Archive for March, 2012

Nuclear Power and Democracy: Questions to be answered

March 14, 2012

From the Report A Corruption of Governance by Unlock Democracy (Charter 88) and the Association for the 

Box 1: Questions that need to be answered1. Why did the previous Government take two decisions – to reverse previous policy and decide that new nuclear power is needed, and then decide that 10 nuclear power stations are needed – without assessing the long term demand for electricity?2. Why did the original EN-1 and EN-6 documents, prepared for the previous Government, claim that Redpoint’s analysis showed the need for medium term capacity to increase, when it did nothing of the sort?3. Why didn’t the previous Government carry out an assessment of the full potential of energy efficiency (even though they declared it was the most cost-effective way of meeting energy policy objectives), before deciding how much electricity we needed to generate?4. Why is the current Government ignoring the evidence in its own Pathways to 2050 work, and insisting that nuclear power is necessary to keep the lights on and reduce CO2, when the analysis shows the opposite?5. Why have numerous Government documents misrepresented evidence from Government analysis by saying that electricity demand may double, when in fact the analysis and the modelling shows something different?6. Why has the EN-1 document, prepared for this Government, ignored the results of their modelling, the National Grid modelling, and the Fourth Carbon Budget Assessment regarding electricity needs up until 2025?7. Why has the EN-1 document misled Parliament by falsifying the results of the modelling regarding the alleged need for extra capacity up to 2025?8. Why has the Government wasted time, effort and money on its deliberative discussion on the various pathways to 2050, when in fact the decision to use nuclear power has already been made?9. Why did the Government repeatedly refused to carry out an assessment of the full potential for the policy that it regards as the most cost-effective (energy efficiency) before making the decision to support new nuclear power stations, despite the fact that the Chief Scientific Adviser described the assessment as crucial?10. Why did the 2011 White Paper on Energy Market Reform not include a full assessment of energy efficiency despite the fact that one of its principle objectives was to minimise costs to the consumer?11. Why did Charles Hendry’s answer to Madeleine Moon’s Parliamentary Question omit information about low-carbon technologies that are cheaper than nuclear power?12. Why has the Government relied on unsubstantiated claims regarding the expected lifetime of new nuclear power stations?13. Why has the Government relied on unsubstantiated claims regarding the load factor of new nuclear power stations?14. Why do the Government’s official statistics on the price of nuclear power not include the transmission and distribution costs?15. Why does the EN-1 document quote a study that doesn’t include a comparison with all low carbon technologies, as evidence that nuclear is the cheapest source of electricity?


Me and my iPad

March 12, 2012

OK – so it’s a “2” not a “3” and it’s not even working properly (or, at least, the SIM card isn’t  and that makes it no better than a “1”) but I love it and wouldn’t be without it. In fact,  even my ancient analyst who hates much web life because it’s so unaesthetic, has fallen in love with his iPad (I haven’t asked for its specifications; that sounds much too personal.)

And now, better and better,  I’ve found WordPress on it and saved its icon to my Home Page!

However, there’s much more still to learn, though it’s an encouraging start.

Uri Avnery: Why no-one is going to attack Iran

March 12, 2012

Uri Avnery  
Published in Hebrew in Haaretz
March 11, 2011
Israel will not attack

Israel will not attack Iran. Period.

The United States will not attack Iran. Period.

The United States will not attack. Not this year, nor in years to come. For a reason far more important than electoral considerations or military limitations. The United States will not attack, because an attack would spell a national disaster for itself and a sweeping disaster for the whole world.

“If you want to understand the policy of a country, take a look at the map,” said Napoleon. Minutes after an attack is launched, Iran will close the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes almost all the oil exported by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and Iran – 40% of the world’s sea-borne oil passes through the strait. A few minutes after that, oil prices will rise, will double, triple or quadruple – and the U.S. and global economy will collapse.

Such small issues do not cross the minds of generals, military commentators and other wise guys who look at the world between narrow “security” blinkers.

Closing the Strait would be the most easy of military operations. A few missiles, launched from either the sea or the land, would do it. To reopen it, it would not be enough to send the US Navy’s mighty aircraft carriers on show cruises. The United States would have to conquer large parts of Iran, so as to put the Strait out of range of the Iranian missiles. Iran is larger than Germany, France, Spain and Italy combined. It would be a long war, something on the scale of the Vietnam War.

For Iran, there is no difference between an Israeli attack and an American attack. They would be treated as one and the same. In both cases, the consequence will be the blocking of the Strait and a large scale war.

All of which is more than enough for the United States not to attack, and to forbid Israel from attacking.

It’s 56 years since Israel went to war without giving notice to the Americans and getting their consent. When Israel did this in 1956, President Eisenhower took away all the achievements of victory, to the last millimeter. Before the Six Day War and on the eve of the First Lebanon War, the government of Israel sent special envoys to Washington to ensure unequivocal consent. If this time it did attack against the Americans’ will, who would restock the IDF armories? Who would protect the cities of Israel, which would be exposed to many tens of thousands of missiles from Iran and its proxies? Not to mention the wave of anti-Semitism which can be expected to burst out once the American public finds out that it was Israel, and Israel alone, which brought upon them a national disaster.

American diplomatic and economic pressure might be sufficient to stop the ayatollahs’ gallop towards the Bomb. It worked in Gaddafi’s Libya and is now happening in the North Korea of ​​Kim. The Persians are a nation of merchants, and it might be possible to formulate a deal which would be worth their while.

This is questionable, because a few years ago the Neo-Conservatives in Washington engaged in glib talk about how easy it would be to occupy Iran – which surely convinced the Iranians that they must acquire the ultimate weapon of deterrence. What would we have done in their place? Or rather, what did we actually do (according to foreign reports, etc.) when we were in their position?  

So what is going to happen? If no deal is reached, Iran will develop nuclear weapons.  That’s not the end of the world. As has been pointed out by some of our more courageous security chiefs, this is not an existential threat. We’ll live in a situation of a balance of terror. Like America and Russia during the Cold War. Like India and Pakistan now. Not pleasant, but not too terrible, either.

Iran has not attacked any other country in a thousand years. Ahmadinejad talks like a wild demagogue, but the Iranian leadership actually treads very carefully. Israel does not threaten any Iranian interest. Joint national suicide is not an option.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar boasted, and rightly, that Netanyahu had managed to distract the whole world’s attention, away from the Palestinians and to the Iranian problem. A fantastic success, indeed. Obama in effect tells him: OK, go and play with settlements as much as you want, but please leave Iran for the adults.

Letter to my MP on the NHS Bill

March 1, 2012

Dear Mike,


What do we, the public, really want and need as far as healthcare is concerned?


Doctors who are able to treat their patients within financial constraints to the utmost of their professional ability.


Will this be helped if the doctors, to be managed in large consortia with differing standards throughout the country, are theoretically ‘in charge of commissioning’ but actually having to choose whether to become wealthy owners of services or remain as the practioners they trained to be?


Dr Lawrence Buckman’s letter makes very clear the concerns of the GPs themselves. This letter deserves very careful analysis and reading. If you do so, you will find, I am sure, that the concerns he raises are not ‘political’ but flow from an understanding of the Bill, as it stands.


The revelations in  the Daily Telegraph  that Andrew Lansley’s office has been supported by private health care providers are also deeply damaging.


This wholesale, top-down reorganisation of the NHS –  precisely what we were promised by Mr Lansley before the election he would not do – is not wanted by the public and will lead to inequalities of service, cause huge expense and lead to vast profits being made by private companies.


I do hope you and your colleagues are talking seriously about these issues as well as whether it will be more damaging to the Government and the Conservative Party to go forward or to recognise that the present Bill is ill-formed and withdraw it.


Please do use your strengths to get this Bill halted.




Jeffrey Newman