The Rt Hon Tony Blair
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

A. citizen
100 Any Road
Typical Town


Date:   21st May 2006
 Dear Prime Minister

RE: Nuclear Power-and the Integrity of the British Press and Media

 When I was a young man- in the 1960’s- we were informed by the newspapers that there would be an unlimited source of power from the use of sea water to produce nuclear energy.   Until researching this topic recently I had regarded that newspaper topic as being just another way to sell newspapers, although I believed it at the time.

But, now, on reflection, the news reporters were told of the future possibilities. It was a long time ago.  Maybe, that possibility still lies a long way off and the present fission process will enable us to move into the future and that fusion will eventually become viable, if not desirable.

 . A senior director of a large oil company has said “we shouldn’t be building petrol stations we should be building stables”. So why is this Government still supporting the building of new airports and the expansion of existing ones; e.g. Bristol. Maybe this modern world is really an anomaly and that Constable’s country is what we are fast losing and need to restore.  

After all, we don’t need to have much intelligence to realise that the industrial age is dependant on fuel and that fuel, is fossil fuel. Until that is, the discovery of nuclear power. Fossil fuel is a finite quantity and will obviously only last so long? Uranium ore is also a finite quantity, although there may be much more to find.

I recently found John Busby’s report: UK Survival in the 21st Century  it is a remarkable document that I am sure that the Government is aware of but others, like me are not.  It is becoming even more obvious that our lives are changing and that our children and grandchildren’s lives will be subject to even greater change -even if action is taken immediately. Mr Busby’s report provides a remarkable insight into the practical issues that we face and their social and political implications.

Now the media is reporting that you said that “nuclear energy was back with a vengeance”.  However according to the Number 10 Website this is what you said to the CBI: “Nuclear power, renewable energy and energy efficiency are "back on the agenda with a vengeance” that statement surely, gives equal weighting to each term.

I know that the Downing Street website is subject to editing so either what the newspapers and media are reporting is false or it is true. If what is reported on the Downing Street website is true then the media have, uniformly, deliberately misrepresented what you have said.

From reading your speech to the CBI, it seems entirely justified for you to make those observations, and I quote from your speech:

  . . .  we will publish before the summer break, the Energy Review. Essentially the twin pressures of climate change and energy security are raising energy policy to the top of the agenda in the UK and around the world.

Yesterday, I received the first cut of the Review. The facts are stark. By 2025, if current policy is unchanged, there will be a dramatic gap on our targets to reduce CO2 emissions; we will become heavily dependent on gas; and at the same time move from being 80/90%, self-reliant in gas to 80/90% dependent on foreign imports, mostly from the Middle East and Africa and Russia.

These facts put the replacement of nuclear power stations, a big push on renewables and a step-change on energy efficiency, engaging both business and consumers, back on the agenda with a vengeance. If we don't take these long-term decisions now, we will be committing a serious dereliction of our duty to the future of this country. (This link no longer works 2014)

 It doesn’t appear to me by any stretch of the imagination that you have made a policy decision ahead of the report; or is there some other report (findings) of a committee to come?

 Of course, I am only a citizen and I am still at present horrified by the prospect of more nuclear power stations, although you did not say “more” only “replacement”.  But then maybe I am ignorant, perhaps nuclear power can be managed with safety and the small amount of deadly waste that is produced does not actually represent a threat to life for several thousand years if it is buried securely. Or maybe that waste can be neutralised by a technology that we are investigating now. I spent about a week in total researching nuclear power using web based resources. I could only do that because I am retired. Please note that a percentage of the population who are retired (or even unemployed) are engaged in worthwhile “work”

 The British press would gain greater respect by making sure that they report what is actually said by our politicians not what they think was said.  Or did the press focus on the prospect of the replacement of the nuclear power stations as being the most newsworthy aspect of your speech to the CBI.  After all, it seems to me that the Cold War finished with the nuclear accident at Chernobyl when the USSR needed our help and also nuclear power generation had a severe setback as well at that time. Although the reappraisal of the nuclear option has always been on the agenda it still creates something of a shock, especially when the issue is raised by a Labour Prime Minister.  

Whilst, I do not agree with a number of policy decisions that you are standing by, I do agree with the rational appraisal of the facts of an issue. I suppose it would be too much to ask the media to use critical thinking on issues, rather than personal vitriolic and find the facts to help the public understand the issues, rather than cherry-pick those facts which lend substance to their argument.  This is an interesting fact from a website that will provide any intelligent person with all they need to know about nuclear power:

Used fuel

With time, the concentration of fission fragments and heavy elements formed in the same way as plutonium in a fuel bundle will increase to the point where it is no longer practical to continue to use the fuel. So after 12-24 months the 'spent fuel' is removed from the reactor. The amount of energy that is produced from a fuel bundle varies with the type of reactor and the policy of the reactor operator.

Typically, more than 45 million kilowatt-hours of electricity are produced from one tonne of natural uranium. The production of this amount of electrical power from fossil fuels would require the burning of over 20,000 tonnes of black coal or 30 million cubic metres of gas.

The waste from a nuclear power station does eventually become safe; it just has to be left on its own for, in the case of high-level waste, a period of over a thousand years.

Yours Sincerely

A. Citizen

PS. Website letter only

[the BBC presenter (Gloria Hunniford) on the Heaven and Earth show (broadcast after this letter was written) held up an email from a viewer (Thelma) and reading it out said that the radioactivity would last 100,00 years! this same viewer claimed that "Tony Blair didn't know what he is talking about"! The truth Thelma, is that nuclear waste's radioactivity drops fairly rapidly and would be back to its original level -about the same as natural granite in less than 10,000 years]

 In the program the Rev Tim Cooper presented the issues but obviously didn't really understand what he had found out. The quiet spoken John Robertson MP, Chairman of the All Party Nuclear Energy Group tried to broaden the discussion but was stopped by the presenter as there was no time left, apparently 10 minutes or so was allotted to this news topic!

The Rt. Rev. James Jones Bishop of Liverpool who was specially interviewed for the program was initially quite good and presented the issues well but later with added BBC graphics of money said . . "that it was only monetary greed that made the nuclear option possible" Unfortunately, he couldn't have been more wrong as it is quite a problem trying to get investors in nuclear power stations.  The Bishop also mentions wind power, he didn't mention that this form of energy production will be have to be heavily subsidised though, and can only be part of the technology that we need for generating power. Radiation is part of the natural world. A very well written article on Radiation and Life can be found at: link no longer works 2014)