photo credit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2941073.stm
His name is Petter Stordalen, and he’s a billionaire Norwegian property developer and the chief executive of Choice Hotels. In 2002, he chained himself to a bridge in Seascale England, demanding that the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant be shut down. I try to imagine Bill Gates chaining himself to something. Somehow I can’t quite picture it.
Stordalen is one of numerous Norwegian business executives and political leaders fighting for more than a decade to close Sellafield. Why does Norway want the British nuclear reprocessing plant shut down? Studies show that air and water currents carry Sellafield’s accidental and “operational” discharges to the west coast of Norway. The latter would also bear the brunt of a major accident, which, owing to the plant’s abysmal safety record, looked increasingly likely in 2002.
Including, but not limited to
- between 1950-2000, 21 serious incidents or accidents involving offsite radiation release. This includes the Windscale Pile disaster, when a large heap of radioactive waste that caught fire in 1956
- a 1999 citation for falsifying quality assurance data between 1996-1999
- in 2003 a study commissioned by the Minister of Health revealing an increased incidence of childhood leukemia and non-Hodkins lymphoma in local residents
- in 2005 a plutonium leak that went undetected for three months
- in 2010 three accidental releases, with a fourth in early 2011, that were concealed from the public until a whistleblower leaked the documents to the Guardian
Why Reprocessing Plants Are Especially Dangerous
Sellafield first started up as a nuclear power station in the mid-fifties. Its mixed oxide (MOX) processing plant was built in 1996 and went on-line in 2001. Its role as a reprocessing plant means it accepts nuclear waste (spent nuclear fuel rods) from all over the world and reprocesses them for reuse. First plutonium and uranium must be separated from other fission products. One byproduct, a mixture of plutonium and uranium known as MOX, is used in thermal and fast breeder reactors. Sellafied’s reprocessing role also means that it accumulates massive amounts of “highly active liquor” (HAL), which requires constant cooling to prevent it from exploding.
Even CEOs Have Children
Few outside Britain and Norway have ever heard of Sellafield, much less the Neptune Network, an organization of Norwegian business executives turned environmental activists. Under the leadership of their executive director, long time businessman Frank-Hugo Storelv, the group has played a vital role in recruiting other Norwegian business leaders to lend their support to Norway’s antinuclear and anti-toxics campaign. In the video below, Storelv explains the urgent need for companies to operate more sustainably and be seen as good environmental citizens.
Like Petter Stordalen, Storev and other business executives in the Neptune Network were arrested numerous times for committing civil disobedience, both at Sellafield and numerous contaminated sites in Norway. In April 2011 he and four other members of the Neptune Network were arrested (under Britain’s anti-terrorism law) outside the gates of Sellafield for blocking a railroad shipment of new nuclear waste.
Victory for the Neptune Network
The MOX reprocessor at Sellafield closed August 3, 2011, after Japan (as a direct result of Fukushima) announced they would cease buying MOX for use in their reactors. The British government responded by proposing to build a new MOX plant at Sellafield, which would produce fuels for use in more modern reactors. In the face of massive public opposition, Cameron’s coalition government backtracked and committed to decommission and close Sellafield by 2018.
What’s Wrong With American CEOs?
So what’s the major difference between American and Norwegian CEOs? Why is it so hard to imagine Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, the Koch Brothers, George Soros (or any of our elected representatives, for that matter) chaining themselves to a bridge? They have children and grandchildren, just like Norwegian business executives. What’s more they all (presumably) have the educational background to understand that massive wealth won’t protect their offspring from the devastating health consequences of radiation poisoning.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of cancer deaths and deformed babies stemming from nuclear accidents, leaks and “operational” releases, we still have no safe method of storing and/or disposing of the mountains of radioactive waste we have already created. Surely they know all this, right?
Originally published in Dissident Voice