Cumbria (over £30 Million of gas yearly)


Greetings from Sellafield - Save the Sellafield Deer

JOIN US ON SUNDAY in between 1-3 in a RALLY to stop the proposed plan to cull a family group of roe deer trapped in the new double security fence at Sellafield.

Bring Banners Music Yourselves – the plight of the deer is a metaphor for us all.

If ANY other industry or individual were to kill deer in the CLOSED SEASON they would receive a hefty fine and or a prison sentence not so Sellafield who are it seems above the law.

Sellafield are acting illegally and brutally in this matter. As well as the RALLY ON SUNDAY we are calling for volunteers to position themselves either at Calder Gate on a daily basis to protest the culling – or more importantly to position themselves along the fence. Shooting should not take place in the knowledge that people MAY be positioned along the fence!

There is an alternative to culling and this has been proposed by

“We have volunteers experienced in such issues whom are local and would be able to encourage movement of the deer” Respect for Wildlife point out that if deer can be moved for culling purposes then why not use the same procedure for funneling them towards opened fences at the Calder Gate, wooded side of the Sellafield site. The fence could then be reinstated further in the woodland. This would leave the deer with free access to their wide ranging territory which includes the now fenced off area of woodland where they have been trapped by Sellafield.

If you cannot join us on the rally – phone, email Sellafield, Your MP, Ed Davey (DECC ordered the fence and the cull)
Your MP
Ed Davey –
DECC tel DECC 0300 060 4000


More Info and Petitions!

Lies of Our Times – High Level Omissions by Anna Mayo

This is an article from the 1994 issue of Lies of Our Times – the nuclear lies have continued and are accelerating …. this article exposes the same old lies told in 1994. The lies are being retold and beefed up in 2014 “radiation is good for you” “real environmentalists love nuclear” and so on again and again. Meanwhile the only wholly government sponsored industry pollutes us all.

Lies of Our Times - correcting the record

High Level Omissions - Lies of our Times by Anna Mayo 1994
High Level Omissions – Lies of our Times by Anna Mayo 1994

Lies of Our Times – High Level Omissions by Anna Mayo

from Lies of Our Times July 1994

If you find an outbreak [of illness ) occurring in a place

where there is an observed increase in radiation, then

alarm bells should ring.

-Alice Stewart. M.D., quoted by R W. Apple, Jr.,

“Scenic Suffolk, Land of Saxons, Sizes Up the Atom,”

New York Times, February 1, 1984, p. A2

A March 8, 1994, New York Times article, “Nuclear Plant

Cleared In Leukemia Cluster,” focused on the release of

A new report by Sir Richard Doll (James Younger, p. C1).

It challenges a 1990 study by Dr. Martin Gardner that linked the

higher than normal incidence of childhood leukemia in Seascale,

a village near Britain’s Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, to

radiation exposure among fathers who worked there.

Younger’s “Science Times” piece brings to 42 the number of

Times articles since 1970 dealing wholly or in part with Britain’s

largest nuclear complex, which was originally known as Windscale.

Its name was changed to Sellafield in 1980 as part of an

attempt to polish its tarnished public image.

Sellafield/Windscale has been written about in a full gamut of

styles-pseudo-scientific, wry, quaint, harsh, and informative by

a legion of Timesmen including Walter Sullivan, John Noble

Wilford, R.W. Apple, Jr., Francis X. Cline, John Leonard, James

Markham, Paul Lewis, and Joseph Lelyveld (who is now the

Times executive editor). Why so much fuss over this particular


What Links?

Younger opened his report by referring to the British television

documentary on the Seascale leukemia cluster that appeared in

the 1980s, saying, “Most people wasted no time pinning the

blame on Sellafield.” He was quick to add, however, that “despite

some evidence of a statistical correlation, scientists were unable

to prove that the plant was responsible

for the leukemia cases”; “every study has concluded that the

‘environmental’ radiation that people

living near Sellafield are exposed

to is only marginally more

than the normal background dose

that other Britons get”; and the link

between leukemia and low-level

radiation “is not at all certain.”

Despite four major studies to the contrary “Science Times”
continues to discount the connection between low-level radiation and cancer

In fact, the link has been demonstrated

in a 1976 study of employees at the DOE’s Savannah

River Plant, which found a 114 percent excess of leukemia

incidence among male blue-collar workers; in two independent

1978 studies of the Navy’s nuclear shipyard workers in Portsmouth,

New Hampshire; in a 1984 Oak Ridge Associated Universities/

University of North Carolina report on workers exposed

to uranium dusts; and in a 1991 study of Oak Ridge

National Laboratory workers (49 percent excess death rate from


“Marginal” Radiation

As for the “only marginally” higher levels of background radiation,

one wonders what would be considered “significantly higher”

levels. After years of plutonium production, nuclear power

generation, reprocessing, and a succession of accidents, including

a fire in 1957 that released 10,000-20,000 curies of radiation,

Cumbria and the sea alongside it have become seriously contaminated.

The Irish Sea has been called “the most radioactive sea in

the world” (Joseph Lelyveld, “On Coast of England, Jobs vs.

Atoms,” New York Times, April6, 1986, p. A3), and the government

has removed tons of radioactive sand from beaches as far

as 25 miles from the site. “Normal background radiation,” according

to a 1984 Multinational Monitor report, “measures ten

counts per second. By contrast, the contaminated beaches near

Sellafield had counts above 1,000 per second for over nine

months” (Jason Adkins, “Trouble at the Nuclear Dustbin,” July

1984, p. 14).

Nevertheless, according to Younger, Gardner’s 1990 thesis

about paternal radiation exposure was the only postulation of a

direct link between Sellafield and the cancers. Now that Doll,

whom Younger refers to as “one of Britain’s foremost epidemiologists”

and “a cancer epidemiologist at Oxford University,”

has published evidence that seems to refute the linkage, Younger

suggests that more weight will be given to claims by Dr. Leo J.

Kinlen, another Oxford epidemiologist, that attempt to link the

cluster to a hypothetical virus.

The Times did not mention, however, that Sir Richard has

close ties to industry and that until his recent retirement he served

as warden/director of Oxford University’s industry-financed

Green College, established as a “special point of entry for industrial

interests wishing to collaborate with university departments in research”
(I Hermann, “Oxford medicine gains a college” New Scientist, March 9 1978)

And nowhere did the article cite Doll’s most formidable opponent, epidemiologist
Dr Alice Stewart, the environmentalists’ star witness in the British government’s inquiry
on the future of nuclear power in England.

Instead extensive space was awarded to Kinlen’s case for blaming a virus, which goes as follows:

Sellafield workers are said to resemble cats confined in large numbers by “pet fanatics”
perhaps the hypothetical human virus is passed around among workers’ children the schoolrooms
of the nearby village of Seascale just as the feline virus (identified) is passed among
kittens of infected cats.

Curiously the Times did not say that feline leukaemia is carried in cats’ faeces and blood
(cats and kittens scratch one another) and through fetid air. Are conditions at Sellafield
and in the Seascale schools really that bad? Also, at one point Younger quoted
Kinlen as saying that “there is no place in England like Seascale.”

If conditions at Seascale are unique, what accounts for the appearance of leukaemia
clusters at other nuclear installations such as the Dounreay facility in neighbouring

What About Three Mile Island?

The mainstream media have consistently maintained

that the 1957 Windscale fire was the worst nuclear accident

ever until the 1986 Chemobyl disaster. Younger parrots

this line, saying the fire released “far more radiation” than

the 1979 “incident” at Three Mile Island. Believe this and

believe further that Windscale had no effects on public

health and it follows that Three Mile Island radiation was


In fact Younger’s and the Times’s repeated assertions

that Windscale released more radiation than Three Mile

Island are without substance: The amount of radiation that

escaped at Three Mile Island is unknown. Outdoor radiation

monitors were spaced too far apart to capture plumes

of radiation. Monitors within the reactor building were out

of order. Traps for radioactive iodine had been inexplicably

removed. All one has to go on are the health and

environmental effects: the clouding over of dentists’ films,

the unprecedented number of forced-and unsuccessful animal

Caesareans, the livestock keeling over, the one eyed

kittens, a parrot breeder’s dead birds, vanished insects,

a gigantic mushroom, squashed dandelions, tulips

with buds on their stems, the metallic taste experienced by

many Three Mile Island area residents-an effect experienced

at Hiroshima and Chemobyl-and cancers and cancers

and cancers.

Martin Forwood

Martin Forwood, campaign secretary for Cumbrlans Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, walks near the Sellafield plant In 1990.

Martin Gardner’s study on high leukemia rates In the area had just been published.

The Safety of Nuclear Facilities Is the Real Issue

All this stuff about cats and kittens and hypothetical viruses

distracts from the question of the leukemia cluster. Moreover,

debunking Gardner’s leukemia cluster data is itself a diversion

from the larger issue of the safety of nuclear facilities.

Near the end of the article, Younger noted that nuclear wastes

from the fabled complex have contaminated lobsters in the Irish

Sea. He might have added, but did not, the harmful effects to

other seafood, vegetables, water, and air. Nor did he mention that

there is also concern over mutations in insects and flowers, the

widespread death of birds-one species of gull seems to be

extinct-and fish in the Irish Sea (Yorkshire television [BBC,

November 1, 1983]; articles: e.g., the Observer [October 23, 30,

November 6, December 11, 1983; June 26, July 2, 1987]; the

Guardian [July 27, 1984]; the Sunday Tribune of Ireland [February

14, 1993]; and Radioactive Roguery, a citizens’ study by

Sydney Quance [Oxford, September 1993]).

In fact, in both England and Ireland there is alarm over

increases in other forms of cancer besides leukemia- England

has the world’s highest rate of lung cancer -and in other diseases

in whose etiology weakening of the immune system is known to

play apart.

Hewing the Industry Line

In framing opposition to Sellafield merely as a response to a few

cases of leukemia, the Times hews to the industry line. Does

anyone suppose that Sweden and Denmark would raise official

protest or that Ireland would go to the European Parliament to

request that the plant be shut down on account of 11 cases of


By limiting discussion to leukemia alone, the New York Times

covers up.

How Low Can You Go?

On May 3, 1990, antinukers were on the phone to one

another, relaying the news that an article about Britain’s

Dr. Alice Stewart, who is often credited as the inventor

of modem epidemiology, had appeared in that morning’s New

York Times (Keith Schneider, “Scientist Who Managed to

‘Shock the World’ on Atomic Workers,” p. A20). Schneider told

how-after 14 years of prodding by Stewart-the U.S. Department

of Energy had finally restored to researchers access to the

health records of atomic workers.

Access to the records had been revoked in 1976 when she,

British statistician George Kneale, and American researcher

Thomas Mancuso published preliminary results of a study of

workers at Hanford Reservation, a nuclear weapons plant in

Washington State. The research, funded by the U.S. Atomic

Energy Commission, showed that the workers had higher than

normal cancer rates. According to Schneider, Stewart

was astonished. It was the first time researchers had found

elevated levels of cancer in weapons workers exposed to

low levels of radiation. “It came at me all of a sudden that

what we were going to say would shock the world,” she

said in a recent interview. “Not even I had thought that the

effect of such a small dose on an adult would be as great

as it was.”

What was going on here? For nearly a half-century, the Times

had repeatedly reported that low-level radiation “was generally

considered harmless.” Now here was this high-toned British

medical doctor- “exquisite courtesy … packaged with plenty of

iron determination” said the teaser-saying that low-level radiation

caused cancer and lots of it.

In the Face of Hostility

The world radiation community’s outrage in 1976 over Stewart’s

preliminary findings about atomic workers was just one of a

succession of challenges Stewart has faced during her long and

distinguished career.

The same kind of hostility had greeted her in 1958 when, as

head of Oxford University’s Department of Preventive Medicine,

she led research that found that X -rays of pregnant women

increased the danger of childhood cancer. Stewart was vindicated

in 1962 when Dr. Brian McMahon at the Harvard School

of Public Health replicated her results. In the case of her research

on workers at weapons plants, however, greater persistence on

Stewart’s part was required-including appearances before congressional

committees and at scientific conferences-before the

DOE, a successor to the AEC, finally changed its policy in 1990

and reopened the records. By this time, Stewart had obtained

independent funding from the Three Mile Island Public Health

Fund, set up after the 1979 nuclear accident near Harrisburg,


In December 1992 Matthew Wald reported on Stewart’s completed

study of the health records of 35,000 workers at Hanford

Reservation (“Pioneer in Radiation Sees Risk Even in Small

Doses,” New York Times, December 8, p. A1). There was one

particularly striking passage:

Explaining why many smaller doses [of radiation] could

be worse than a single large one, Dr. Stewart said: “Why

is mutation dangerous? It is only dangerous if the cell

survives.” Given a large dose, she said, the cell dies.

This explanation of why radiation delivered in small doses

over time may carry a higher risk of cancer than radiation

delivered in a single high dose had not been featured before in

the Times simply because the researchers who have developed

the small-dose theory are personae non grata in its pages. For

example, Dr. John Gofman, chairman and spokesman for the

prestigious Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, is not consulted

for his opinions on nuclear issues. Thus, while readers of

the Wall Street Journal had the benefit of Gofman’ s estimates of

the effects of radiation released in the 1986 accident at Chernobyl,

Times readers did not. Nor did the Times review his definitive

908-page tome on the effects of low-level radiation, Radiation

and Human Health (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books,


Gofman has been unpopular at the Times since 1970, when the

AEC cut off his funding at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,

where he was associate director, because he refused to

keep secret his predictive studies of the health and environmental

effects of low-level radiation from U.S. nuclear power programs.

When the AEC withdrew support from Gofman, colleagues told

him he was lucky he wasn’t being sent to Siberia. In a sense he


Environmentalists might have thought that Wald was going to

explore the implications of Stewart’s statement on the greater

risks of low-level radiation. What did this imply for the future of

nuclear power? Alas, Wald operating under the rubric of Times

objectivity, devoted much of the rest of the article to Stewart’s

critics, including a DOE hack who said that the data used by

Stewart actually led to lower cancer risk estimates and that

radiation might even offer some protection against cancer; and

Dr. Ralph Lapp, described as a “prominent radiation expert.”

Lapp maintained that if low-level radiation were dangerous,

people living in high-altitude Denver, Colorado, would have

higher than average cancer rates as a result of exposure to cosmic

rays, a form of low-level radiation. This is an argument that

Gofman has addressed at length in Chapter 18 of Radiation and

Human Health. (He calculates that there are 80 excess cancer

deaths in Denver each year as a result of cosmic ray exposure but

that this excess is masked by factors that raise rates in other

locales such as doctor/patient ratios, toxic wastes, etc.) Furthermore,

Lapp is not an epidemiologist. He is an atomic physicist

who has earned a bundle lecturing for the nuclear power industry

and writing for the New York Times.

Neither the “Science Times” nor the Times editorial pages

have followed up on the issues Stewart raises.

Anna Mayo’s articles have appeared in Liberation, Kursbach, and numerous

other European and Latin American publications, as well as in the Village Voice,

where she was a staff writer.