REVOLT News 

14/09/2004

Text Version 

1.  Revolt (e.g. news165.10, 162.9 and 156.7) has called for a
feasibility study (no more than that) into the idea of small-scale
nuclear reactors, mass produced based on Westinghouse nuclear submarine
engines and distributed in areas of demand, for example at the main
large electricity substations. Such an idea might potentially solve
several problems - reducing greenhouse gases; improving electricity and
grid security; avoiding economic and political dependence on imported
energy; and reducing the need for pylons and wind farms. Now wired.com
reports (APPENDIX 1) actual development in China of a much safer type of
small-scale nuclear reactor, helium-cooled and pebble-bedded, which was
first mooted over 50 years ago. This news comes on top of that
(news165.4) of a different "energy amplifier" reactor, which can also
burn nuclear waste, under research in Italy and South Africa. The need
for a UK feasibility study becomes more pressing.
2.  Snips from news@all-energy issue 41 of Sep 04 are at APPENDIX 2.
They are selected from about 60 items in the free email available from
<info@all-energy.co.uk>. Note (3.6) the Beauly-Denny line is not
abandoned, but The Cairngorms National Park Authority has called for
further consideration to be given to putting part underground.
3.  Snips from Microwave News EMF papers July/Aug 04 are at APPENDIX 3.
4.  Come on Green Party - sort yourselves out on wind power, don't spoil
your generally good values by ignorance and dogma. Don't go the way of
David Icke again! Saving the planet would be all very well, but wind
farms won't do that nor anything like it. Yes, climate change is a
genuine concern, and "think global, act local" a good message, and more
action to curb pollution of all sorts is needed, but climate change is
not just global warming, which in turn is not just greenhouse gases,
which in turn are not just human output, which in turn is not just from
electricity generation, which in turn is not remedied (nor even scarcely
helped) by wind farms. Reports of Jonathan Porritt's off-balance views
and prominent influence, together with recent letters to the press
(APPENDIX 4) must be of concern to knowledgeable greens and Green Party
members and sympathisers. 
5.  As the UK political party conference season nears, this is a time of
year for spin on party environment policies, with some tactical shifting
of ground. The Kyoto targets for greenhouse gases are looking doubtful
for a number of reasons, not just the US failure to come on board.
Michael Howard shifted from political correctness to oppose a wind farm
and to call for planning sensitivity, and seems now to be questioning
greenhouse gas assumptions at the same time as challenging government
performance on greenhouse gas targets. Government policy is firmly for
wind farms plus more pylons, while not closing the door on nuclear
generation, though Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett today suggested no
early move on nuclear. Both parties appear nervous about anti-nuclear
and save-the-planet green votes, so are looking for something cosy and
simple to understand. Could it be micro-CHP? Revolt has championed that
development for years.  But we agree there is no single (or simple) fix
- action is needed on many fronts. (Article at APPENDIX 5).
6.  APPENDIX 6 discusses some new NRPB documents and the latest in
NRPB's developing position. Hopefully we will see more change as Sir
Bill Stewart takes over and NRPB becomes a Division within the Health
Protection Agency, but so far it is still slow. Instead of feeding AGNIR
with selected papers, why not give them a more independent brief - to
search and find out - with free and open investigation of all and any
sources to which their search takes them? Precautionary measures short
of exposure limits are badly overdue at low exposures. This gap in NRPB
advice remains. I can't yet raise any more cheers than the one-and-a-
half I gave to last year's consultation.
7.  Three hearty cheers however for last week's scientific conference
sponsored by Children with Leukaemia and organised by Prof. Denis
Henshaw and Alasdair Philips. That was first class, bringing together
world-leading scientists in various related topics. The daily conference
themes were: incidence trends and biology; ionising radiation; non-
ionising radiation; chemical and biological toxins; and precaution. The
latest relevant scientific developments on genetic effects and DNA
damage, melatonin, light, EMF and biological complexity were interwoven
themes through the conference, reinforcing the plausibility of potential
harm. There is not space here to review the conference, but
congratulations to Alasdair and Denis and their colleagues for a
masterly job. Bringing together evidence, experts and inter-related
themes on this scale has given a focus to otherwise fragmented
developments and concerns. The charity Children with Leukaemia deserves
credit for encouraging such a mature inter-disciplinary and inquisitive
focus while some more orthodox authorities seem comparatively
compartmentalised and defensive.
*********************************************************************
APPENDIX 1   Safe small-scale nuclear power in China
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.09/china.html?pg=3&topic=china&topic_set 
?WIRED?                  Issue 12.09 -                September 2004    
Let a Thousand Reactors Bloom 
Explosive growth has made the People's Republic of China the most
power-hungry nation on earth. Get ready for the mass-produced,
meltdown-proof future of nuclear energy.
By Spencer Reiss 
China is staring at the dark side of double-digit growth. Blackouts
roll and factory lights flicker, the grid sucked dry by a decade of
breakneck industrialization. Oil and natural gas are running low, and
belching power plants are burning through coal faster than creaky
old railroads can deliver it. Global warming? The most populous
nation on earth ranks number two in the world - at least the Kyoto
treaty isn't binding in developing countries. Air pollution? The World
Bank says the People's Republic is home to 16 of the planet's 20
worst cities. Wind, solar, biomass - the country is grasping at every
energy alternative within reach, even flooding a million people out of
their ancestral homes with the world's biggest hydroelectric project.
Meanwhile, the government's plan for holding onto power boils down
to a car for every bicycle and air-conditioning for a billion-odd
potential dissidents.
What's an energy-starved autocracy to do?
Go nuclear. 
While the West frets about how to keep its sushi cool, hot tubs
warm, and Hummers humming without poisoning the planet, the
cold-eyed bureaucrats running the People's Republic of China have
launched a nuclear binge right out of That '70s Show. Late last year,
China announced plans to build 30 new reactors - enough to
generate twice the capacity of the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam -
by 2020. And even that won't be enough. The Future of Nuclear
Power, a 2003 study by a blue-ribbon commission headed by former
CIA director John Deutch, concludes that by 2050 the PRC could
require the equivalent of 200 full-scale nuke plants. A team of
Chinese scientists advising the Beijing leadership puts the figure
even higher: 300 gigawatts of nuclear output, not much less than the
350 gigawatts produced worldwide today. 
To meet that growing demand, China's leaders are pursuing two
strategies. They're turning to established nuke plant makers like
AECL, Framatome, Mitsubishi, and Westinghouse, which supplied
key technology for China's nine existing atomic power facilities. But
they're also pursuing a second, more audacious course. Physicists
and engineers at Beijing's Tsinghua University have made the first
great leap forward in a quarter century, building a new nuclear
power facility that promises to be a better way to harness the atom: a
pebble-bed reactor. A reactor small enough to be assembled from
mass-produced parts and cheap enough for customers without
billion-dollar bank accounts. A reactor whose safety is a matter of
physics, not operator skill or reinforced concrete. And, for a bona
fide fairy-tale ending, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is
labeled hydrogen. 
A soft-spoken scientist named Qian Jihui has no doubt about what
the smaller, safer, hydrogen-friendly design means for the future of
nuclear power, in China and elsewhere. Qian is a former deputy
director general with the International Atomic Energy Agency and an
honorary president of the Nuclear Power Institute of China. He's a
67-year-old survivor of more than one revolution, which means he
doesn't take the notion of upheaval lightly.
"Nobody in the mainstream likes novel ideas," Qian says. "But in the
international nuclear community, a lot of people believe this is the
future. Eventually, these new reactors will compete strategically, and
in the end they will win. When that happens, it will leave traditional
nuclear power in ruins."
Now we're talking revolution, comrade.
Known as China's MIT, Tsinghua University sprawls across a
Qing-dynasty imperial garden, just outside the rampart of mirrored
Blade Runner towers that line Beijing's North Fourth Ring Road.
Wang Dazhong came here in the mid-1950s as a member of China's
first-ever class of homegrown nuclear engineers. Now he's director
emeritus of Tsinghua's Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Tec
hnology, aka INET, and a key member of Beijing's energy policy
team. On a bright morning dimmed by Beijing's ever-present
photochemical haze, Wang sits in a spartan conference room lit by
energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. 
"If you're going to have 300 gigawatts of nuclear power in China - 50
times what we have today - you can't afford a Three Mile Island or
Chernobyl," Wang says. "You need a new kind of reactor." 
That's exactly what you can see 40 minutes away, behind a
glass-enclosed guardhouse flanked by military police. Nestled
against a brown mountainside stands a five-story white cube whose
spare design screams, "Here be engineers!" Beneath its cavernous
main room are the 100 tons of steel, graphite, and hydraulic gear
known as HTR-10 (i.e., high-temperature reactor, 10 megawatt). The
plant's output is underwhelming; at full power - first achieved in
January - it would barely fulfill the needs of a town of 4,000 people.
But what's inside HTR-10, which until now has never been visited by
a Western journalist, makes it the most interesting reactor in the
world.
In the air-conditioned chill of the visitors' area, a grad student runs
through the basics. Instead of the white-hot fuel rods that fire the
heart of a conventional reactor, HTR-10 is powered by 27,000
billiards-sized graphite balls packed with tiny flecks of uranium.
Instead of superhot water - intensely corrosive and highly radioactive
- the core is bathed in inert helium. The gas can reach much higher
temperatures without bursting pipes, which means a third more
energy pushing the turbine. No water means no nasty steam, and no
billion-dollar pressure dome to contain it in the event of a leak. And
with the fuel sealed inside layers of graphite and impermeable silicon
carbide - designed to last 1 million years - there's no steaming pool
for spent fuel rods. Depleted balls can go straight into lead-lined
steel bins in the basement. 
Wearing disposable blue paper gowns and booties, the grad student
leads the way to a windowless control room that houses three
industry-standard PC workstations and the inevitable electronic
schematic, all valves, pressure lines, and color-coded readouts. In a
conventional reactor's control room, there would be far more to look
at - control panels for emergency core cooling, containment-area
sprinklers, pressurized water tanks. None of that is here. The usual
layers of what the industry calls engineered safety are superfluous.
Suppose a coolant pipe blows, a pressure valve sticks, terrorists
knock the top off the reactor vessel, an operator goes postal and
yanks the control rods that regulate the nuclear chain reaction - no
radioactive nightmare. This reactor is meltdown-proof.
Zhang Zuoyi, the project's 42-year-old director, explains why. The
key trick is a phenomenon known as Doppler broadening - the hotter
atoms get, the more they spread apart, making it harder for an
incoming neutron to strike a nucleus. In the dense core of a
conventional reactor, the effect is marginal. But HTR-10's carefully
designed geometry, low fuel density, and small size make for a very
different story. In the event of a catastrophic cooling-system failure,
instead of skyrocketing into a bad movie plot, the core temperature
climbs to only about 1,600 degrees Celsius - comfortably below the
balls' 2,000-plus-degree melting point - and then falls. This
temperature ceiling makes HTR-10 what engineers privately call
walk-away safe. As in, you can walk away from any situation and go
have a pizza. 
"In a conventional reactor emergency, you have only seconds to
make the right decision," Zhang notes. "With HTR-10, it's days, even
weeks - as much time as we could ever need to fix a problem."
This unusual margin of safety isn't merely theoretical. INET's
engineers have already done what would be unthinkable in a
conventional reactor: switched off HTR-10's helium coolant and let
the reactor cool down all by itself. Indeed, Zhang plans a
show-stopping repeat performance at an international conference of
reactor physicists in Beijing in September. "We think our kind of test
may be required in the market someday," he adds. 
Today's nuclear power plants are the fruits of a decision tree
rooted in the earliest days of the atomic age. In 1943, a Manhattan
Project team led by Enrico Fermi sustained the first man-made
nuclear chain reaction in a pile of uranium blocks at the University of
Chicago's Metallurgical Lab. A chemist named Farrington Daniels
joined the effort a short time later. But Daniels wasn't interested in
bombs. His focus was on a notion that had been circulating among
physicists since the late 1930s: harnessing atomic power for cheap,
clean electricity. He proposed a reactor containing enriched uranium
"pebbles" - a term borrowed from chemistry - and using gaseous
helium to transfer energy to a generator.
The Daniels pile, as the concept was called, was taken seriously
enough that Oak Ridge National Laboratory commissioned
Monsanto to design a working version in 1945. Before it could be
built, though, a bright Annapolis graduate named Hyman Rickover
"sailed in with the Navy," as Daniels later put it, and the competing
idea of building a rod-fueled, water-cooled reactor to power
submarines. With US Navy money backing the new design, the
pebble bed fell by the wayside, and Daniels returned to the
University of Wisconsin. By the time of his death in 1972, he was
known as a pioneer of - irony alert - solar power. Indeed, the
International Solar Energy Society's biennial award bears his name.
By the mid-1950s, with President Eisenhower preaching "atoms for
peace" before the United Nations, civilian nuclear power was
squarely on the table. The newly created General Atomics division of
General Dynamics assembled 40 top nuclear scientists to spend the
summer of 1956 brainstorming reactor designs. The leading light
was Edward Teller, godfather of the H-bomb, and his message to
the group was prophetic. For people to accept nuclear power, he
argued, reactors must be "inherently safe." He even proposed a
practical test: If you couldn't pull out every control rod without
causing a meltdown, the design was inadequate.
But Teller's advice was ignored in the rush to beat the Russians to
meter-free electricity. Instead of pursuing inherent safety, the
nascent civilian nuclear industry followed Rickover into fuel rods,
water cooling, and ever more layers of protection against the
hazards of radioactive steam emissions and runaway chain reaction.
To try to amortize the cost of all that backup, plants ballooned,
tripling in average size in less than a decade and contributing to a
crippling financial crunch in the mid-'70s. Finally, partial meltdowns
at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986 pulled the plug
on reactor construction in most of the world.
Even where the pebble-bed concept took root, the industry's woes
conspired against it. In Germany, a charismatic physicist named
Rudolf Schulten picked up the idea and by 1985 a full-scale
prototype was online - too large, in fact, to meet Teller's inherent
safety test. Barely a year later, with Chernobyl's fallout raining over
Europe, a minor malfunction at the German reactor set off nightmare
headlines. Before long, the plant was mothballed.
The twin disasters in Pennsylvania and Ukraine proved Teller's point
and inverted his hopeful formulation: The Union of Concerned
Scientists pronounced nuclear power "inherently dangerous." The
industry, already staggered by overbuilding and runaway budgets,
ground to a halt. The newest of the 104 reactors operating in the US
today was greenlighted in 1979. And there our story might have
ended, except 
Even as the nuclear establishment was putting all its efforts into
avoiding the klieg lights, scientists in two faraway places were
carrying the torch for a better reactor. One was South Africa, where
in the mid-1990s the national utility company quietly licensed
Germany's cast-off pebble-bed design and set about trying to raise
the necessary funds. The other was China, where the Tsinghua
team pursued a Nike strategy: Just do it.
Frank Wu's glass-walled ninth-floor office at Innovation Plaza offers
a commanding view of Tsinghua University's leafy campus. That's no
accident: The university co-owns this complex of gleaming silver
towers, designed as a magnet for high tech startups. Likewise Wu's
company, Chinergy, is a 50-50 joint venture between Tsinghua's
Institute for Nuclear and New Energy Technology and the
state-owned China Nuclear Engineering Group. 
"I just had a call from a mayor in one of the provinces," says Wu,
who came on board as CEO after a decade spent running financial
services companies in the US (where he adopted the English first
name). "He asked me, 'How much do we have to pay to get one of
those things here?'" 
If Wu's pebble-bed "thing" is, well, hot, it's because Chinergy's
product is tailor-made for the world's fastest-growing energy market:
a modular design that snaps together like Legos. Despite some
attempts at standardization, the latest generation of big nukes are
still custom-built onsite. By contrast, production versions of INET's
reactor will be barely a fifth their size and power, and built from
standardized components that can be mass-produced, shipped by
road or rail, and assembled quickly. Moreover, multiple reactors can
be daisy-chained around one or more turbines, all monitored from a
single control room. In other words, Tsinghua's power plants can do
the two things that matter most amid China's explosive growth: get
where they're needed and get big, fast.
***************************************************************
APPENDIX 2    Snips from news@all-energy 41
3.GRID, TRANSMISSION AND RO
3.1.NGC is GB System Operator
A single electricity market for the whole of Britain is a step closer
after National Grid Company's appointment as the GB System Operator
under the British Electricity Trading and Transmission Arrangements
(BETTA) www.gnn.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?ReleaseID=128201&NewsAreaID=2 
3.2.GB transmission charging document
NGC has published a document entitled 'GB Transmission Charging: Final
Methodologies Consultation'  www.nationalgrid.com/uk/indinfo/betta/pdfs/
GBChargingFinalMethodologieswithdiagramsfinalversion.pdf 
3.3.Host of new publications
Ofgem has published four new documents on BETTA, all are on 'BETTA
(Associated designation publications)' on the Ofgem website; and BETTA
Property Arrangements Scheme document is on the BETTA (Go Active) area
of work www.ofgem.gov.uk  
3.4.Creating a single electricity market for Great Britain
Ofgem has published the proposed designation text, which will comprise
the legal framework for creating a single GB wide electricity market.
The documents are an important milestone, which will allow the Secretary
of State for Trade and Industry to bring into effect the relevant parts
of the Energy Act. Once this happens the industry can start to prepare
for the creation of a single GB wide market due to be introduced in
April 2005 www.ofgem.gov.uk 
3.5.A view from Alex Salmond MP
"The government must give the renewable energy sector in Scotland the
potential to thrive. It cannot get away with talking about the potential
whilst undermining it with massive extra costs" Alex Salmond MP
www.buchanobserver.com/archived/2004/Week_34/postbag/salmond_column.asp 
3.6.Power line plan NOT abandoned
Plans to replace the existing electricity transmission line between
Beauly and Denny with an upgraded line have not been abandoned as some
press reports have claimed say Scottish and Southern Energy www.timesonl
ine.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-1237327,00.html The Cairngorms National Park
Authority has called for further consideration to be given to putting
underground some of the planned new power lines 
http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=950062004 
************************************************************************
*
APPENDIX 3  Snips from Microwave News EMF Papers July/Aug 04. These
notes are in my words (Mike O'Carroll), drawing from the longer papers
in the Packets.
>From Packet 315 of 15.7.04 (selected from some 42 items):
>From BBC News 7.7.04: Mast row heads for appeal court. 
Plans for a 25 metre high mobile phone mast in Harrogate were rejected
by an inspector, then that decision was overturned by the High Court on
appeal by the industries (T-Mobile, Orange and Hutchinson 3G). Now John
Prescott has decided to appeal to the to the Court of Appeal against the
High Court decision. The issue at stake is public perception of harm
being a planning consideration.
>From Packet 316 of 31.7.04 (selected from some 47 items):
The UK All Party Parliamentary Mobile Group <www.apmobile.org.uk>
produced its report July 2004. The full report is at <www.apmobile.org.u
k/apmobile%20rpt%203.pdf>. Among its recommendations is 
R13: We recommend that until much more detailed and scientifically
robust information on any health effects from the use of mobile phone
technologies becomes available, the precautionary approach be adopted
when discussing and allowing for the siting and location of masts, in
line with Sir William Stewart's recommendations in the IEGMP Report of
2000, and that this be reflected in a revised PPG8.
Another recommendation R18 calls for a joint body between government and
industry, but lacks the stakeholder inclusiveness of the SAGE group on
EMF formed through DH.
The chairman of the group, Phil Willis (Liberal, Harrogate), says the
report is "highly critical of the current planning system" and of the
industry's voluntary code of practice (known as the ten commitments,
following ICNIRP but not including precaution).
The government response of 23.7.04 welcomes the report and says the
government "will look carefully at the group's recommendations".
NRPB Document 15(4) on Risk and Precaution is released. See separate
item this revolt email news.
The UK DH body Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency
(MHRA) produced a report 29.7.04 on Mobile Communication Systems. It
classifies various systems as high, medium or low risk for
electromagnetic compatibility and interference, with appropriate and
proportionate recommendations. Some media reports have hyped this up to
suggest that mobile phones should be freely used in hospitals and on
planes. That is not what the MHRA report says. <www.mhra.gov.uk>
>From Packet 317 of 15.8.04 (selected from some 44 items):
A US government commission has reported on EMP attack. That's Electro
Magnetic Pulse attack. A small nuclear explosion high in the earth's
atmosphere could create an E-M shock that would disable most
infrastruture - communications,  electric power, traffic control etc.
One such bomb could paralyse the whole USA without killing the
population. Russia and China have made it known they have the
capability. The full report is at 
http://www.house.gov/hasc/openingstatementsandpressreleases/108thcongress/04-07-22emp.pdf
>From Microwave News: In August the 5 members of the California Public
Utilities Commission (CPUC) will choose between mitigating the EMF risks
set out by the California Dept Health or following the path of denial
favoured by electric utilities. A key meeting of CPUC was on 19 August.
>From Norwich Evening News 7.8.04:  Norwich North MP Dr Ian Gibson has
called for a government inquiry into plans for more than 20 masts 30
metres high along railway lines in Norfolk in the next few years.
Network Rail say the masts - there will eventually be more than 2,000
nationally - are needed to boost rail safety. Network Rail also says the
masts on railway property are not subject to planning laws.
BBC News 15.8.04.  Gateshead Borough Council is being forced to rethink
its policy on mobile phone masts after being sued for legal costs,
following a successful appeal by industry against refusal of permission. 
*********************************************************************
APPENDIX 4   Letters to the Western Mail re. Green Party. (Revolt does
not necessarily endorse the letters; they are reported here as
indicative of concern.)
Letters to the editor, Western Mail 8 Sep 2004
Shame on Green Party
SIR - I was at the recent demonstration against a wind farm at Mynydd y
Gair and
was deeply shocked at the behaviour of the Green Party.
Their members' aggression towards those of us trying to save this
beautiful habitat
from commercial development proved to me that the Green Party, at least
in Wales,
is supporting big business and the pursuit of profit at the expense of
our fragile
environment and tiny local communities.
I tried to speak, politely and rationally, to one of these "Greens" and
asked her a
number of scientific questions about wind power and renewable energy.
She was
absolutely clueless!
They also flatly refused to engage in a debate with the march organisers
in front of
the media and behaved more like "rent-a-mob" than the educated
environmentalists. 
I have given my vote to the Green Party in the past - but never again.
Shame on you!
ROSE DAVIES
George Street, Swansea
As published in the Western Mail, 7th September 2004
SIR - 
Martyn Shrewsbury, leader of the Wales Green Party, attacked David
Bellamy and
the wind power protest on the grounds of a quasi-religious "denial" of
the link
between fossil fuel and climate change. 
This is a ridiculous and irrelevant point. The wind power industry
provides just four
thousandths of UK electricity generation and because there are many
other sources
of CO2 beside power stations, the total saving by wind is less than a
thousandth of
UK CO2 emission. 
 
On a global basis this will have no measurable effect on atmospheric CO2
concentration and it is quite impossible for it, or the proposed extra
wind generation
by 2010, to alter climate change.
 
Martyn and his supporters have persuaded politicians to support
windpower by
promoting the falsehood that it can fill the growing energy gap. 
When it fails to do so, we shall be propelled by another government
knee-jerk into a
new nuclear programme.
 
Former Energy Minister, Brian Wilson, once a supporter of windpower and
responsible for the holocaust at Cefn Croes has recently written "In the
age of global
warming, opposition to nuclear power is a cop-out rather than a rational
or reponsible
position." This was quoted in New Scientist last week. 
 
Martyn - when this happens I shall hold you partly responsible.
Dr JOHN ETHERINGTON (former Reader in Ecology, Univesrsity of Wales),
Llanhowell, Pembrokeshire.
**********************************************************************
APPENDIX 5   Party environment policies (Guardian 11.9.04)
Blair and Howard pledge action on climate change 
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Saturday September 11, 2004
The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk>  
Michael Howard and Tony Blair will compete to grab the initiative on
climate change next week
in speeches promising action to use tax incentives and aid to make
renewables an attractive
buy for the average household. 
Michael Howard, who is opposing a wind farm in his Folkestone and Hythe
constituency, was
expected to endorse the building of new nuclear stations in his speech
on Monday but
opposition from within his party has led him to water down his proposal. 
Mr Howard is expected to list a series of measures including a
differential stamp duty on
house sales to favour energy efficient properties and faster phasing out
of HFCs, the chemical
used in fridges and air conditioning which also damages the ozone layer. 
The prime minister, who speaks on Tuesday, had a long meeting with
environment groups last
week. He was told a repeat of the green speeches he began to make before
the 1997 election
would raise a hollow laugh unless backed with action. 
While the prime minister is unlikely to be able to offer anything on the
tricky issue of transport,
he is expected to announce some boost for renewables and match anything
Mr Howard says
on one of the great new potential environment areas, micro-generation
for households. This is a
series of small-scale plants from small wind turbines, solar water
heating and electricity to
combined heat and power plants and heat pumps. 
The government has always said these were some way off but the
technology has developed
so fast it is available now. 
Both came under attack from the Liberal Democrats, who produced a long
list of their failings. 
Norman Baker, the environment spokesman, said: "Michael Howard's record
shows he truly is
the Toxic Tory. In his time as environment secretary he gave an amnesty
to water companies
polluting rivers and attempted to repeal European environmental
legislation. 
"Tony Blair's government's record on the environment is woeful. Since
Labour came to power
carbon emissions from aircraft are up 23%. Labour have shown little
interest in green issues,
introducing only one debate on the subject in parliament since the last
general election. 
"Global warming, pollution and threats to wildlife are problems that are
worsening daily and
cannot be tackled with empty rhetoric. A yearly speech on such a crucial
issue is simply not
good enough. 
"The Liberal Democrats have put forward genuine green alternatives, such
as a restructuring of
road tax with the most polluting cars paying significantly more." 
In the seven years since Labour came to power progress has been slow or
non-existent in
many sectors, and targets are not being met - particularly the 20% cut
in carbon dioxide
emission by 2010. 
The other major examples are traffic growth and failure to boost
electricity production from
renewables. Britain also remains close to bottom of the European
recycling league. 
This could prove an embarrassment to Mr Blair because as chairman of the
G8 group of
leading economies next year he is making climate change and Africa his
priorities.
*************************************************************
APPENDIX 6    NRPB publications (see www.nrpb.org)
First, some comments on NRPB-W59 June 2004: Summary of comments received
on the May 2003 consultation on 0 - 300 GHz EMF and responses from NRPB.
My detailed submission to the consultation of May 2003 was in the
attachment to Revolt news148, when I gave "one and a half cheers". The
main outcome (or at least subsequent decision) came in the NRPB Advice
(Doc 15-2) issued in March this year bringing the UK into line with
ICNIRP, recognising the need for precaution but not addressing
precautionary measures except to defer to government on that point
(news161.5). I couldn't raise any more cheers, but As Prof. Denis
Henshaw put it, one small step for man, one giant leap for NRPB.
Document W59 came out after the Advice, but it gives a useful insight
into NRPB's position, reporting hostile pro-industry responses
questioning whether NRPB should be considering such things at all. NRPB
stuck to its guns, considering the questions of non-thermal effects and
precaution, but also stuck to rebutting both, in effect, as far as NRPB
was involved. NRPB may be using Sir Richard Doll's Chinese wall, which
was to keep him from politics, more like the Israeli wall, to keep out
the science of non-thermal effects.
W59 does show some positive response to points I raised, for which I am
grateful. Wording has improved, but not everywhere. Hypersensitivity is
taken seriously. There is a nice distinction between caution and
precaution. The California report is considered, but grudgingly.  "AGNIR
is examining the issue of melatonin", but why didn't they do that much
earlier? "There exists a spectrum of opinion within the scientific
body", but why are the caveats selected one-sidedly to doubt effects
rather than to suspect them?
W59 acknowledges concerns about selection of studies. It seems that the
scientific advisory group AGNIR is fed papers to consider, as selected
by the career civil servants at NRPB. That would be a form of
censorship. In my response I mentioned that, of 26 relevant references
in an article on melatonin and EMF, only 7 were cited in the
consultation paper, although other papers from some authors were cited.
In the latest AGNIR review of the science (Doc 15-3), this has increased
from 7 only to 8. You can't say AGNIR skimped on references as they
cited about 1,000 of them! But there are still omissions. Rather than
having papers selected by civil servants at NRPB, why not give AGNIR a
more independent brief - to search and find out - with free and open
investigation of all and any sources to which their search takes them?
My submission to NRPB said a central question remained unanswered: what
proportionate precautionary measures might be appropriate to the
exposure of children to power frequency fields at 0.4 (T? NRPB are still
a long way from addressing this gap between their thermal-based exposure
restrictions around 100 (T and calling for more research. NRPB Deputy
Director John Stather, in his presentation to the conference Childhood
Leukaemia last week, reaffirmed that the guidelines were "based on dose-
response and not on hypotheses". His abstract said that data suggested
the possibility of cancer and effects on the nervous system, but they
"lack any clear mechanistic basis or a well defined dose-response
relationship". When I asked him why no precaution, he mentioned examples
of NRPB precautionary advice, for example over melanoma from sunbathing.
But they will not give precautionary advice for power frequency fields,
despite the clear association with leukaemia and the mounting evidence
on melatonin mechanisms and biological complexity. The gap in NRPB
advice remains.
NRPB Document 15-4 reports a seminar "In terms of risk" from the
Radiation, Risk and Society Group (RRSAG), an advisory group to NRPB,
chaired by Sir Kenneth Calman, who as Chief Medical Officer signed off
the Conservative government advertisement "British Beef is Perfectly
Safe to Eat" in December 1995, three months before the U-turn which said
it was the most likely cause of new-variant CJD. This group also
evaluated that awful NRPB public meeting held in Birmingham 5.12.02; I
wonder what they made of it. 
The seminar report has some interesting features and good points, but
errs like NRPB against concerns rather than for them. It rightly says
"caution can work both ways depending on the defensive/offensive stance
taken", but takes a stance play down or "explain" public concerns.
Neither NRPB nor RRSAG seem to be able to grasp the idea of genuine
science-based precaution in cases of scientific uncertainty where there
are concerns based on scientific evidence. They seem so concerned not to
"stretch" science that they can only understand and respond to science
when they think it is certain (which it never is anyway). Perhaps they
are held back by covering for past misdemeanours. 
To look on the bright side, there is some good stuff on transparency,
openness and trust. At least there is open discussion on uncertainty,
precaution and public concerns. The full document 15-4 can be found at 
http://www.nrpb.org/publications/documents_of_nrpb/abstracts/absd15-4.htm 
and similarly for the other documents. Note 15-3 is about 1.6 MB and 220
pages.
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--
Mike O'Carroll

 

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