One of the most prominent mainstream journalists promoting anthropogenic climate change, and radical policies to counteract it, is George Monbiot. It is not within the scope of this article to address ‘climate change’, this has been discussed at great length elsewhere, and is already part of mainstream debate.
Recently, Monbiot has put forward the viewpoint in several pieces in the Guardian, that people concerned about the potential dangers of nuclear power are scaremongering, and went further in a recent article, suggesting that a book written by four nuclear scientists was essentially worthless and dishonest. I must emphasise before beginning this article, that I will back up every claim I make in it with documents, that will be hyperlinked, and I strongly encourage you: don’t trust any of my claims; follow the links, look up my statements for yourself.
Before analysing the Monbiot article, it is worth pointing out that the book was written by the following people: Russian biologist Dr. Alexey Yablokov, former environmental advisor to the Russian president, Dr. Alexey Nesterenko, a biologist and ecologist in Belarus, Dr.Vassili Nesterenko, a physicist and at the time of the accident director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, and Dr. Janette Sherman, a physician and toxicologist long involved in studying the health impacts of radioactivity.
Monbiot, according to his own website, “has held visiting fellowships or professorships at the universities of Oxford (environmental policy), Bristol (philosophy), Keele (politics), Oxford Brookes (planning) and East London (environmental science)”. In other words, he has no qualifications in relation to physics, or specifically nuclear physics.
This article is not intended to be a personal attack on Mr. Monbiot. There is no doubt he is a gifted academic, he has done some brave and valuable investigative journalism in the past, and his book A Captive State is a decent critique on the nefarious influence and power of multinational corporations in an era of crony capitalism. In addition, we must plot a course away from elevating the cult of personality, that has infected our culture and intellectual life to such an extent, that people queue up gladly to watch vitriolic public debates between people with huge egos that, essentially, hate each other. We must address the message, not the messenger.
Firstly, the headline of the article, “The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all” seems uncontroversial enough. However, let’s look at it more deeply. The ‘anti-nuclear lobby’? This seems like a perfectly valid way to describe a group of people that are opposed to nuclear power. However, one might very well ask the reasonable question: what about the pro-nuclear lobby?
The recent Fukushima nuclear incident involved reactors that were constructed by General Electric (GE). GE has its fingers in many energy-related pies, but has invested heavily in nuclear technology. Its own website proudly proclaims that “today, nuclear energy supplies 16% of the world’s electricity, avoiding the emission of about 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year that would otherwise be generated by fossil fuel solutions, such as supercritical pulverized coal. GE has provided advanced and sophisticated technology for nuclear energy for over five decades”.
GE can quite accurately be described as a mega-corporation. Some indication of its scope was given by this 1998 cartoon produced by Robert Smigel, that was broadcast as part of Saturday Night Live. The song contained within it states, ‘they own networks from CBS to CNBC’. A quick glance at the media assets owned by GE today, would indicate that this is entirely accurate, and would go some way to explaining why, as the song alleges, ‘on network TV, you rarely hear anything bad about the nuclear industry’.
GE is also a huge spender on congressional lobbyists. In 2006, GE was the biggest spender on lobbyists of any corporation, spending $21.5m. They spent $7.2 million on lobbying in one quarter of 2008 alone. Here are a few examples of what this investment achieves. As recently as ten months ago, GE convinced the American House of Representative to authorise a $485 million project to build a second engine for a jet provided by Lockheed Martin, the defence contractor currently in the process of running the UK census with £150 million of public money (a story for another day!). According to the Washington Post, GE were instrumental in moulding a bill that included a clause that assured that “of one provision eventually worth $2 billion a year, GE will reap an “overwhelming percentage”. Finally, according to the New York Times – one must emphasise, the most economically conservative of publications – GE’s strategies have allowed it to avoid tax altogether.
This is merely one of the huge corporations involved in nuclear power, two of the others being Westinghouse and Hitachi. Together, they form an incredibly powerful and influential cartel. GE has even been criticised for its documented links with nuclear weapons.
By contrast, the anti-nuclear movement, is a grass-roots political grouping, that has managed to recruit some former nuclear scientists to the cause – or in some cases certain scientists were fundamentally involved in the embryonic stages of this movement, such as Dr John W. Gofman – due to their grave ethical concerns about the industry. Even the most mainstream of sources, Wikipedia, describes the movement as “a social movement that opposes the use of nuclear technologies. Many direct action groups, environmental groups, and professional organisations have identified themselves with the movement at the local, national, and international level. Major anti-nuclear groups include Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service”. There is no corporate basis or backing for this movement, no expensive Washington-based lobbyists or corporate lawyers, just a lot of people that are concerned about the consequences of an increase in the utilisation of nuclear power as an energy source (not to mention problems related to its disposal. This article will not address this issue, but needless to say, such arcane proposals have been made as sending it into space).
In short, it is the opinion of this writer, that Monbiot is guilty of using weasel words, designed to influence the reader’s sympathies, before the article has even begun. The actual evidence would point to the fact that the pro-nuclear lobby can clearly be identified and is hugely powerful and cacophonous in comparison to the so-called ‘anti-nuclear lobby’.
Moving on to the content of the article, Monbiot firstly attempts to diminish the contribution of Dr. Helen Caldicott to the case against nuclear power, on the basis of correspondence that he conducted with her, and a debate, a transcript of which can be viewed here. In the interests of brevity, I am not going to analyse this point-by-point, however, if you follow this link, a contributor to the Guardian CIF site named ‘Carnyx’ has systematically demolished Monbiot’s arguments in the correspondence, and there is a lengthy condemnation of Monbiot’s contribution to the Caldicott debate here. Both show him to be deliberately misrepresenting his opponent’s arguments, asking for proof for banal statements that have been established beyond all doubt, citing evidence that actually disproves his own arguments, and utterly misunderstanding concepts fundamental to a comprehension of the issue. Hardly surprising, considering he has no qualifications or expertise in the subject matter, whereas Dr. Caldicott does.
Next Monbiot addresses the aforementioned book, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for the People and the Environment. Monbiot strongly emphasises the importance of one review, and suggests that the way in which the book states that people died is from a wide range of diseases that have no link with radiation.
Which isn’t true. The book clearly states that most people that were killed as a result of Chernobyl radiation died from cancer. You will note, that Mr. Monbiot makes no mention of the word ‘cancer’ in relation to this book (of which there’s no evidence that he’s actually read), instead implying that the writers have cooked the figures and associated deaths with fallout for which there is no basis. Actually, the book goes into great depth to analyse the location of radionuclides’ fallout from the disaster, and the implications.
Furthermore, the Monbiot article makes no mention of the following: “Further worsening the situation has been “the collusive agreement between the IAEA and the World Health Organization in which the WHO is precluded from publishing any research on radiation effects without consultation with the IAEA.” WHO, the public health arm of the UN, has supported the IAEA’s claim that 4,000 will die as a result of the accident. “How fortunate,” said Ms. Slater, “that independent scientists have now revealed the horrific costs of the Chernobyl accident”.
The book also scores the position of the IAEA, set up through the UN in 1957 “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy,” and its 1959 agreement with WHO. There is a “need to change,” it says, the IAEA-WHO pact. It has muzzled the WHO, providing for the “hiding” from the “public of any information “unwanted” by the nuclear industry. “An important lesson from the Chernobyl experience is that experts and organizations tied to the nuclear industry have dismissed and ignored the consequences of the catastrophe,” it states”.
So, to underscore the above, there is a fundamental agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organisation to hide information that may be detrimental to the nuclear industry. Thus, the official estimate for deaths related to Chernobyl is approximately 4,000. Whereas the independent research of four nuclear experts puts the related death toll at 985,000 (and rising). Greenpeace and even the Guardian themselves have suggested that the Chernobyl death toll far outweighs 4,000 deaths. Just days ago they printed this article that suggested “Fukushima is not Chernobyl, but it is potentially worse. It is a multiple reactor catastrophe happening within 150 miles of a metropolis of 30 million people. If it happened at Sellafield, there would be panic in every major city in Britain. We still don’t know the final outcome but to hear experts claiming that nuclear radiation is not that serious, or that this accident proves the need for nuclear power, is nothing short of disgraceful”. Are you paying attention, Mr. Monbiot?
Monbiot is the first person to refer to those that question the validity of anthropogenic climate change, as ‘climate change deniers’, thus associating these people with holocaust denial, via deliberately biased phraseology. On the one hand he claims to be completely objective and impartial – as if such a thing were possible – and on the other, writes an article of this nature, which is utterly and systematically biased. Yet, he then lambasts others for what he perceives to be the same conduct! This seems deeply hypocritical, and one might reasonably ask: why should we accept his word over that of several very qualified nuclear experts?
Considering such conduct, it is unsurprising to see some commentators on the Guardian’s Comment is Free site questioning Monbiot’s motives. I do not wish to endorse such accusations here, I would prefer to assume that he has the best intentions, as evidenced by his previous valuable journalistic contributions. However, when one takes such a deeply disingenuous position, that is the absolute polar opposite of everything that you’re supposed to stand for, and uses such mendacious methods to attempt to discredit those that seek to reveal how ridiculous this position is, then some questioning of Monbiot’s motives are virtually inevitable.
Monbiot has already published a book entitled The Age of Consent: Manifesto for a New World Order. While the reference to a New World Order will be nothing new to visitors to this site, I must also point out that Monbiot will be well aware of the classic Chomsky book Manufacturing Consent, and of the implications of suggesting that panoramic consent is desirable. Needless to say, Chomsky didn’t consider this ‘consent’ to be a particularly good thing!
You can read the beginning of this book here, however, let me draw to your attention some extracts that immediately caught my eye.
“Everything has been globalized except our consent…I present in this manifesto a series of repulsive proposals, which will horrify all right thinking people. Many of them, at first sight or in conception, horrified me. I have sought to discover the means of introducing a new world order”.
“In the absence of an effective global politics, moreover, local solutions will always be undermined by communities of interest which do not share our vision. We might, for example, manage to persuade the people of the street in which we live to give up their cars in the hope of preventing climate change (NOTE: I must emphasise that Monbiot has a car, click here), but unless everyone, in all communities, either shares our politics or is bound by the same rules, we simply open new road space into which the neighbouring communities can expand. We might declare our neighbourhood nuclear-free (NOTE: hmm, something of a change of tack on this issue), but unless we are simultaneously working, at the international level, for the abandonment of nuclear weapons, we can do nothing to prevent ourselves and everyone else from being threatened by people who are not as nice as we are”.
Consider the implications of what is being stated here. Would anyone reasonably describe a world in which we all give up our cars to ‘prevent climate change’, and this policy is rolled-out globally to encourage ‘consent’, so that in effect, no-one can reasonably contest it, as a utopia? I don’t want to be accused of lacking objectivity or attempting to influence the reader’s opinion, but it’s certainly not my idea of a utopia. And I’ve never driven a car in my life.
I wish to bring forward one final piece of evidence related to radiation, before finally discussing the implications of nuclear power in the United Kingdom in the twenty-first century, the testimony of Dr. John W. Gofman (now sadly deceased). Before we do so, let’s look at his credentials:
Dr. Gofman was a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D. in nuclear-physical chemistry and an M.D.) who was the first Director of the Biomedical Research Division of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory from 1963-65 and one of nine Associate Directors at the Lab from 1963-1969. He was involved in the Manhattan Project and is a co-discoverer of Uranium-232, Plutonium-232, Uranium-233, and Plutonium-233, and of slow and fast neutron fissionability of Uranium-233. He also was a co-inventor of the urnayl acetate and columbium oxide processes for plutonium separation. He has taught in the radioisotope and radiobiology fields from the 1950s at least up into the 1980s, and has done research in radiochemistry, macromoloecules, lipoprotiens, coronary heart disease, arterioscleroisis, trace element determination, X-ray spectroscopy, chromosomes and cancer and radioation hazards.
What is Gofman’s opinion of nuclear power? “Licensing a nuclear power plant is in my view, licensing random premeditated murder. First of all, when you license a plant, you know what you’re doing – so it’s premeditated. You can’t say, “I didn’t know.” Second, the evidence on radiation-producing cancer is beyond doubt. I’ve worked fifteen years on it [as of 1982], and so have many others. It is not a question any more: radiation produces cancer, and the evidence is good all the way down to the lowest doses”.
You can read an entire academic paper related to this issue here. It is titled, “Disproof of Any Safe Dose or Dose-Rate of Ionizing Radiation, with Respect to Induction of Cancer in Humans”. Just to make this point clear, backscatter scanners now used in UK airports emit ionising radiation, as do X-rays, and it is also used, naturally enough, in the production of electricity in nuclear power stations. To cite one example, it has already been strongly asserted and generally accepted, that X-rays can significantly increase a child’s chances of contracting cancer or leukemia. In Monbiot’s correspondence with Caldicott, this was actually admitted by the person that he cites in order to challenge her assertion! “One obstetric examination may increase the relative risk of Leukaemia and childhood cancer by about 40%…We work on the ALARA principle – as low as reasonably attainable, so avoidable X-rays are not carried out on pregnant women”.
The Gofman report is a very weighty academic document, however, I would like to briefly reproduce some of the very important conclusions (my emphasis in bold):
“Below, we shall condense the five-point summary even further: one primary ionization track is the least possible disturbance which can occur at the cellular level from ionizing radiation. Without a track, there is no dose at all.
Every primary ionization track has a chance of inducing cancer by inducing carcinogenic injuries; it needs no help from any other track. This means that there is no conceivable dose or dose-rate which can be safe, unless the repair-system always successfully un-does every carcinogenic lesion, when the dose or dose-rate is sufficiently low, or every failure of the repair-system, at low doses, is always successfully eliminated by some post-repair defense-system.
Human epidemiological evidence shows that the repair-system for radiation-induced carcinogenic lesions has a failure-rate even under minimal strain. Observation and logic show that post-repair defense-systems (for instance, the immune system) cannot possibly be perfect with respect to providing a safe dose or dose-rate of ionizing radiation.
It follows that there is no safe dose or dose-rate of ionizing radiation, with respect to induction of human cancer. The risk is related to dose, right down to zero dose”. According to Dr. Gofman, the health risks associated with exposure to ionising radiation are clear and considerable.
As a result of the UK Government’s 2007 Energy White Paper, in January, 2008, the UK government approved a ‘new generation’ of nuclear power plants to be built. A fundamental driving force behind this, is the commitment made due to the Kyoto Protocol, made by Tony Blair’s government – the man that approved the widespread use of depleted uranium in the deeply unethical Iraq War – to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. In other words, it is the ‘green’ movement that is driving this policy, or at least, the government-approved green movement. When the ‘green’ movement was raising legitimate concerns about the decimation of rainforest, their concerns were not quite so readily considered.
In a very real sense, the decision about having an electricity policy based around nuclear power has already been made, behind our backs, with little or no input from the general public. Of course, most people do not consider the consequences of this in their everyday lives; if the lights turn on, we care little for the source of the electricity. It is, however, critical to understand the dangers of nuclear power, as the people of Chernobyl and Belarus know to their cost, and the people of Tokyo, and Japan in general, are just finding out.
With a history of cover-ups – such as the Sellafied organ harvesting scandal – huge disasters, long-term decimation of ecosystems, huge potential cost to public health, even to the extent of long-running debates regarding the incidence of leukemia in the areas surrounding fully-functioning nuclear power stations, and with the industry being dominated by some of the most unaccountable, powerful mega-corporations on the planet, that spend more money per year on political lobbyists and lawyers than is comprehensible to most of us, then we should be concerned about the meteoric rise of this industry. There are three particularly grave premises that we need to understand.
Firstly, if we are concerned by environmental issues, and I would not claim that there are no environmental issues related to coal-fired power stations, then we should be developing clean, natural energy sources, such as geothermal power, which pose few dangers, and have none of the same problems as nuclear energy with relation to the disposal of waste.
Secondly, the Morgan Spurlock film Supersize Me has a section which explains the influence of lobbying (do not labour under the misapprehension that corporate involvement in politics is an American phenomenon). You can watch this here, however I quote: “The food industry is an enormous business in the United States, therefore it employs very expensive and well-paid lobbyists and those lobbyists are in Washington for two purposes. Number 1: to make sure that no government agency every says eat less of the company’s products. Number 2: that the government never passes legislation that is unfavourable. And I guess the third one is to encourage the government to pass favourable legislation”. This, of course, is all equally applicable to the nuclear industry.
Thirdly, and please consider what you have just read in the previous paragraph, in the United States the EPA is preparing to dramatically increase permissible radioactive releases in drinking water, food and soil after “radiological incidents,” according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. They are also planning to increase the amounts of radiation the population can “safely” absorb by raising the safe zone for exposure. It has been suggested that by doing this, they are placing a higher price on the nuclear power industry and apparatus of state, than human life. This is the same Environmental Protection Agency that was hit with multiple lawsuits after the White House influenced it to downplay hazards posed by the toxic dust that fell in an avalanche over New York after the collapse of three skyscrapers that formed part of the World Trade Centre Complex, on 11th September, 2001.
Considering the massive implications that this has for human health, and, without wishing to sound melodramatic, in some cases our very survival, your humble reporter would like to suggest the following bare minimum measures that every conscientious citizen should be taking.
1. Familiarise yourself with the risks associated with ionised radiation. Take a little time to read Dr. Gofman’s report and opinion, and bear in mind that you’re dealing with, not merely one of the foremost authorites, but a discoverer of several of the actual isotopes of Uranium and Plutonium, as well as the fissionable capabilities of Uranium-233. To put it in straightforward terms…this guy knows what he’s talking about.
2. Familiarise yourself with when you will be exposed to ionised radiation. To give you two examples, X-rays and backscatter airport scanners both expose you to ionised radiation. Avoid exposure to this, unless there are absolutely dire consequences for not doing so; allow me to quote Dr. Gofman: “There is no dose or dose-rate which is safe with respect to human carcinogenesis”.
3. Encourage others to look at and understand this risk. This is a superb time to do so, as the Fukushima incident is fresh in people’s minds. Circulate this article, show people the Gofman report, and this article:
4. Understand the links between corporations and government, what Eisenhower termed the military-industrial complex (I would call it the banking-military-industrial-governmental complex, but it is more commonly referred to as the military-industrial complex). Read this speech. Understand that governments will not be making decisions related to this technology based on your safety. Encourage others to understand this basic premise.
5. Support campaigns such as We Won’t Fly. Make others aware of the risks involved in backscatter scanners.
6. Write to your local MPs, newspapers, speak to your local councillors, essentially contact anyone with a public platform, and state your concerns about the safety of the nuclear industry based on the information assembled here, and the Fukushima disaster, and express your concerns about the conclusions of the Government’s Energy White Paper and plans to vastly expand the scope of nuclear power in the UK.
7. Don’t dine out on sushi for quite some time. Try the rest of your life. Unless you expect to outlive the half-life of Plutonium-242; ie. 373,000 years.
I hope I have presented a convincing case as to why this is an issue of vital importance, and given sufficient evidence to show that we should not accept poorly founded claims from green activists regarding nuclear power, especially as their support for it appears to, at best, involve a series of mental contortions largely required to buttress their blind faith in anthropogenic climate change being the greatest threat to the human-race in all eternity. The person in question has already concisely documented his belief in a system of global government, designed to achieve what I can best describe as some form of Huxleyan consent with a series of policies driven primarily by the desire to reduce the human production of carbon dioxide. We should be very weary, and never forget that there are human consequences to this issue that ought to far outweigh vested interest.