LLRC Journal Radioactive Times. Vol.4 No 2

Radioactive Times. Vol.4 No 2

DAD is dead; long live UNCLE

Bad DAD

A recent Seminar on nuclear waste policy was told that DAD doesn't work. DAD stands for Decide, Announce, Defend: government Decides a policy behind closed doors, Announces it to the public and then Defends it come what may. This is now seen as politically inept, especially in areas as contentious as disposing of radioactivity. The new way is consultation - in future, participatory dialogue involving all interested parties will find solutions acceptable to and even "owned" by everyone. The buzzwords here are Stakeholder Dialogue and consensus. It sounds politically correct, but beware - the message from Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) is that a bad DAD has been replaced with a wicked UNCLE - Unlimited Nuclear Consultations Leading to Exhaustion.

Wicked Uncle

A Greenpeace representative has said that the nuclear industry privately sees the new mood as a chance to Consult the Opposition into Submission; a Friends of the Earth nuclear policy analyst is reported as suffering from consultation fatigue; and participants in the BNF Dialogue on reprocessing are disillusioned, complaining that a draft report has been hijacked by government and misrepresented in a DETR consultation.

Sadly, this impression is supported by LLRC's experience. One of the problems of the new millenium is what to do with land contaminated with radioactivity - (and that's saying nothing about the next millenium and possibly a few after that). An organisation called CIRIA is overseeing a Stakeholder Dialogue to find a consensus on standards for "delicensing" nuclear power stations and weapons related sites - in other words, how current licensees such as BNFL and the MoD can walk away from them, leaving the land to be developed for new uses. Other Stakeholders in this field are the Environment Agency, DETR, DTI, potential contractors, and local interests like County Councils, environmentalists, and NGOs.

In June about sixty people attended a workshop in Manchester. LLRC was there, and one other NGO rep. There were two reps. from local authorities, one from the Nuclear Free Local Authorities; all the rest were from the industry and the regulators.

The Ciria web site claims that the workshop was a great success, but this is questionable, as participants from the organisers downward expressed concern about the absence of Greenpeace, FoE, and site-specific interest groups. The consensus was that there can be no consensus if these NGOs are not involved. There are two ways to look at this situation: one is naive - that if NGOs are not involved they lose a chance to influence decisions; the other is cynical - that Stakeholder Dialogue is a trick to make whatever the industry wants to do look as if it has NGO support. LLRC has a cynical mindset, but in July, at the 15th Standing Conference on Low Level Radiation and Health in Reading, LLRC's Richard Bramhall affected naiveté to ask a panel of speakers what they thought of the low NGO turnout. Jamie Woolley, legal adviser to the Nuclear Free Local Authorities, confirmed that burnout is a reality. NGOs simply do not have the human or financial resources to keep on turning up to these consultations, he said. Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas revealed that she is just as cynical as LLRC - By all means get involved she advised, But don't mistake access for influence.

The second problem: Censorship

LLRC got involved in the Ciria Dialogue to tell participants that the radiation risk factors to which they will be working are unsafe and that decontamination standards are going to change. Pretty fundamental stuff, but if you were dealing with the health of the people who will be living, working, and growing food on delicensed sites for the next few hundred years wouldn't you want to know? LLRC duly spoke up, supporting a verbal statement with a short written statement, since this is a complex subject. The organisers asked for the paper to be submitted for inclusion on their website which has a Soapbox, advertised as

... Topical articles by people involved/interested in the issues addressed by SAFEGROUNDS ... ... written by other stakeholders on relevant topics that they feel passionate about. Other authors will include leading figures from:
liability holders
remediation specialists
NII/HSE/EA
end users
environmentalists
pressure groups
developers
members of the public

But Ciria has refused to put LLRC's submission on their web site. When challenged they explained that, in the opinion of one member of the steering committee, LLRC's paper is irrelevant as it discusses the effects of fallout.

LLRC's Richard Bramhall is incredulous.

Is the radioactivity from weapons test fallout and Chernobyl different from the radioactivity the industry has left on nuclear sites? We referred to fallout - as we often do - because that is where some of the evidence is to be found that the risk agencies have got their models wrong.
Ciria also complained that LLRC had made factual errors. We have asked them to say what is wrong with it, says Bramhall, But they haven't.

It is hard to see why Ciria's web site could not carry a dissenting opinion - that's what Soapboxes are about. Ciria's Soapbox is not overburdened with material, and in any case it carries a disclaimer:

The views expressed in contributions to the SAFEGROUNDS site do not necessarily reflect the views of the SAFEGROUNDS team.
Bramhall says I discussed all these things with CIRIA on the telephone. They promised to take the matter to the Project Steering Committee meeting on 22nd August and contact us after that. They didn't contact us. After a couple of weeks their Soapbox still didn't carry our submission, we concluded that the process is corrupt, and that the people who are controlling it aren't content with the way the industry's deep pockets give it unfair influence and access, but also want to suppress embarrassing information. We put an account of this censorship on the LLRC web site.

Ciria is now complaining that LLRC has criticised them unfairly, and has offered a meeting with the Project Steering Committee. RaT will report this in due course.

Ciria's web site is www.safegrounds.com.

And see www.llrc.org/killingfields.htm for further information (updated following a meeting with Ciria and the Environment Council) and LLRC's original submission Radioactively contaminated land: Unappreciated hazards


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