Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2003

The ugly future of power generation?  (Pic: Angela Stapleford)

The ugly future of power generation? (Pic: Angela Stapleford)

Nuclear is not the answer

The provision of sufficient affordable electricity for all citizens, regardless of wealth or income should, in the 21st century, be regarded as a human right.

Though the government energy review is not yet concluded, New Labour have made it plain that the path will be cleared for a decision in favour of new nuclear power stations.

As a servant of big business, Tony Blair’s position is perfectly rational – it is based on the profitability and continuity of a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Most people would base their assessment of building new nuclear power stations on the cost of electricity and the reliability of supply. In a perfect world the production of electricity from nuclear fission would be an efficient, safe and emission-free process. But there are problems related to the provision of fuel and the disposal of waste.

Problems relating to the disposal of spent fuel are, however, much more intractable. The nuclear furnace creates a range of highly radioactive isotopes, some with “half lives” measured in thousands of years. Arrangements for their safe indefinite storage are extremely expensive.

The disposal of redundant plants presents a further problem as elements of the structures will have become radioactive. Currently the clean up costs of the present generation of nuclear power stations is put at £60-70 billion.

When this is taken into account, nuclear power is an extremely expensive way to generate electricity. This is an extremely lucrative prospect for multinational contracting interests.

Were a reactor core to be ruptured, as happened at Chernobyl, the health effects can be devastating.

For these reasons we must oppose nuclear power.

Jim Taggart, CND Scotland

‘Peace’ didn’t end sectarianism

Fifteen year old Michael McIlveen died in hospital after a sectarian attack in Ballymena in Northern Ireland in May.

There is a connection between the murder of Michael McIlveen and the “political process” in Northern Ireland. Two days before McIlveen’s funeral, politicians from all parties gathered at the briefly reconvened assembly and held a one minute silence in memory of the murdered teenager.

As required by the Good Friday agreement, the politicians were already gathering to register as Orange or Green so that negotiations could start on the selection of an executive. In registering their tribal loyalties at the very heart of the political and state structures they were also ratifying the sectarian system that stole the life of young McIlveen.

Ian Paisley has been the MP for Ballymena for over 35 years. One of Paisley’s closest supporters in the town is Democratic Unionist Party councillor Roy Gillespie who said that McIlveen would “not get into heaven” because “Catholics are not accepted into heaven”.

The Orange Order puts a great deal of effort into maintaining sectarian tension in the area. In the large, rundown Protestant housing estates of Ballymena, sectarian ideas can find an audience when people look at the miserable conditions they have to live in. So instead of the system becoming the target for people’s anger it is channelled towards the other community who are living in equally appalling conditions.

Sean McGrath, Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Injustice for Chagos

On 11 May, the high court described as unlawful and “repugnant” the British government’s decision to remove the Chagos islanders from their homes in the Indian Ocean in the 1960s.

For four decades the Chagossians have campaigned for the right to return, while successive British governments have prevented this, and lied to them and the world saying that the islanders were never permanent inhabitants. All of this was to allow the US to house a nuclear capable military base on Diego Garcia, one of the Chagos islands, for military intervention in the Middle East.

The Blair government must, first, not appeal the high court decision and, second, quickly pave the way for these abused islanders to return to their homeland. This includes the provision of adequate aid.

Robert Bain Chagos Support Association, John Pilger Journalist, George Monbiot Journalist, Mark Lattimer Director, Minority Rights Group, Richard Gifford Lawyer, Mark Curtis Author, Tam Dalyell

Mao revolt

Jacob Secker argues that the Maoist revolt in Nepal demonstrates that the peasants are less individualistic than the Western working class (Letters, 27 May).

There is much to welcome in the Maoists’ success. But the fact is that the Maoists fought in the countryside for over ten years, took much of the territory, but did not take the capital Kathmandu.

What finally broke King Gyanendra’s dictatorship was precisely the mobilisation of the Nepalese working class, combined with the pressure of the peasantry.

Surely the lesson is that any political strategy that minimises the role of workers is going to be profoundly inhibited?

Richard Seymour, West London

Stop the privatisation of our universities

I was interested to read about the catering boycott at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) (Letters, 20 May).

It reminded me of a similar campaign we ran at Middlesex University about a year ago as part of a wider campaign against the university’s plans to hand the student union catering to Scolarest.

As well as leafleting users of the canteen, we also set up an alternative cafe in a lecture hall with a film showing and food we bought ourselves. Despite only asking for donations we made a profit and almost nobody went in to the Scolarest canteen. People were delighted to be given an alternative.

If the Soas students could replicate this, they could use the money to make it a regular event, build support for the campaign and maybe force the management of the university to think again.

Although we eventually lost our campaign against the privatisation, it was a great way to get new students politically active and involved with their union, as well as radicalising many already involved.

On behalf of the students involved in the campaign I would like to congratulate Soas students and to offer them our support, solidarity and best wishes.

Keith Shilson, President, Middlesex university student union (pc)

Lies, damned lies and statistics

The journalist Brendan O’Neill has recently claimed that Iraq is getting safer for British troops.

Notwithstanding Lindsey German’s excellent criticisms (, even the cold logic he uses to “calculate” this is seriously flawed. He completely forgets that the majority of deaths, 33 out of 113 (at the time of writing) occurred in the first few weeks of fighting.

This seriously skews his statistics. Even a cursory glance at the figures over the past two years show an alarming upward trend in British fatalities.

The deaths in Iraq sadden Tony Blair because the recriminations are now hitting him where it hurts – in the ballot box.

For these reasons British troops are ordered to remain under siege in their own barracks, incapable of travelling by land or air for fear of their lives.

While there are many statistics that show soaring profits for the vast multinationals, there are none which show life getting better or safer for anyone in Iraq, whether they be British or US troops, or the Iraqi people themselves.

Dave Goodfield, Chair, Coventry Stop the War

Mind your language

The importance of correct English usage has more to do with being understood than wielding political power. Michael Rosen (Mind your language?, 20 May) was wrong when he argued from a very different perspective.

Language is a tool used by humans to convey thoughts from one to another. Unless we use a common language to convey those thoughts, then we run the risk of being misunderstood.

Misunderstandings carry the risk of danger to life, for example in air traffic control. Or it may be the simple frustration of not being able to understand what is being said in everyday conversation.

It is true to say that the use of a particular language group is often determined on political and economic grounds, and there are some perfectly good historical examples of this.

While there will always be differences of dialect, spelling and common usage, it is nonsense to argue that correct use of the English language all boils down to “a few toffs... bossing us all about”.

A discussion on the use and development of language in such circumstances is more relevant than a silly argument seeking to equate the style of usage to a political or class position.

Steve Bennett, by e-mail

Investigating meaning

Philip Foxe’s letter (Letters, 27 May) was an enjoyable attack on what he thought I wrote.

I didn’t say, “Anything goes”.

I was talking about two different approaches to language – the one that lays down the law and the one that investigates.

I think if you investigate language you end up with a much better sense of what’s appropriate (and why) than if you take the way some people demand we should write and speak as a law that has to be obeyed at all times.

After all, there aren’t many readers of this paper who would take that attitude to anything else that this society has produced, so why take that position on language?

Michael Rosen, London

Da Vinci Code is OK

I thought Elaine Graham-Leigh’s article on The Da Vinci Code (Da Vinci Code drivel, 27 May), while exposing the half truths and downright twisting of history by author Dan Brown, missed the point of both the book and the film.

This is that they are both great works of fiction.

The film was engrossing and kept me engaged the whole way through, regardless of any inaccuracies, which is what a film should do.

It was believable and, like all good conspiracy theories asks you to open your mind and suspend your beliefs for a moment.

The good thing about the article was that it gave us the other side of the argument, which is important in any debate.

Dean Singleton, by e-mail

Housing is a disgrace

The government should be ashamed at the levels of overcrowding in housing (Housing crisis shames Labour, 29 April).

I am living in overcrowded circumstances and my elected representatives can’t be bothered.

I have even started to write my own website (

If nothing else it helps me to highlight the issue and the “can’t be bothered” attitude of those that should be bothered.

They all deny any form of responsibility and continue to pass the buck.

The sad thing is those seeking affordable homes are seen as second class citizens. No one is accountable.

Nicki, West Sussex

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Article information

Sat 3 Jun 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2003
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