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Homer Simpson 'nuclear waste spill' panic at nuke sub base!

Almost as bad as dropping a luminous watch in the sea!

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Where did that hysterical fear reflex come from? Largely from the national and local media, which falls into the same trap with nukes as it does with the dangers attendant on terrorism, cannabis, bird (and quite possibly swine) flu etc. As with the terrorism, when it comes to nuke danger the media are being manipulated - or as in this case, being manipulative.

It's certainly no surprise to find that this "story" has the fingerprints of Rob Edwards all over it. (He is named in the "secret" emails released by SEPA.) As well as having worked for the Guardian, Channel 4, New Scientist and various Scottish media, Edwards is a former leading light of the CND and the Scottish Campaign to Resist the Atomic Menace. He has written a book describing a little girl's harrowing death from leukaemia in lavish detail, and laying the blame squarely on the nuclear industry - a tactic straight out of Fear 101.

At least once every year, as he has done here, Edwards goes out and gets hold of some astonishingly boring, hundreds of pages long, publicly-available documents to do with nuclear safety. Then he trawls through them until he has found something on which to hang a scaremongering headline - safe in the knowledge that very few other journos will bother to check what he says. The Edwards nuke-fear sausage machine is remorseless.

Last year we had "Nuclear missiles could blow up like popcorn". Before that it was "UK nuclear accidents blamed on poor safety", "Road crash could set off nuclear blast" etc. etc. way back into time.

Edwards proudly quotes another CND activist, James Cameron, on his website:

I do not see how a reporter attempting to define a situation involving some sort of ethical conflict can do it with sufficient demonstrable neutrality to fulfil some arbitrary concept of 'objectivity' ...

As I see it, the journalist is obliged to present his attitude as vigorously and persuasively as he can, insisting that it is his attitude, to be examined and criticised in the light of every contrary argument, which he need not accept but must reveal.

Edwards doesn't live up to Cameron's standard: he doesn't reveal his attitude or reveal contrary arguments. He's honest enough about what he is and what he does on his website, but not when he's working inside the mainstream media, fabricating non-existent secret coverup "stories" from ordinary regulatory correspondence referring to insignificant incidents - or, often enough in the past, no actual incident at all.

It's surely true, as Edwards and his nuke-fearing friends contend, that many lies have been told by the governments of the world and their nuclear industries over the decades.

But the lies and distortion by the anti-nuclear lobby have been at least as bad. Rob Edwards on his own, if he carries on at his present rate, seems set to rival anything a government weapons programme might achieve in terms of misinforming the public. It's pretty safe to disregard any nuke-danger story you see with his byline on it. ®

*Obviously you can't really drink it because it's salt water.

Full disclosure: Lewis Page is a former navy diver who served several years at Faslane. On one occasion he did lose a tritium-dial service watch while diving in the Gareloch: he is thus personally responsible for more radioactive contamination in the loch than several entire submarine crews. He's in favour of the UK keeping a credible second-strike, retaliatory nuclear deterrent as cheaply as possible, eg Trident.

As for fission power, he can take it or leave it; but as far as he can work out, the numbers on a fully renewables-powered Blighty with population and living standard above medieval levels don't add up, and this whole fossil fuel situation is going to need sorting out sooner or later.

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