Nuclear power—it’s not safe and it’s not necessary
George Monbiot used his Guardian column last week to attack the environmental movement.
He accused it of holding an “almost medieval” attitude towards nuclear power.
Monbiot’s latest hobby horse is a form of nuclear generation using Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs). He says these are inherently safer, possibly cheaper, and reduce the risk of material being used for nuclear weapons.
IFR plants may well be safer than existing reactors—but they remain largely untested. No large-scale commercial IFRs exist. Friends of the Earth has pointed out they can be used to produce raw materials for bombs.
Perhaps more importantly, the promotion of the technology helps justify the continuation of the industry that brought you Sellafield, Three Mile Island and Fukushima.
Monbiot displays a charming naivety with regard to new technologies, the industries that back them and governments that want them.
Scientists might theoretically conceive of safer designs, but the transition from paper to reality will bring many unforseen problems.
Nuclear power carries inherent risks that can never be reduced to zero. Even Monbiot acknowledges that the IFR’s reliance on existing waste “makes them more dangerous in the short term”.
The best safeguarding in the world is always limited by human error or component failure. And nuclear power will not cut emissions from sectors such as agriculture.
We do not need IFRs. Researchers have repeatedly shown that technology exists to generate sufficient power from renewable sources. Yet existing renewable industries are under attack from the government.
Some 4,500 workers at Newcastle’s Carilion plant who install and maintain solar panels have just been issued with notices of redundancy.
Climate change is a social problem, caused by the priorities of a system that puts profits before emissions reduction.
Monbiot is putting trust in alturistic politicans using nuclear power for good. These are the same politicians who have always failed to deliver on environmental pledges.
By attacking the environmentalists, Monbiot is undermining one section of the movement that can be part of fighting for fundamental change that puts people and planet before profit.
Martin Empson, Treasurer, Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union group (pc)
Your strike gives us confidence
In Canada, I waited patiently all month for 30 November to come along.
It was heartening to hear of the success of your strike!
That so many trade unionists, workers and students came together has given us in Canada great hope for the future.
The ruling class may think that the Occupy movement is dead after they tried to murder it with guns, riot police and eviction. But that only shows the terror that the ruling class is feeling.
Honour and solidarity to everyone in Britain who supported or attended your strike. You give the workers of the world confidence and pride.
Glenda Bergman, Toronto, Canada
I’m an NUT union member in Coventry and struck on 30 November.
Strikers in the NUT, NASUWT and ATL teaching unions wanted to donate deductions from our wages on the strike day to a student hardship fund.
Our headteacher and the governing body agreed to our idea.
This money will now be used to help students pay for uniforms, school trips and meals.
It’s a great response to those in the media who said that school strikes harmed children.
Chris Denson, Coventry
The Conservative Society at the University of Sussex emailed students asking them to cross picket lines on 30 November.
Some recipients forwarded the message to Sussex UCU, Brighton trades council and the Sussex university Socialist Worker Student Society.
Part of the email read, “Let’s show Sussex it’s not just the left that can mobilise activist support.”
But only two students turned up to cross picket lines with the Tories—while 150 students supported their lecturers on picket lines before joining one of the biggest demonstrations Brighton has ever seen.
Ian Llewellyn, Sussex
How we organised to protect our hospital
Several thousand people met in Penzance, Cornwall, earlier this month to join a demonstration against cuts to the West Cornwall Hospital.
The demonstration marched up to the hospital and completely encircled it. At a signal from organisers everybody held hands, symbolically defending their hospital.
The demonstration was organised by Hands Off Our Hospital, a coalition of local anti-cuts and health groups.
For the past month, activists have been leafletting in the town and have collected around 6,000 signatures on a petition.
The local newspaper has been carrying the story for the past four weeks.
A ward containing half of all the medical beds at the hospital has been closed. The trust says this is just for the winter, but nurses fear it will never reopen.
There is also no doctor at night at the “24 hour” casualty department. People have to travel to Treliske hospital in Truro for treatment which means families have to travel further to visit relatives.
Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance called the meeting that launched the Hands Off Our Hospital campaign. The Alliance has a lot of respect in the area. People are making links between the threats to their hospital and wider attacks on public services.
Alana Bates, Cornwall
Deportation and resistance in Oslo
Around 1,000 people braved the cold in Oslo on 30 November to answer a call from LO, the Norwegian trade union federation, to denounce racism.
Roy Pedersen, president of LO, promised that it would fight for tolerance.
However, a young man from the Palestinian asylum camp in Oslo was arrested on his way to the demonstration.
This sparked outrage.
Around 500 people demonstrated in his defence the following Saturday.
But sadly he has since been forcibly deported to the West Bank.
The general concern is that this may mark the beginning of a mass deportation of Palestinians.
The Norwegian government does not follow United Nations recommendations regarding returning Palestinians to the West Bank or Gaza.
It believes that the security situation is no longer so serious that all those returned are in danger.
This also falls in line with the scapegoating of vulnerable minorities as a tactic to divert attention away from the real cause of the crisis.
Go to www.palestinerleir.no for information on the camp.
Tim Northover, Copenhagen
We have to break the law
Is the law getting more draconian or has it always been this bad?
I noticed that Birmingham university has banned all “occupational protest action” on its campus.
Police routinely now kettle people for hours simply for protesting.
As unrest grows there will be more protests—and more clampdowns.
We must ignore these kind of bans and break these laws or things will get worse.
Liz Carpenter, East London
Another risk to the NHS
Risks to patient confidentiality are not the only reason to oppose Tory plans to let international drug firms see anonymised patient information.
It would be another step towards drug companies limiting research to commercially profitable populations rather than on severe disease needs and rarer conditions.
Terry McGrath, North London
Great action on Tory cuts
I’d like to say I am fully in favour of socialism and support the actions against the cuts.
The actions over the past few months have been a great response to the Tories’ austerity measures.
William Tiplady, Sheffield
You’re wrong on Iran, SW
The people of Iran tried to change their country and its government (Socialist Worker, 10 December). They were put down with force.
Western powers do act as a “watchdog” over some countries. But if we don’t, who will? The country’s powerless people?
People in Iran send pictures to the world to show how their efforts are crushed. They want intervention. Not occupation or control, but intervention nonetheless.
Aaron, Houston, Texas
Fleeced by energy firms
Here’s a cheery thought for us poorer types over Christmas.
I got a letter from EDF Energy this week. It said it was to reassure me on energy prices.
This “reassurance” amounted to telling me they wouldn’t raise prices again until April!
It already raised prices in September—just in time for winter when people use more energy to heat their homes. You couldn’t make it up.
Nicola Ash, Liverpool
Gravediggers face cuts too
I have worked with West Dunbartonshire council for the past
32 years. At the moment I work doing gravedigging.
The workforce used to operate with eight men. But now two have got redundancy packages and two more are off work after suffering heart attacks.
We work out in all weathers and it’s not easy with a short workforce. If this is the shape of things to come, God help us.
Red Paul, Clydebank
Corruption at exam boards
Newspapers this week carried the story of how exam companies sell expensive courses for teachers on how to pass their exams.
These courses give teachers advice on which questions will come up and how to get extra marks.
Undercover reporters were told that they should choose an Edexcel exam over its rivals because it was much “easier”.
Three examiners from two boards have now been suspended.
Teaching unions and education journalists have been highlighting this risk for years.
Companies compete to sell exam papers, study guides and training courses, leaving the budget for real books and practical resources dwindling.
This regime leads directly to the kind of naked greed for profit seen in this exposé.
Sara Tomlinson, South London