The CEO Who Chained Himself to a Bridge
(This is the first of two posts about Neptune Network, a group organized by Norwegian business executives, and their campaign to shut down a nuclear reprocessing plant in the UK.)
The man in the photo 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 picture Bill Gates chaining himself to something. Somehow I can’t quite see it.
Stordalen is one of numerous Norwegian business executives in the Neptune Network, which has been fighting for more than a decade to close down Sellafield. Why does the Norwegian government and the Neptune Network want Sellafield shut down? Studies of accidental and “operational” discharges of radioactive gasses and liquids show that air and water currents carry them directly to the west coast of Norway. The latter would definitely bear the brunt of a major accident, which grows more likely every month owing to the plant’s abysmal safety record.
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 caught fire in 1956 (http://iopscience.iop.org/0952-4746/26/1/002)
- a 1999 citation for falsifying quality assurance data between 1996-1999 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/1999/sep/15/paulbrown.jonathanwatts)
- a 2003 study commissioned by the Minister of Health revealing an increased incidence of childhood leukemia and non-Hodkins lymphoma in local residents (http://www.comare.org.uk/press_releases/comare_pr10.htm)
- in 2005, a plutonium leak that went undetected for three months (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/cumbria/4589321.stm)
- 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 (http://2012indyinfo.com/2011/04/24/nuclear-event-uk-plutonium-leak-5-times-legal-safety-limit-sellafield-nuclear-complex/)
Why Reprocessing Plants Are Especially Dangerous
Sellafield first went on-line 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. This entails separating out plutonium and uranium from other fission products. MOX, one of the products that results, 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 (http://theforeigner.no/pages/news/sellafield-safety-concerns-prompt-norwegian-environment-minister-visit/).
The Norwegian government has been extremely concerned about Sellafield becoming a world dumping ground for unwanted nuclear waste. They, along with the government of Ireland (also downwind and downstream from Sellafield), have been pressuring the British government for more than a decade to shut it down.
Even CEOs Have Children
Most Americans have never heard of Sellafield, much less the Neptune Network and the Norwegian business executives turned environmental activists who are fighting to shut it down. The Neptune Network includes hundreds of activists who aren’t business executives. In fact, anyone can sign up (for free) at their website http://www.neptunenetwork.org/. At the same time the Network is relatively unique in the active role their executive director, long time businessman Frank-Hugo Storelv, plays in recruiting other Norwegian business executives to play a leading role in the Norwegian antinuclear, toxics and sustainability movement. In this YouTube video, Storelv explains the urgent need for companies to operate more sustainably and be seen as good environmental citizens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q8GLg0lgfU. Here, as in all his public presentations, he repeatedly emphasizes the devastating effect increasing nuclear and chemical pollution will have on all our children and grandchildren.
Like Petter Stordalen, Storev and other business leaders in the Neptune Network have been arrested numerous times for committing civil disobedience at Sellafield and at various contaminated sites in Norway. In April 2011, he and four other members of the Neptune Network were arrested (under the British anti-terrorism law) outside the gates of Sellafield for blocking a railroad shipment of new nuclear waste. Recently he and two other members of the Neptune Network lost an appeal to the Norwegian supreme court, after being convicted for a nonviolent protest against toxic dumping in the Oslo Fjord. According to the website, they now plan to take the case to the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
To be continued.