Revealed: British government's plan to play down Fukushima
by Rob Edwards
30 June 2011
Internal emails seen by Guardian show PR campaign was launched to protect UK nuclear plans after tsunami in Japan
British government officials approached nuclear companies to draw up a co-ordinated public relations strategy to play down the Fukushima nuclear accident just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and before the extent of the radiation leak was known.
Internal emails seen by the Guardian show how the business and energy departments worked closely behind the scenes with the multinational companies EDF Energy, Areva and Westinghouse to try to ensure the accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK.
"This has the potential to set the nuclear industry back globally," wrote one official at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), whose name has been redacted. "We need to ensure the anti-nuclear chaps and chapesses do not gain ground on this. We need to occupy the territory and hold it. We really need to show the safety of nuclear."
Officials stressed the importance of preventing the incident from undermining public support for nuclear power.
The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, who sits on the Commons environmental audit committee, condemned the extent of co-ordination between the government and nuclear companies that the emails appear to reveal.
"The government has no business doing PR for the industry and it would be appalling if its departments have played down the impact of Fukushima," he said.
Louise Hutchins, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, said the emails looked like "scandalous collusion". "This highlights the government's blind obsession with nuclear power and shows neither they, nor the industry, can be trusted when it comes to nuclear," she said.
The Fukushima accident, triggered by the Japan earthquake and tsunami on 11 March, has forced 80,000 people from their homes. Opinion polls suggest it has dented public support for nuclear power in Britain and around the world, with the governments of Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Thailand and Malaysia cancelling planned nuclear power stations in the wake of the accident.
The business department emailed the nuclear firms and their representative body, the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), on 13 March, two days after the disaster knocked out nuclear plants and their backup safety systems at Fukushima. The department argued it was not as bad as the "dramatic" TV pictures made it look, even though the consequences of the accident were still unfolding and two major explosions at reactors on the site were yet to happen.
"Radiation released has been controlled – the reactor has been protected," said the BIS official, whose name has been blacked out. "It is all part of the safety systems to control and manage a situation like this."
The official suggested that if companies sent in their comments, they could be incorporated into briefs to ministers and government statements. "We need to all be working from the same material to get the message through to the media and the public.
"Anti-nuclear people across Europe have wasted no time blurring this all into Chernobyl and the works," the official told Areva. "We need to quash any stories trying to compare this to Chernobyl."
Japanese officials initially rated the Fukushima accident as level four on the international nuclear event scale, meaning it had "local consequences". But it was raised to level seven on 11 April, officially making it a major accident" and putting it on a par with Chernobyl in 1986.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has released more than 80 emails sent in the weeks after Fukushima in response to requests under freedom of information legislation. They also show: more Guardian- - -
Fukushima spin was Orwellian
Emails detailing how the UK government played down Fukushima show just how cosy it is with the nuclear industry
1 July 2011
t was an open secret that Britain's decision to back nuclear power in 2006 was pushed through government by a cosy group of industrialists and others close to Tony Blair, and that a full debate about the full costs, safety and potential impact on future generations was suppressed.
But the release of 80 emails showing that in the days after the Fukushima accident not one but two government departments were working with nuclear companies to spin one of the biggest industrial catastrophes of the last 50 years, even as people were dying and a vast area was being made uninhabitable, is shocking.
What the emails shows is a weak government, captured by a powerful industry colluding to at least misinform and very probably lie to the public and the media. When the emails were sent, no one, least of all the industry and its friends in and out of government, had any idea how serious the situation at Fukushima was or might become.
For the business department to then argue that "we really need to show the safety of nuclear" and that "it's not as bad as it looks", is shameless. But to argue that the radiation was being released deliberately and was "all part of the safety systems to control and manage a situation" is Orwellian. An ignorant government that relies for its information on companies it is planning to reward with contracts for billions of pounds smacks of corruption.
These guys were not just cosy. They were naked, in bed and consenting. Their closeness now raises questions such as what influence could the industry have had on the chief nuclear inspector's report on Fukushima, and whether speeches by David Cameron, Chris Huhne and other ministers were informed or even written by the industry. Can we ever trust government to tell us the truth on nuclear power, or should we just accept that the industry and government are now as one.
Until now the players in this drama must have been reasonably happy with the way the debate in Britain has gone. While the public has marginally shifted its position against nuclear power, little serious pressure has been put on the coalition. Unlike in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and many other countries, where the debate has been furious and governments have clearly had to think again, here the industry and its friends have managed to narrow the debate down to one about the medical safety of radiation and the impossibility of Britain being hit by a tsunami. There has been no major debate on nuclear costs, the legacy or the waste – which is just how government and industry wants it. more Guardian
Monday, July 04, 2011
"Scandalous Collusion" Between UK Gov and Nuclear Industry ''Orwellian Spin''
Having already posted a brief article that called for the resignation of energy and climate change secretary, Chris Hume, over his collusion with the nuke industry to play down the global disaster at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi installation, I can expand on that with two further articles.