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The Ecologist Editorial Office and Back Issues: Unit 18, Chelsea Wharf, 15 Lots Road, LONDON, SW10 OQJ UK. Tel: (0171) 351 3578 Fax: (0171) 351 3617 E-Mail: Full list of back issues available For US enquiries: The Ecologist/ISEC USA, 1920 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704 USA. Tel: (510) 548 2032 Fax: (510) 548 4916.

is published by Ecosystems Ltd.

Steven Gorelick, Helena Norberg-Hodge and John Page, who form the Ecologist's Board, are directors of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC). For more information about ISEC write to: ISEC, Apple Barn, Dartington, Devon, TQ9 6JP, UK. Tel: +44(0) 1803 868 650; Fax: +44 (0) 1803 868 651, and PO Box 9475, Berkeley, CA 94709, USA. Tel:+1 (510) 548 4915; Fax:+1 (510) 548 4916.

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be included where appropriate. Detailed guidelines for contributors are available on request. Manuscripts should be addressed to the Editors and sent to the Editorial Office. While every care is taken with manuscripts submitted for publication, the Editors cannot guarantee to return those not accepted. Articles published in The Ecologist do not necessarily express the views of the Editors.

Retail Distribution: Central Books, 99 Wallis Road, LONDON, E9 5LN, UK. Tel: (0181) 986 4854 Fax: (0181) 533 5821 and Lakeside Publishing Services Ltd. Unit 10, Tideway Industrial Estate, Kirtling Street, LONDON SW8 JBP. Tel: (0T71) 720 6680 Fax: (0171) 498 9616 E-Mail:

The Ecologist International Serial Number is: ISSN 0261-3131. The Ecologist is a member of the Independent News Collective (INK). ©The Ecologist 1999 The Ecologist is available on microfilm from University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb St. Ann Arbor. MI . USA. Printed by The Friary Press, Dorchester, Dorset.

The Breakdown of Climate Human Choices or Global Disaster? Peter Bunyard El Nino, the collapse of the Gulf Stream, devastating hurricanes and floods ... Are these events part of a natural cycle or have we really reached the limits?

This book gives a clear overall picture of climate. It explains how weather systems function, how oceanic currents and tropical forests are vital in maintaining these sys­ tems, how natural systems perpetuate them­ selves and are essential to our planet.

Rons Books

In the midst of a seemingly hopeless scenario this book offers hope to all those concerned about the increased violence and occurrence of natural disasters. 256 pp; 0-86315-296-1; paperback; £9.9 9 15 Harrison Gardens, Edinburgh EH11 1SH



EDITORS Edward Goldsmith


Paul Kingsnorth NEWS EDITOR Lucinda Labes SCIENCE EDITOR


Sally Snow Kate Halliday


Steven Gorelick Helena Norberg-Hodge

John Page

DESIGN & LAYOUT 3 Counties Design Ltd


ADVISORY BOARD Marcus Colchester World Rainforest Movement

(UK) Samuel S. Epstein University of Illinois

(USA) Simon Fairlie

(UK) Sally Fallon President, The Weston A. Price

Foundation Ross Hume Hall (McMaster University, Canada, now Vermont, USA)

Sandy Irvine

(UK) Martin Khor Kok Peng Director, Third World Network

(Malaysia) Smitu Kothari Lokayan Social Action Group

(India) Sigmund Kvaloy Ecopolitical Ring of Co-operation

(Norway) Jerry Mander International Forum on


(USA) Patrick McCully International Rivers Network

(USA) John Papworth Fourth World Review (UK)

Robert Prescott-Allen

(Canada) Simon Retallack

(UK) Vandana Shiva Research Centre for Science

and Ecology (India)

Robert Waller Commonwealth Human

Ecology Centre

(UK) Richard Willson The Times (UK) Tracy Worcester

ISEC (UK) Donald Worster University of Kansas (USA)


The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 7, November 1999 Ending The Nuclear Century

By The Editors

The nuclear issue is one that has all but disappeared from the public consciousness. The majority of people could not name the nearest nuclear reactor to their own home. Fewer people understand how these reactors work, and even fewer are aware of the terrible dangers. During the preparation of this special issue of The Ecologist, a number of people asked us why we should want to revive an issue that was dead and done with. The answer, of course, is that nuclear power is no more dead than is biotechnology. The accident that occurred on the 30th Sep­ tember of this year at the uranium fuel production plant in Japan should make this clear. Nuclear radiation is still killing large numbers of people with leukaemia and other forms of cancer and will kil l very many more i f we allow the industry to proceed with its present plans.

Nuclear power, we were told decades ago, would provide electricity that was 'safe, clean, and too cheap to meter'. We now know that it is, on the contrary, totally unsafe, highly pol­ luting, and very expensive indeed. Of course, since the nuclear power project was linked very closely with its military coun­ terpart - of which it was but an offshoot - there was very little room for argument at the time. Our small island and neigh­ bouring countries were, like it or not, to be crammed with nuclear power stations of all types, and people would be made dependent on an energy source whose consequences the nuclear establishment had either not bothered to find out or were willing to lie about, and which could not be further from our government's main preoccupations.

So the nuclear industry was allowed to grow and grow, with no public consultation of any kind, on the basis of bogus sci­ ence, with the help of compromised politicians and lengthy public inquiries, the results of which - as in the case of the Windscale inquiry - were predictable from the start.

As a result, our lives today are largely in the hands of tech­ nocrats and engineers - often minor, plodding ones at that, and a small mistake like pressing the wrong button - as has already happened - could spell disaster for millions.

When most of us reflect on the fate of those affected by Chernobyl, of the victims of Three Mile Island, and of the highly covered-up Windscale fire of 1957, we still believe that these were but isolated accidents, and that such disasters are very unlikely to recur - let alone in the sophisticated West. But we now know that Britain, for example, came, just a few years ago, within seconds of a nuclear meltdown - the consequences of which could have been disastrous for us all. We know that the United States has similarly only narrowly avoided such a catastrophe. In fact, as we clearly demonstrate in this issue of The Ecologist, the majority of us in Western Europe and many in the United States and Japan and elsewhere, have been living on a razor's edge for decades.

Beyond these horrifying scenarios, a large number of people are at present exposed to routine emissions from nuclear instal­ lations of different sorts - that contaminate the air we breathe, the food we eat and even consumer products in our homes and all this in order to assure the survival of an industry whose very raison d'etre is unjustifiable on environmental, social and

economic grounds, and whose survival would have been inconceivable without vast government subsidies, both direct and indirect.

But if, as we have clearly shown in the following pages, the industry has failed to deliver on every one of its much hyped promises, how then have our leaders managed for so long to keep this monster going, and more to the point, why?

In our opening article by Peter Bunyard and Pete Roche we try to answer these questions by closely examining the history of lies, cover-ups, scandals and corruption surrounding the nuclear industry. Chris Busby, in his expose of the dangers to our health of radioactive emissions, uncovers mountains of evidence that there is not only no such thing as a 'safe dose', but that repeated low levels of exposure are proportionately more dangerous than exposure to a single massive dose.

Other articles reveal that independent regulatory agencies are not as independent as we are led to believe, and that eminent scientists are willing to put their own careers before the health of the general public. The history of the nuclear industry and those who support it, is shown to provide a perfect illustration of the utter recklessness with which industrialisation-at-anycost has been foisted on the world, and of the gulf that separates the agenda of our political leaders and that which they should have set themselves were they in any way concerned with the true interests of those who elected them to power. •

The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 7, November 1999