New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 105

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] NUKE OR NON-NUKE[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Noddy nukes

The August issue of N.I. shattered all the faith I had in the magazine. It seems to have reduced itself in stature from an intelligent, thought - provoking, up-to-date magazine to a blatently biased, and onesided propaganda rag.

You failed to put the argument for nuclear power in anything but gross caricature. Where were comments on the requirements of greater electricity with altemative battery powered cars and increasing use of soft-wave and robots in manufacturing? Where was the environmental comment on enormous windmills protruding skywards in our landscape?

Your simple, factless ‘Noddy’ presentation has given a very difficult problem the easy solution of ‘altemative energy’. But where is alternative energy, and how exactly do we harness it?

P. J. Crawley
Staffordshire
UK

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Lethal loans

In an issue that concentrated on presenting the case against nuclear power (N.J. No. 102). I was shocked to find that after the following argument: ‘And don’t forget the public has shelled out billions in research to get nuclear power started’, it is argued that ‘We also pay by providing cheap loans to Third World countries to buy our reactors.’

Surely, if nuclear power is undesirable, we should not allow Third World countries to buy our reactors?

Richard Wilkinson-Grey
Middlesex
UK

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Your life in your hands

The authorities state that the risks of death from a nuclear power station leak are far lower than, say, the risk of dying in a road accident (N.I. 102).

Why then are people uneasy about having a nuclear power station built near where they live? Perhaps it has something to do with the way the statistics are compiled. Risk analysts can work out the probability of mechanical breakdown, power supply failure or whatever, but it is impossible to quantify risk from human error. This was perfectly demonstrated in the Browns Ferry plant accident in 1975, when a workman used a candle to test for air leaks and some insulating material went up in flames, destroying electrical cables and safety devices.

In addition to this, I like to think I have some freedom of choice in taking a risk. I choose to ride a motorcycle with the risks that this involves, and yet I resent the fact that a nuclear power plant may be dumped next door — although statistically my chances of dying are apparently greater on the motorbike.

And the type of risk is different too — injury or death to oneself may not seem as horrifying as possible genetic damage passed on to future generations.

John Fields
Stowmarket
UK

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No health hazard

In your magazine describing nuclear power in the context of the West (N.I. No. 102) you fell into the trap of attacking on all fronts without realising the contradictions involved. For instance how does the assertion that it is so expensive square up with the assertion that there is lots of money to be made on nuclear energy?

The facts were disappointingly sparse too. The only evidence of unacceptable health hazards was the alleged increase of leukaemia deaths near the Lingen reactor in West Germany. But, in 1980, the Ministry of Social Welfare studied the causes of death in the area and concluded that there was nothing to substantiate the claim. In fact leukaemia death rates near Lingen were lower than both the region and the country as a whole.

The case against nuclear power in most of the Third World is sufficiently strong without resorting to irresponsible scare stories.

P. J. Harhorne
Cheshire
UK

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Ban bits of the bomb

If one considers the raw materials for weapons, especially nuclear weapons, then trade sanctions, including workers’ picketing to prevent trade in those raw materials, gives the possibility of direct action to combat the ‘War Machine’ rather than the so-often fruitless negotiations.

These raw materials do not just include uranium ones. Fluorine too is vital for nuclear weapons manufacture because only as hexafluorides can the necessary isotopes of uranium and plutonium be separated as ‘enriched’ mixtures for nuclear weapons production and lithium is in fact for hydrogen bombs, because lithium tritide with a uranium or plutonium ‘trigger’ is their basis.

Thus, the stoppage of exports of fluorite (from Switzerland, for example), and of lithium (from the US and probably the USSR) might help prevent the continuing arms race.

Geraint Evans
Aberystwyth
Wales

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Nuclear waste dumping

I write to compliment you on the article in September’s magazine (N.I. No. 103) concerning the sea-dumping of radioactive wastes.

For the past three years, Greenpeace has been working, with other environmentalists, to halt this irresponsible practice. As the amounts of waste dumped have increased each year, so has public opposition, and the operators of the dumping ship have resorted to increasingly violent tactics to drive off Green-peace vessels.

At the same time, an increasing flood of reassuring platitudes has poured forth from the British nuclear industry in an attempt to gloss over the facts that we do not know enough about either the behaviour of the waste constituents in the environment or the effects of low-level radiation on living organisms.

To continue to dump radioactive garbage into the oceans while crucial questions as to the safety of such practices remain unanswered is the height of folly. Greenpeace, together with other environmental organisations and a number of foreign Governments, are resolute in their opposition to the ecological gambling.

P. Wilkinson
Greenpeace
London N.1

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[image, unknown] MULTINATIONALS[image, unknown]

Unilever replies

The article published under the heading ‘Keeping Levers at Bay’ (NI No. 101) bears no relation to reality.

Lever’s Pacific Timbers (LPT) is not in confrontation with Iriri villagers (or anyone else) concerning logging on Iriri land; the area had been by-passed and no arrangement has been or will be made to extract the timber.

Turning to New Georgia, your article suggests that the local people knew nothing about plans for LPT to operate there until LPT arrived ‘unannounced’ last February. Nothing could be further from the truth. Few adults from North New Georgia would have been unaware of the establishment of the North New Georgia Timber Corporation (NNGTC), in which the timber rights for the area were legally vested, and of the subsequent signing of an agreement between LPT and the NNGTC in June 1980. The NNGTC was established by the Solomon Islands Government by statute, but only after long and painstaking discussions with the tribal leaders as to a constitution which was acceptable to them and their people.

It is wholly owned and controlled by the people of North New Georgia and their chosen representatives, and is a unique concept enabling the people themselves to participate in the controlled realisation of their resources, and to manage the funds generated responsibly with a view to the long term future of the people and the land. Your article does not even mention the NNGTC.

A small minority from one religious group have demonstrated opposition to the NNGTC. Their aims in so doing are not very clear. This is a matter for the NNGTC to resolve.

D.L. Wedderburn
Head of International Affairs Unilever Limited
London
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Logging the evidence

Your article on Levers timber exploitation in the Solomons was marred by inaccuracies. The opposition in North New Georgia was from the followers of a peculiar religious cult who claim ownership of land on a corporate church basis and not in the traditional Melanesian style.

You also pass lightly over the way the Solomon Islands Government neglected to insist on replanting and how, in 1979, there was no wood available in the Western Province for building, as it all had to be exported to meet quotas set by headquarters in London. To assist this, Levers forced a Gilbertese subcontractor to sell their logs to Levers instead of to the local town for a higher price.

In spite of this, Levers Pacific Timbers have a poor record in the Solomons and the people of Iriri are wise to resist.

Rupert Gudu
Uckfield
Sussex
UK

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Aboriginal facts

As readers of the New Internationalist we support the sentiments expressed in the article ‘Blind Panic’ (N.I. No. 102). However, as doctors who have worked in the Northern Territory of Australia we are somewhat disturbed by the inaccuracy of the information. There is no doubt that Professor Hollows has met with considerable administrative obstinacy in the National Trachoma Programme, however your figures relating to leprosy and syphilis are undoubtedly inflammatory. Figures issued in 1978 have the number of notified cases of syphilis at all ages as 27.1 per 1,000. In the age group 15-45 it is more difficult to assess, but is closer to 70 per 1,000 than the 1 in 3 stated. The Leprosy Register for aboriginals in the period 1974-76 totalled 646, about 80% of all cases of leprosy in the N.T. The number of active cases however was only 14. The article did not make this distinction.

Margaret Phillips
Robert Kars

Chester
UK

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