Ronnie Sookhdeo Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Ronnie Sookdheo

Near nuclear disaster in Channel

(September 1984)

From Militant, No. 715, 7 September 1984, p. 11.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE RECENT accident which resulted in the sinking of the French freighter Mont Louis with its lethal cargo of material has resurrected the fear of a major catastrophe. For it has been revealed that the cargo consisted of a deadly mixture of enriched uranium and some 450 tonnes uranium hexafluoride – Hex. Hex, a vital component of the nuclear power and weapon programme is extremely corrosive. Even more disturbing, it produces a violent explosion on contact with water with the release of harmful radiation.

Both substances can poison the sea and air for thousands of years with disastrous consequences. And the accident itself raises more serious and important questions. The French authorities refused at first to comment on the accident and then when forced to only released partial information. They subsequently admitted that the ship was also carrying enriched uranium which posed a hazard.

More importantly, however, is the web of secrecy and the absence of international safeguards surrounding the transportation of these substances. Their importance is such, it is claimed that absolute secrecy is necessary.

The ship owners thought it appropriate to list their cargo as “medical supplies”. The crew were only aware they were carrying radioactive substances because they were issued with Geiger counters. The only international safeguards that exists lay in the specification of “safe containers”.

Moreover, the accident has demonstrated that there are no designated routes for nuclear carrying vessels. Indeed much atomic wastes comes over from Holland on roll on/roll off container ships alongside such shipments as cheese and chocolates. The ships are not specially constructed to withstand collisions nor do they have sophisticated navigational equipment, nor do they have their crews hand picked for their skills as seamen.

The latest accident has once again cast a cloud over the nuclear industry. The recent revelations of leakages of radiation into the sea, the irrefutable evidence linking it with various forms of cancers and the persistent threat of a catastrophe, now make it imperative that the whole nature of the nuclear industry is questioned.

Where profit is the motive, accidents live. This is inevitable unless a coherent energy programme is developed, which includes nuclear fusion (not fission which produces radioactive waste) and alternative forms of energy which do not produce harmful substances that can endanger mankind.

Ronnie Sookhdeo Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 6 February 2017