45 Issue 45
International Bulletin of Nuclear Veterans and Children May 2016
I welcome the opportunity to reply to the remarks made in the interviews with Dr Thomas. There are so many errors, misapprehensions and bluntly, ignorance, such that, uncorrected, I believe her remarks could actually be damaging to public health. I would like to summarise briefly why I believe I am qualified to make these comments. I started my career in radiological protection in October 1971 at the UK Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Radiobiology Unit at Harwell. I was a member of the secretariat to the Council’s Committee on Protection against Ionising Radiations (PIRC), whose task it was to advise, through the MRC, HM government on issues related to public and occupational health as it is affected by exposure to ionising radiation. One of the most relevant projects I was involved in was the formulation of Emergency Reference Levels for the protection of public in the case of nuclear accidents. In the late 1980s I served on the international oversight committee for the Nationwide Survey of the
Marshall Islands, a US weapons test area in the Pacific and directed the radiological study of the Rongelap Atoll in order to determine its suitability for rehabilitation after it was evacuated as the result of weapons fallout from the 1954 Castle Bravo test. This study reported to a US Congressional Committee. In 1991 I joined the Regional Office for Europe (EURO) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) based at the European Centre for Environment and Health in Rome. I was responsible for all radiological issues in Europe, which in EURO terms includes the former Soviet Union. My programme uncovered the childhood thyroid cancers in Belarus, and setup the International Thyroid Project to deal with the epidemic of childhood thyroid cancer. In 1994 EURO joined the UN’s international emergency response system for nuclear accidents and I led the public health aspects of that project until 2001, when, for political reasons, the EURO program was closed. After retiring from the WHO in
2003, I have maintained my interest in nuclear accidents and for the past four years have been working with a citizenscientist group in Japan on radiological protection in the context of the Fukushima accident. I continue to write and research on issues related to radiological protection. I therefore have 45 years of professional involvement in the subject at national and international levels. I will take the BBC interview first. In this interview Dr Thomas questions the whole basis of the Japanese response to the Fukushima accident in terms of its evacuation policy, which was undoubtedly correct according to international standards. Is one to imagine that those authorities and the Japanese scientific establishment, are so stupid as not to recognise, if Dr Thomas is correct, that there is no risk entailed in living in the evacuated areas? The internationally agreed public dose limit is 1 mSv (or mGy, numerically they are identical in the context of the argument here) per year, which is in addition to approximately 2 mSv per year from natural background radiation. The single measurement made in that television interview indicated 2.8 micro-Sv per hour, which is close to 25 mSv per year.
That includes the natural background dose, so, at that point where the measurement was made, the dose rate is at least 20 times the public dose limit. Surely Dr Thomas can recognise that this must demand serious consideration by the appropriate authorities as to the safety of those who would live there? In fact, the correct radiological protection procedure would be to protect the most highly exposed person in the population. Therefore, arguments that being indoors, for example, would reduce the dose rate are not valid in the context of the radiological protection of the public in general. Whether a special dispensation should apply when determining the return of evacuees to their homes, where they will remain indefinitely, is a question that I believe needs to be discussed in the light of recent scientific evidence confirming the no-threshold hypothesis. Furthermore, we are not talking about a total dose of 20mSv or even 20mSv/year, for someone who returns to live in this village. In many such villages remedial measures to reduce the dose rate are being taken, but only for the main “living areas”. Straying beyond these areas could lead to much higher doses and eating natural produce, mush-
rooms, berries, fish etc., to even higher doses. In the light of these considerations Dr Thomas’ comments in the video were insulting to the intelligence of the Japanese authorities and their advisors and simply wrong judged from a professional radio-
logical protection point of view. The BBC was right to withdraw her comments as incorrect, if that is indeed what they did. It should also be kept in mind that essentially homeless evacuees in Japan are being asked to return to their former homes in partially cleaned-up villages and towns. They deserve the best public health advice we can offer on the
risks entailed in that decision. They did not get that when the BBC broadcast the interview with Dr Thomas in Japan. Finally, from my viewing of the video, I believe Dr Thomas is being disingenuous when she says she made a numerical error in calculating the dose from the interviewer’s dose-rate measurement. She made no visible attempt to do any kind of calculation: the figure, 1 mSv/year, she cited, was something, in my view, she clearly had in mind to say whatever the measurement had been. That, in the context in which the interview took place, the interpretation of empirical measurements, and the way in which she was introduced to the audience, as an expert in the subject, is clearly, in my view, scientific misconduct. One must also say here that the interviewer must have been, for an experienced journalist, amazingly gullible to have allowed the interview to be broadcast. He must surely have been able to see how ridiculous Dr Thomas’s position was.
I will now turn to the interview with Alan Rimmer the Editor of fissionline.
monly “pulled out of the air” with no scientific justification.
Prof Thomas states: “But actually no-one would ever get that amount of radiation and even if they did, the health effects are still negligible. Even at 20 millisieverts. If you look at the literature and there is a huge amount of literature on this. Once you get below a hundred milliseiverts it’s actually very difficult to prove that there is a real effect on cancer incidents.” As already pointed out above, this statement, without any caveats that “no one would ever get that” cannot be justified without a full radiological survey. It is a professionally irresponsible statement. If 20mSv/year were representative of the dose rate on the street, then living there and leading a normal life (including eating local produce, visiting the surrounding countryside etc.) the combined internal and external doses could be considerably in excess of 20mSv/year. With respect to the risks, I have recently looked at the literature and my conclusions are diametrically opposite to those of Dr Thomas. Take for example radiation workers: a recent study published in British Medical Journal (BMJ) last year. BMJ is a highly reputable journal and the study was undertaken by the French radiological protection institute (ISRN) and the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), among others. It determines the excess relative risk of fatal solid cancer as 48%/Gy (Confidence interval (CI) 20 -80%). The average accumulated dose is ~20mGy. There is no indication of a threshold at any dose, let alone 100mSv, which is a figure com-
Figure 1: Dose response for fatal solid cancer in more than 300,000 radiation workers from France, the UK and the USA.
In 2006 the US National Academy of Sciences produced the so called BEIR VII report (http://www.nap.edu/
health effects of low doses of low-LET radiation, current knowledge allows several conclusions. The BEIR VII committee concludes that current scientific evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear dose-response relationship between exposure to ionizing radiation and the development of radiationinduced solid cancers in humans. The committee further judges it unlikely that a threshold exists for the induction of cancers but notes that the occurrence of radiationinduced cancers at low doses will be small.” That was 10 years ago and since then around 10 further studies have been published that confirm the no-threshold conclusion. This point is well illustrated in the following video prepared by Ian Goddard: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=5xYRvnCBZOM. So yes, it has taken several large epidemiological studies and roughly a decade to confirm the judgment of BEIR VII. It might be argued that there could still be a threshold at a dose such as 10mGy. However, the effects of radiation are cumulative, so by the age of 10 everyone has acquired at least 10mGy from natural background radiation.
read/11340/chapter/1). This report addresses specifically the issue of risk at low doses. The conclusion is as follows: “Despite the challenges associated with understanding the
Let us now take the BMJ result for radiation workers and estimate what this means for absolute risk for an individual. The spontaneous rate of cancer varies from country to country. In the UK the lifetime risk of dying of cancer is ~25%, a one in four chance. An excess relative risk of 50% means that exposure to 20mGy would increase the lifetime risk by 0.25% from 25 to 25.25%. An exposure of 100mGy (5 years living in a 20 mGy/year environment) would give an increase of 1.25%. This is for mortality in adults.
For children, according to the BEIR VII report, it will be higher. Let us look a BEIR VII estimates of risk of cancer incidence by age. Figure 2: Lifetime risk of solid cancer incidence in the general population by age at exposure to 100 mGy. These values are taken from Table 12D-1of the BEIR VII report and are corrected for DDREF = 1.
I have gone into this issue in detail because this canard that there is no risk below 100mGy (the same thing here as 100mSv) is totally contrary to the clear scientific evidence, yet continues to be propagated by Dr Thomas: she knows (or at least should know because the rest of us have for at least 10 years) that it is unfounded.
discredit the findings, but I am not aware of any case where that has been successful. I await with interest the results of the Oxford Group. However, there is another argument
threshold result. The concept of the threshold is predicated on the role of DNA repair. Genetic
This graph is for exposure to 100mGy. For those 30 or more years at exposure the lifetime risk averages less than 1%, but for children it can be up to 3% to 7%.
diseases are said to be caused by DNA damage and DNA damage is repairable. So the argument goes that at low doses repair eliminates
thus a threshold. Cancer is in fact not a genetic disease as demonstrated in 2000 by the Nordic Twin Study.
must be some other underpinning
causes radiation induced cancer. The primary (and at the moment only) candidate for that is
This means that a girl born into a 20mGy/year environment may, in their first year of life, acquire an additional 1% lifetime risk of getting a cancer. Well, I, at age 75, might well accept these risks, as indeed radiation workers do, but to bring children into such an environment is certainly not a trivial matter. By age 15, in that environment, allowing for radioactive decay, they may well acquire an extra 5% lifetime cancer risk, more if they would like to play in the forest and eat berries.
Prof Thomas states: There is a big project in Oxfordshire, they are going to look into all the dosage and all the literature and provide a guide for people, and that’s taking them a long time because there is a mountain of data for them to work through ….... But actually if you look at all the data you can see that 100 millisieverts is negligible.
radiation induced genomic instability and that is not repairable. Another feature that was predicated on repair is the Dose and Dose-Rate
(DDREF). For many decades DDREF was thought to be two, leading to a curvilinear dose response, shallower at low doses than at high. However, numerous epidemiological studies (see for example Figure
In truth, the amount of data to be examined is not that large and I would estimate that it can be evaluated in about a week. It is all included in Ian Goddard’s video. The dozen or so papers have attracted a lot of comment aiming to
1) have shown that to be false and it is now accepted that DDREF = 1 (linear dose response at all doses). In fact the low dose problem is now really only a problem if you don’t want to believe the evidence!
In the interview with fissionline the question is posed about the 20 mSv reading on the reporter’s dial: But isn’t this what a nuclear workers get…? Prof Thomas’s answers: Yes, but this is 100 millisieverts per year. The BMJ study (above) showed that workers in the UK and some other countries, received an average cumulative dose of just over 20mSv. 20 mSv is, in fact, the annual dose limit for workers. In practice few reach it outside of accident situations, because of the application of other radiological protection principles, ALRA (as low as reasonably achievable) for example. Fissionline points out that some radiation workers have successfully sued power companies. Prof Thomas States: No. No…have we got actually documented evidence that their cancers definitely been caused by radiation? Q. Well I don’t think anybody can say that, can they? A. Well that’s the whole point. If you can’t say it’s definitely caused by radiation, how the hell can you tell? Q. But by the same token you can’t say it definitely wasn’t caused by radiation. It is true, you cannot say, in the case of a specific individual cancer that it was or was not caused by radiation, but if the dose is known a probability based on the collected epidemiological evidence as illustrated by Goddard’s video above, can be inferred. Worker compensation schemes work on this basis for numerous potentially occupationally caused diseases
and Dr Thomas should know that. On the basis of the collective dose across Europe we can estimate that there will be between 30,000 and 60,000 cancers over the lifetimes of those alive at the time of the Chernobyl accident. We would not be able to say that a given case was radiation induced or, for that matter, that it was not. Fissionline: What about Chernobyl? Thomas: At the moment the figures are that 28 people died as a result of the explosion. These are the firemen who were dropping Boron on the reactor to put out the fire that was burning in the graphite core.. 28 of those died from radiation exposure. They died of acute radiat i o n s y n drome within months of the accid e n t which is what we have seen from very high doses of radiation. We have had somewhere round about 15 deaths from thyroid cancer which is likely to be pinned down to radio-iodine in the population. And so far that’s it. This is just pure ignorance and not consistent with what Dr Thomas says later in this interview, where she refers to the work of Dr Cardis. It is true that 28 acute radiation syndrome deaths occurred in the first 4 weeks after the accident.
Childhood thyroid cancer can be treated successfully and it may be true that so far only 15 deaths have occurred. That does not mean that there will not be more, or that having thyroid cancer (especially in childhood) is without consequences for later life or at the time the disease is being treated. In most cases diagnosed as potentially radiation caused disease, the thyroid is surgically removed. The patient then faces a lifetime dependent on drugs to replace the lost hormones. But Dr Thomas completely ignores the cancers and fatalities that can be predicted from the collective dose for Europe. Dr Cardis, who Dr Thomas refers to (later) as “a really good epidemiologist”, published a study in 2006 on the expected death toll in Europe. Cardis et al say: “The risk projections suggest that by now Chernobyl may have caused about 1,000 cases of thyroid cancer and 4,000 cases of other cancers in Europe, representing about 0.01% of all incident cancers since the accident. Models predict that by 2065 about 16,000 (95% UI 3,400– 72,000) cases of thyroid cancer and 25,000 (95% UI 11,000– 59,000) cases of other cancers may be expected due to radiation from the accident, whereas several hundred million cancer cases are expected from other causes.” [In this study a DDREF = 1.5 was used for all solid cancers. This is now discredited so, for example, the 25,000 should be multiplied by 1.5 = 37,500]. Cancer is a common disease, ~25% of the population in the UK die of it and more 30% experience it in their lifetimes. Against this backdrop the consequences of the Chernobyl accident may appear small, but they are real and you should ask why Dr Thomas does not want to tell you that. So 43 deaths is far from “it”.
Fissionline: But what about these children we see, for example, being bussed around the Lake District…? Thomas: Those children now were not exposed to the radio-iodine. They have been exposed to very low amounts of caesium which we have absolutely no evidence that this causes any problem at all. The “we” here is interesting. This is not the view of very many local doctors in Belarus and Ukraine, who, on a daily basis have been treating these children and since the very outset have been claiming that there is a debilitating effect of this exposure. To the best of my knowledge this problem has received very little attention outside of the affected countries, but there is a very substantial literature on the subject mainly in Russian. The phenomenon of genomic instability, mentioned above, does provide a plausible mechanism for such an effect. The Ukrainian Academy of Sciences issued a report recently claiming that in the contaminated regions of the country age specific death rates were higher than the national average. Prof Thomas states: Caesium is only likely to cause a problem because caesium is a long-lived radio isotope with a half-life of about 30 years. Biologically it has a half-life of about 100 days because your body is constantly cycling things it isn’t a constant thing at all. So if you take in a dose of radio caesium, and we have really good evidence of this from the Japanese who didn’t stick to the dietary regulations that were put in place postFukushima, if you take in a dose of radio caesium, within 100 days all that radio caesium has disappeared from your body, and that’s not because it has decayed whilst it is in your body, some of it will have but not all because of its half physical half-life, because your body has excreted the radio caesium and replaced it with non-radioactive caesium because
that’s in the environment anyway. So when you work out the dose you have to take into account the biological half-life and the physical half-life. And if you do that with caesium, people who are exposed to caesium are about six million residents around the Chernobyl area, well this has been calculated for received dose over 25 years which is 80 per cent of their lifetime dose would be, of nine millisieverts which is the same as a CT scan. Spread out over 25 years. One thing is correct here: the biological half-life of Cs is about 100 days for an adult. That is the figure I and my colleagues proposed in 1972. The rest is partial truth. Ra-
dioactive Cs emits both short range beta radiation (important for the internal dose) and long range gamma radiation (important for the external dose). The six million people referred have cumulative doses up to a several 10s of mSv from the combined internal and external doses they have received. Their whole environment is contaminated with radioactive caesium and so, so is their food. So caesium eliminated from the body is constantly replaced unless “clean”, Cs free food is available. However, what we saw in the BBC video was that Dr Thomas did not appear to understand that depos-
ited Cs gives rise to external dose, even after the cloud of fallout has passed over. We see the same misapprehension in this context. I conclude that Dr Thomas is profoundly ignorant of the properties of radioactive nuclides and bases her views on a serious misunderstanding of the nature of radioactive fallout. I have no idea where the 9mSv figure comes from. I don’t know the figures for the current collective dose in the 6 million people living close to the Chernobyl reactor controlled zone, but the 9mSv individual dose is an average (or maybe a median) and the maximum will be much greater. In any case, responsible public health scientists are advising against CT scans, unless absolutely necessary, on the grounds of the radiation risk they incur. So the argument that a given dose is negligible because it is no more than a CT scan is irresponsible. In a study of nearly 680,000 people given CT scans in Australia the increase in cancer is clearly detectable and is consistent with other cancer risk estimates. Fissionline: So what you are saying to me is that Chernobyl only caused 43 deaths? Thomas: At present, yes. But because they are not fireman deaths, only 15 have been documented. But you have to allow for the fact that they will probably be about one per cent of the patients who develop thyroid cancer because of their exposure to radiation over a period of 50 years will die from their thyroid cancer. And we have got very good evidence for that as well. And actually we can cure thyroid cancer very well by giving them high doses of radio iodine.
This also exhibits astonishing degree of ignorance and it is closer to Dr Thomas’ professional experience. The exposure that led to the childhood thyroid cancer was quite unprecedented and therefore we really don’t know what will be the full outcome in terms of mortality. Cancer Research UK says that thyroid cancer mortality was about 10% of thyroid cancer incidence in 2012. To dismiss this epidemic as entailing a 1% mortality and ignoring the life damaging
effects of having cancer at any time and particularly in childhood, is wilful ignorance. Fissionline: So how many people is that then? Thomas: Well Elizabeth Cardis, a really good epidemiologist, estimated that there would be about 16,000 cases of thyroid cancer given the data that we have at the moment up until 2050 from exposure to iodine from the accident. So if you take one per cent of that that’s 160. So there was no real problem at all from Chernobyl. That’s a revelation to a lot of peo-
ple. If you read the UNSCEA report that came out just before Fukushima which we actually finished in 2008, that is available on the internet, that really gives you all the facts. I can agree that it might be a revelation to a lot of people – it is to me. But of course it is not 16,000, but 24,000 (correcting for the DDREF of 1.5) and it is not 1% but more like 10%, so not 160 and “no problem”, but 2,400. Why let a few facts get in the way of a good story? But why then ignore what Cardis and colleagues say in that same paper about solid cancers? The estimated figure was 37,500 (between 16,500 and nearly 90,000). The mortality rate is much higher for these cancers, about 45% currently. So the number of deaths will be according to the “very good epidemiologist” around 20,000. Dr Thomas is very inconsistent with the figures she bandies about. But cancer incidence of between 30 and 60 thousand and fatalities between 9,000 and 40,000 seem to present a good picture of the detriment from cancer entailed by the Chernobyl accident in Europe. Quite a step up from 43 I think? Fissionline: So what does a lay person do when he hears other
eminent scientists saying just the opposite? Thomas: Yup, this is a huge problem. I simply sent George Monbiot all the evidence and said read them for yourself. And I think that is all we can do. I can’t tell you what to think. I can provide you with evidence and it is up to you to make your own conclusions. But I agree with you that when you have people like Keith Baverstock who is a well respected radiobiologist who has a totally different opinion from actually the weight of scientific opinion now, he is now actually out on a limb. Chris Busby is another one who is very much out on a limb compared with the weight of scientific opinion. I mean this is what we spoke to the BBC about. Well up comes George Monbiot, who, like St Paul, converted on the road to Damascus, was suddenly converted to advocacy of nuclear power. Interesting to know it was Dr Thomas who converted him, I had understood it was the Fukushima accident. Also, I understand that Monbiot failed to turn up for a public debate to be held in Oxford with Dr Chris Busby shortly after the Fukushima accident. But yes, I can agree that people like me are a real pain in the butt to people like Dr Thomas - we keep reminding them of the facts they don’t want to hear.
Fissionline: Talking about the BBC: You did that Chernobyl documentary with the graphics and you showed that more people would die falling out of bed than from the explosion.. Thomas: Yes I did say to the BBC that if you did put that up and you really have to explain it because ... Fissionline: What about the Fukushima one? An awful lot of people wrote in and complained… Thomas: Yes the BBC, they backed down. Fissionline: They in fact said it was wrong what you said… that you were wrong Thomas: But that’s not wrong. That’s not wrong. And when they backed down, because they apologised, somewhere I’ve got the email showing it saying that we had to actually do something just to put this to bed and that’s what happens I’m afraid.. Fissionline: Surely the BBC can’t do that.. Thomas: Well they can do. I mean if you tie up your BBC lawyers for years with activists who have the time to spend writing this all the time, at some point, unfortunately this is what happens in these cases and do you know what they just give up. They actually did apologise to me for giving up because they knew, they knew they were saying I was wrong, and I wasn’t. Well Dr Thomas, as far as I can see you have been wrong on nearly everything except the biological half-life of Cs. The BBC has a point. Fissionline: Can I just change the subject slightly, I understand you are going to give evidence for the MoD in the Ionising Pensions court case about nuclear veterans pensions…
Thomas: I wasn’t aware that was public knowledge…
Fissionline: Well, it is… Thomas: I was told by the lawyers that that was not supposed to be public information until after the trial. Fissionline: Why? What’s the problem? Thomas: I don’t know. I’m just repeating what I have been told by the lawyers that’s all. Can I ask you who you spoke to about that? We haven’t actually been notified just who is giving evidence yet… expert witnesses provide documentation to the lawyers and the… I can’t comment on the case I’m afraid until it’s gone through the courts… An interesting insight as to how to seek independent expert opinion ……... Fissionline: OK. Back to Chernobyl. What about all the precautions
that were being taken on the road to Pripyat? They were carving up the highway, removing huge amounts of contaminated earth…everyone was being monitored for radiation … Thomas: Yes, but that’s just standard procedure… Fissionline: But people were terrified. Thomas: Yes, but that’s just the problem…I mean I went in just recently with Rupert WinfieldHayes into the exclusion zone around Fukushima and I was with somebody else who works in you know a top government body that deals with radiation and we were asked to gown up, put gloves on, masks on…and I got more of a dose on the flight going over than I got from being inside the exclusion zone. But if you are asked to wear all that gear you are going to think Wow this is really dangerous. I literally got more of a radiation dose on the flight to Tokyo. I think this a clear example of the fact that Dr Thomas is not the expert she claims to be. Firstly, she made an error by a factor 20 by assuming an area was safe and ignoring evidence that it was not. She, as an “expert”, contrived to expose the very non-expert, but I assume “trusting”, BBC reporter to a dose 20 times higher than she anticipated.
Secondly, since radioactive dust would be blowing around in that location, she and the reporter would carry contamination on their clothes and skin to areas outside the zone, potentially affecting other people and instruments etc. with contamination. That contamination might have contained “hot particles” which could have caused skin burns. The precautions were not solely for Dr Thomas’ protection, as she appears to believe. She violated the basic precautions appropriate to working in radioactively contaminated areas; her behaviour was, therefore, highly irresponsible. Dr Thomas is rather keen to use the example of the radiation dose she received on the flight to Tokyo. It is a reasonable comparison if she is talking about a fleeting visit to such a contaminated area – a very different thing for someone who is going to spend the rest of their life there, which is exactly what she is advocating others to do. She certainly did not get 20mGy on that flight. At the typical dose-rate for an intercontinental flight of 6.6 microSv/hr, the 12 hour flight from London to Tokyo would give a passenger about 0.08mGy – less than 2 days living in a 20mGy/year environment. It is said we live in the age of the “selfie”, so I guess even “experts” do not have immunity to solipsism. FL: What about a couple of weeks after the accident. Would that prevail as well? Thomas: Yes. I’m not going to say…I mean in many cases it was higher, but I probably would have had less on the flight over at that time, but now, five years later, the iodine is all gone. The iodine only lasts three months in the environ-
ment because it only has a very short physical half-life so within three months there is no iodine left. So what you are left with basically is the other isotope that comes after caesium has a long half-life and its gamma radiation, you can detect it quite easily, which is why you use airborne detection to look for it. So you can see what the doses are there. If you go to Fukushima you’ll find there’s monitors in many places just looking what the airborne radiation is. It doesn’t give you any context as to whether it’s high or low, it just gives you a figure and unless you know what is high or low you can work it out what the dose is going to be. There is a paper written by schoolchildren who monitor themselves in France, Poland and Belarus and they compare the dosage with Fukushima Prefecture. It’s nice and easy to read and you can see for yourself then. The vast majority of people who work on this agree with what we are saying. These are people drawn from right across the globe who advise the WHO on radiation safety. This is almost too ridiculous to comment on. Of course the iodine has gone, but where it entered the bodies of the population, either through ingestion or inhalation and decayed, it potentially did
damage that may appear in the future as thyroid cancer. The Cs is on and in, the ground, producing long range gamma rays that are not “airborne”, but will continue to contribute to the external dose-rate, that which was measured in the BBC video and dismissed by Dr Thomas. That dose-rate will decline in the future a bit faster than dictated by the radioactive half-life. The other exposure route is the food chain. In this case Cs will continue to be incorporated in vegetables, dairy products, sea food, fish and meat within the contaminated zone and the coastal waters. The total for those living there will be the sum of the internal and external components. Dr Thomas only tells part of the story. She also forgot to mention that the accident is not over yet: radioactive water is still being discharged to sea and a further earthquake could result in further releases to the environment. Incidentally, she also forgot to mention that whole body measurements of the population were not started until July 2011, several biological half-lives after the initial exposure, so we have no idea of what the initial internal doses, especially of the evacuated population and children, were. A final point on the contributors to the international assessments of the accident: there is a group of independent scientists who take a very different view to Dr Thomas (Dr Busby among them, but far from alone), but they are notably absent from these assessment committees. Many of them are authors of the epidemiological studies featured in the video. You may draw your own conclusions.
Fissionline: Are you saying that manmade radiation does more good than harm? Thomas: There is a graph that shows quite frankly that there was far more strontium and caesium in milk in the 1960s when I was a child than there is in the UK now. No strontium (from Chernobyl) got here at all. It came from the above ground tests. Fissionline: So that was dangerous, presumably? Thomas: No it’s not dangerous. The doses were miniscule to individuals. There may have been a lot released but in terms of actual dose getting into you tissue they were absolutely miniscule. Strontium was a major concern in the 1970s because it was a prominent contaminant of milk as a result of weapons testing in the 1960s and since it has many properties in common with calcium it was being incorporated into peoples’ bones via the food chain and irradiating the bone marrow cells, which give rise to leukaemia. However, unlike Cs, it does not have a long range emission so it is much more difficult to detect once in the body, except at post mortem. So, yes, radioactive strontium is dangerous, yes, it was released to the atmosphere during the Fukushima accident and yes it is still being released to the ocean and being incorporated into marine life. The impact on human health needs much more attention than it is getting. Fissionline: I find it amazing how the two sides in the nuclear debate are such polar opposites. Thomas: Well in science that’s actually quite normal. You get one individual who has one hypothesis and another who’s has got another hypothesis. You have to prove it. But if you look at the data…low doses, very low doses, we are actually designed to deal with them because we are surrounded by low dose
radiation all the way through our lives. No it is not. In many areas of science consensuses are achieved – climate change for example (> 90% of experts are in agreement on the fact that the earth is warming and that it is due to man’s interventions). Hypotheses cannot be proved only falsified. Since it has been shown that children brought up in high background dose regions of Switzerland have a higher cancer incidence than those brought up in low dose rate areas and that in the UK leukaemia inci-
dependent of us and they are looking at the data and saying is this a good study or not. I think that this could really help people like you to look at what is out there. I’m sorry it’s not out now, because we really wanted it quickly, but it’s a very complicated scenario to go through. But if you look at good epidemiology studies Well, actually you don’t need to wait for the Oxford Group you can look for yourself (and so could Dr Thomas) and it is not that complicated, as many of the data sources are available on the web. First you have Ian Goddard’s video for an overview and I think it is very accurate, but also you can find the study of workers I refer to above, for solid cancer mortality and for leukaemia mortality. There is the Swiss study on childhood cancer and natural background radiation. And the UK study on natural background radiation and leukaemia.
dence is related to natural background dose rates, I don’t think there is much evidence for Dr Thomas’ last assertion. This is all data in this “body of evidence” that Dr Thomas keeps telling us is what informs her, so I wonder why she keeps getting it wrong. Fissionline: But the data that you rely on is presumably collected by people who are just as much prone to mistakes as anyone else. Thomas: If you look at the data… that’s why I think the statement by the Oxford group; they are in-
There is the
Australian study on CT scans. All these are publication in high quality peer reviewed journals. I would say these publications alone are sufficient to contradict any idea that there is a threshold at 100mSv and to demonstrate the linearity of dose response down to very, very low doses. I hope Dr Thomas will also make use of these links and reconsider her position. Maybe they will lead her to undergo a conversion and then she can reconvert Mr Mombiot.
Fissionline: But are you saying everybody should move back into Fukushima, Chernobyl? Thomas: I’m not making decisions for anybody what I am saying is if you look at the number…I would move there. No problem. With my family. No problem. If you want a straight answer. But what I am saying is look, look what happens when we evacuated everybody, the UNSCEAR reports for Chernobyl in 2008 and if you look at the report that has come out of Fukushima; the IAEA reports the UNSCEAR reports they all tell you the same thing: the psychological effects of dislocating a society to avoid the tiny risk, nobody is going to say there is no risk because you can’t prove there is no risk, the tiny risk of a health effect from the radiation. The psychological and physical effects of that movement of people were much, much worse in terms of health for the population than actually being there with the radiation; just sheltering while the iodine went over, treating it like a chemical exposure, sheltering while the iodine and the caesium cloud went over and the, if you wanted an evacuation, then doing an evacuation that was staged properly with the appropriate safeguards around it, making sure there was aid for people who were less able to move and things like that. So they lost an awful lot of people in an evacuation than they needn’t have done. But they did because they felt it was right. This has to qualify as the most astonishing rubbish I have ever seen posing as academic opinion. Iodine and Cs “going over” present an immediate hazard and leave
behind an enduring residue (Cs for much longer than I) that enhances the risk of radiation induced disease. I have been involved in the pubic health response to nuclear accidents since 1971, with the setting of criteria for evacuation: I was part of the UN’s international multi-agency programme on the response to nuclear accidents on the behalf of WHO and led on the public health aspects of that programme, which was set up after the Chernobyl accident at the request of the UN General Assembly. Dr Thomas would have been laughed out of the room for proposing such rubbish at any meeting I have been involved in over the past 40 years. Yes, there was a toll (for exa mp le, a number of suic id e s ) a m on g t h o s e evacuated, but never-the-less the evacuation was the correct procedure. This is part of the price that nuclear power exacts from society. It is well recognised that management failures contributed to the severity of the Fukushima accident: simple precautions that would have limited the release of radioactivity were not taken. TEPCO, the owner and operator of the reactors, chose not to imple-
ment them. Maybe evacuation would not have been necessary had they been implemented. Q. You know what this is going to look like when I write it, don’t you? A. I don’t care what it looks like I’m telling you the truth. I was anti-nuclear until I started working on Chernobyl and I changed my opinion by looking at the science. I can’t say anything other than that to you. Q. Would you be bothered about say standing in front of a nuclear explosion? A. A nuclear explosion, excuse me, what do you mean by that? Q. An atomic bomb explosion. A. Of course I would be bothered by that. We are not talking about an atomic bomb explosion; we are talking about a nuclear power plant accident. The two things are totally different. And part of the reason we have a problem with this is that people just cannot understand that they are different. And I was a kid of the 60s. I was brought up with all the anti-nuclear lobby against atomic weapons and I don’t support atomic weapons at all. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t support atomic power or I’m not prepared to look at atomic power and say: is it the same as an atomic bomb? I say no it isn’t. The isotopes released are totally different. The effects on the general community are different because It’s isotopic radiation rather than gamma.
BAVERSTOCK: Direct exposure to the prompt radiation at the point in time of the explosion is different: that is a flash of gamma and neutron radiation. In the aftermath of the explosion, fallout, containing exactly the same nuclides (fission products) as were released from the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, contaminates the surrounding and downwind environments. The isotopic composition is different, but the fallout problem is essentially the same for those exposed. There is a period when nuclides are airborne and can be inhaled and when there is essentially cloud exposure to external radiation. After that, deposited radioactivity in the environment (on the ground, on buildings and equipment etc.) produces a persistent external radiation field and contamination hazard, and finally can lead to internal exposures through contaminated drinking water and food. Perhaps the most famous example of this was the Castle Bravo test in 1954 on Bikini Atoll. The contamination from this detonation landed on Rongelap Atoll (as white dust some centimetres deep) some 100km distant and the on Japanese fishing boat the “Lucky Dragon”, killing one person. All the inhabitants of Rongelap suffered radiation sickness, were heavily contaminated on the skin and received huge thyroid doses from the isotopes of iodine. The test took place at dawn and the school teacher well remembers that day – he told me saw the sun rise both in the east and in the west that day – the fallout arrived around lunch time. Dr Thomas might like to note that the Rongelap islanders were not evacuated for three days, by which time the “cloud had passed over” yet they still suffered radiation sickness: this was not observed after Fukushima and that may be due to the
prompt evacuation. Even in 1987 the fallout could be easily measured on Rongelap Island and the northern islands of the Atoll were uninhabitable and remain so today. Therefore, standing in front of the detonation of an atomic weapon carries the risk of exposure to the “flash” but other than that the situation in that area and
down wind is much the same as being close to the reactors at Chernobyl and Fukushima: there is a serious risk to health, and, in fact, not just from cancer but several other diseases as well. Fissionline: The radiation.. Thomas: Iam not going to talk about being a witness at the court because that is part of the court case. I can’t comment on anything. Fissionline: I am not talking about the court case…You’ve talked about Fukushima and Chernobyl… Thomas: I’m not prepared to comment on that because there is a court case coming up and I am not allowed to comment on that. I
have to do what I have been told by the lawyers. In summary, the BBC’s decision to broadcast the video without presenting a view from, for example, the Japanese authorities, or another authoritative view, seriously violated its responsibility to avoid bias. This was compounded by presenting Dr Thomas as an expert on the risks of radiation when she clearly is not. The BBC’s indiscretion, of course, does not absolve Dr Thomas or her university, Imperial College, of the responsibility for recognising the limits of her knowledge. There are numerous populations who have had their lives blighted by exposure to radiation, both as the result of accidents with civil nuclear power plants and as a result of military weapons testing. At this very moment Japanese citizens are being asked to return to their homes in still contaminated areas. If they follow the advice offered by Dr Thomas they will increase their life -time risk of cancer and may be other diseases: it was grossly irresponsible of Dr Thomas not to tell them that. An article by Paris based sociologist, Reiko Hasegawa, will give you some idea of the dire human situation into which Dr Thomas has so crassly interjected her grossly misinformed views: this illustrates what I mean when I say Dr Thomas is potentially damaging public health. ENDS
THE COVENANT fund which is put in place is an entirely new process for these grants on behalf of the Treasury and I and my Secondee both come from the Big lottery fund and the Arts council, so we are grant makers and so you would expect us to be fairly robust in our systems. The money from the fund when awarded is only paid quarterly in advance in terms of all our grant holders and the first quarterly payment will be simply on receipt of signed terms and conditions and agreed milestones. But thereafter the payments will only be made quarterly on the achievement of the agreed milestones. So at any one time the bank account of the charity would only have one quarters payment in its bank account. RIMMER: So…a quarter of a million pounds has gone into the BNTVA’s bank account…? POOLE: No, no, no this will only be a quarter of the year’s payment. I don’t have the exact amount at the moment, but it will be far less than that. RIMMER: I have a figure here of £999, 970. for the grant.
POOLE: That is over a period of two years of the grant The money is put into the account quarterly
on the achievement of the milestones from the previous quarter. RIMMER: And the milestones are what? The objective of the project… POOLE: They will be, for example, theoretically that an organisation will have set by the end of the first quarter will have set up x referral centres we will have contracted with two partners that we will have contracted the service to say two veterans... RIMMER: Just trying to get my head around that... POOLE: It’s normal grantmaking practise. RIMMER: I’m afraid I know nothing about that. You talk about veterans. Veterans are getting nothing really in the sense of money or... POOLE: No. No, absolutely not. The Grant is made for an organi-
sation on trust to deliver services for aged veterans. I mean that’s across the whole of the portfolio. RIMMER: But these are specifically nuclear veterans are they not? POOLE: The definition for the programme itself is on our website under aged veterans fund as I’m sure you have found out is veterans born before the 1st of January 1950 who have seen national service or other service and in need of health, social care or well-being. RIMMER: As far as the nuclear veterans are concerned a grant has been made for a cytogenetic study to be carried out by Brunel University. Will they be getting the £430,000 for that? POOLE: Yes. That will be paid in instalments over the period…which I think is a two-yr research programme RIMMER: It’s three years actually. POOLE: Oh..well obviously you know…but the last instalment won’t be paid out until the last quarter of the third year. It will be the same with the other research grants to Southampton etc. RIMMER: Research money for the BNTVA is going to Combat Stress which is another charity. So the BNTVA and Combat Stress will be working hand in glove on that?
POOLE: Well I wouldn’t say hand in glove. It’s more of an arms-length relationship and as with any provision of therapies or services, Combat Stress provides its specialists assistance to individuals and the individuals are part of a cohort that the NHS contracted. In this instance this grant holder is contracting for X numbers of provision of therapies for Y number of veterans. And they do that with a lot of organisations and that’s how they get their income by the delivery of services. RIMMER: Getting back to the actual things for nuclear veterans which is what I am interested in. I can’t see exactly where the benefits are apart from research. Are they getting anything extra, anything tangible like wheelchairs? POOLE: Yes. For this particular grant holder, unlike others because some grant holders will not be providing any particular equipment of that sort to them , because they are producing different services under the aged veterans portfolio. But in this instance some of the grant will be used for the grantholder to provide after an open application process amongst its cohort of beneficiaries, additional support that they might not get through the NHS and
indeed could potentially have additional equipment that is innovative and not yet necessarily marketed through the NHS. For example it might well be a particular fitting within a kitchen setting which makes it easier for a veteran with a particular disability to maintain independence. And again in terms of wheelchairs where there is quite a lot of really interesting new research being harnessed to produce wheelchairs with different physical constructions issues so that the wheelchairs are lighter or mobile and are more flexible. RIMMER: Will there be anything specific for nuclear veterans? POOLE: Under this grant holder and across the whole portfolio, and you have seen the range of grants that have been made, the RBL, the air force benevolent fund, their veterans, and it is only aged veterans that we have funds
for, they don’t have to be nuclear. But in the RAF benevolent fund obviously their veterans are all RAF veterans. And so that’s where they would put their grant services to good effect. You’ve got the Royal Naval Association and their members are obviously Navy. RIMMER: Yes, So nuclear veterans are across all the services. Are you saying that a nuclear veteran is now a new category? That’s very important… POOLE: It’s in the name of this particular charity, because that is their charitable purpose. But the definition if you look on our website of an aged veteran, those born before 1950, and were either in the forces or National Service or the service of the government. So that’s the overall definition of the ultimate beneficiaries who can benefit from the aged veterans fund. RIMMER: So is there a specific category then for nuclear veterans? POOLE: No. It’s not a category. This charity has been a successful applicant, just like a category for a blind veteran has been a successful applicant…for a blind veteran.
RIMMER: Did you take into account people who, and this is where we are getting down to the nitty-gritty; the reason why a lot of people complain is that they didn’t like the way the charity was being run and they opted out. Now they are still sick people, and they are still people who need help. But they feel now that they won’t get any help, because if they apply to the BNTVA for help they will be excluded because they are not a member of the BNTVA. POOLE: What the BNTVA will be concerned about is to ensure when it is providing the equipment fund, I would anticipate is, that they are in fact British nuclear test veterans. And that verification of fact does have to be approached sensibly and coherently; clearly if they are members of the tests veterans association then in order to be a member some due diligence would no doubt have been undertaken in order to become a member. But if they are a British nuclear test member who is not a member of the organisation, that does not necessarily exclude them from applying to their programme for equipment. RIMMER: Yes, but the BNTVA have been taking members on who are not test veterans, for example the children of British nuclear veterans, and some who are in fact just friends of nuclear veterans. They are taking their subscriptions. So who decides ultimately who gets the benefit of the grant, who benefits in that sense? POOLE: Well the nuclear tests veterans association has got the grant and they spend the grant on those research projects they have applied for and we’ve approved so they can spend the money on Brunel, Southampton and Combat Stress. They can spend the money
on that small equipment fund they are going to set up and run. RIMMER: How much is that fund. Is it £100,000? POOLE: Oh no, no, no, no its is far less than that; it’s very small. I haven’t got the figures but proportionately in their grants its minimal. RIMMER: What’s minimal? £10,000 perhaps? POOLE: It’s somewhere around…I’m sorry I have really not got the figure in front of me but I think it’s £20,000. So in the
realm of a million pounds it is small. I have not got the figures so I may be wrong on that bit it is proportionately...the vast majority is going on the two research projects and combat stress therapies. RIMMER: OK. Now concern has been raised that the former chairman and a committee member now have become the providers of these services and they have been given a contract to carry out those services. POOLE: Indeed and certainly we looked into that before, when making our assessment, and I am absolutely satisfied that it is in order. Clearly as you already know the former chairman has resigned and in order to be independent of the organisation, and he’s working with another colleague of his.
He is doing what he has done professionally for many years which is project management and in terms of the application from this organisation, they had to go out and get competitive quotes for similar project management services, from two or three potential project management providers from this particular private limited company and from Price Waterhouse or from whoever provides these management services, because clearly as a membership of an organisation, they don’t have staff then they are not themselves able to run a million pound grant, and they acknowledge that. They need professional project management services . So in order to prevent any conflict of interest, although it has been a disclosable interest, they came up with this solution which is for the ex-chairman to leave; to have no further role in the running the charity, but to provide for very low cost I have to say, project management services. That organisation will provide the governance, the accountability and the reporting and the monitoring that we need here in the MoD to assure ourselves that the charity is to delivering on its commitments… RIMMER: You’re are saying this was a disclosed interest. It certainly wasn’t disclosed to the membership of the BNTVA. POOLE: Well it’s been disclosed in the grant application and that’s of course my concern. I don’t think it matters to the members, does it? RIMMER: Well yes it does. This organisation has been at civil war for five years. None of this was disclosed. It wasn’t announced that he was resigning; it wasn’t announced that there was to be a new chairman. There was no vote. POOLE: You don’t have a vote who is your trustee. Trustees are individuals and make their decisions to leave. That’s not a voting issue in an organisation under the charitable constitution.
RIMMER: My understanding is the membership had to vote for a new chairman. The other point is that the partner of the former chairman is still on the BNTVA committee. So there is a conflict of interest there surely? POOLE: Well there would be; there would certainly be a disclosable interest and this is where you need to make the distinction under law that it is absolutely right that that interest has to be made known at all times. RIMMER: Who is it made known to? POOLE: Well, to us. In connection with our remit which is to ensure the probity of public funds. But it is not necessarily a disqualifying interest, by which that sort of level over and above disclosed interest of course; a disqualifying interest would be for example in a trustee meeting of the organisation, if that, and I mean this is entirely hypothetical, if somebody with a disqualifying interest actually took part in a discussion which related to that interest and he was in that room at the time that would be a breach of the conflict of interest. But if that disqualifying interest had not only been disclosed but the person is out of the room and is not part of the conversation then that is, under charity law, is acceptable. RIMMER: So you see no conflict of interest at all in the fact that two … POOLE: I said that it is not a question of a conflict of interest it’s the type of conflict and there is a difference between disclosable and disqualifying. RIMMER: Well you’re a lawyer and you certainly use lawyerly language... POOLE: I am. RIMMER: And used to this sort of thing. But you see it doesn’t... POOLE: It’s important because what you are suggesting and its, and its absolutely right that you should be thinking this, but what you are suggesting is that there may be some undue influence on one of the existing trustees on the running of the management company set
up as you say with the partner of that trustee. Now provided that is known that both parties have that interest and provided in the running of the association, to which is down to as you say the chairman and the trustees, but provided that is known there by the trustees and when they are conducting their business they do not allow that trustee with that interest to adversely impact on any decision making then that is in order because there is still then the difference between that service company, the management company and, the trustees of the charity. This is really important because if there was, absolutely you’re right if there was undeclared, in other words undisclosed interests which were at work without anyone knowing and therefore influencing what was happening that would be a breach of charity law RIMMER: But this disclosure has only been made to your goodselves and the other trustees of the charity. So that’s where the disclosure comes in. It’s not publicly disclosed.. POOLE: But why would you disclose to others? RIMMER: Because there are people who pay £20 a year into this organisation and the people themselves would like to know what is going on. POOLE: Yes…absolutely right they are members of the organisation, and I mean there is a difference between members of the organisation and the normal services of that organisation which is presumably to keep in touch with members to look after their interests, to obviously have annual
meetings, and then the running of the grants is not for the benefit of their members it is for the benefit under their application of those individuals who will ultimately clearly benefit from the research and the therapies and the equipment. And they are not necessarily by any means exactly the same cohort of individuals who may or may not be members of the BNTVA. If you take that parallel, and again you have got an example of the grant here, you’ve got the Royal Benevolent Fund grant on this list their grant is for running, among other things, a lunch club at the RAF Home in Littlehampton to which again aged veterans who are welcome, they don’t have to have been former RAF serving officers although they are likely to have been, and they don’t have to be members of the benevolent association. But they are there because it is a lunch club which is being offered by that organisation. So if you take that parallel for the BNTVA what they are doing is offering their services through the grants to individuals who are eligible for the combat stress therapy for example. And that’s what is really important in terms of differentiating if you like between the normal business, the day to day business of a members organisation and what the members are entitled to from that organisation and the fact that the organisation as the corporate trustees grant and the grant purposes can actually be slightly different. But clearly from our perspective we have got to make absolutely sure that the association delivers on the milestones which have been agreed which is all the rest of it. It’s two little bubbles if you like; it’s two separate, a flow diagram if you like, the members of the organisation are separate from the grant..
RIMMER: That’s quite a lengthy reply. Can I say something now? POOLE: Yes RIMMER: Oh good. Thank you. So you see nothing wrong, unethical, no conflict of interest in the fact that members of an organisation can set up a company and then profit from charitable funds that have been fed into this company? POOLE: They are not going to profit. RIMMER: Well they are, they are being paid for working for it.. POOLE: They are not going to be making a profit because they have, they are being paid for the services rendered and that is at a very, very low rate. So the fact that they are… RIMMER: How much? Do you know? POOLE: Yes I do RIMMER: Which is? POOLE: Well I think that’s potentially now a matter of, clearly some commercial interest, but I can assure again that it is extremely small and was subject to our due diligence process. We also required that there should have been a competitive process for the provision of those services so that we asked our applicants to make sure that they had got quotes from other project management providers to ensure there was value for money here. RIMMER: Well I can argue that point. POOLE: Well it’s fact RIMMER: Well you say its fact but you don’t tell me the facts. I mean what quotes did they get. Who supplies project management for this kind of thing? POOLE: It’s a fact. RIMMER: It’s a fact they are making profit. It is a fact they are making money out of something of which they were an integral part of setting up. That’s the
point. POOLE: Yes they are now providing really valuable services… RIMMER: But the fact is they were in a really prime position to benefit from this because they were part of setting it up. POOLE: So you would prefer perhaps potentially for the project management services to be contracted with the local branch of Price Waterhouse Cooper? When you are making grants you have to go for value for money. RIMMER: Why didn’t you just give the money direct to Brunel University and say there it is, get on with it. POOLE: But they don’t run project management services RIMMER: You don’t need project management services to ask how much it costs to carry out the research. POOLE: No. No. they are running the research but the grant consists of not only the Brunel but five strands. All those strands have milestones and other monitoring information that we need here at the Covenant Fund that have to be provided professionally and properly and to ensure that the money is paid out properly. Brunel doesn’t do that. It is actually project management services in running a million pound grant that need to be addressed. RIMMER: So you are telling me that two Committee members of this organisation are going to get paid for doing something that they helped to set up. You are saying to me that’s OK. I can argue about the rights and wrongs
of it, but I just want to be given the facts. POOLE: And the fact is that the alternative for them would have been as I say to have gone for quotations to for example a local branch of accountants and those quotations were considerably more than the quotation from this particular service provider. Now if you are giving public money away you have to be really careful about the fact that you are not paying twice as much for services that you could.. RIMMER: And one of the reasons why in this particular case there is so much ill-feeling is that stated in their magazine for example is that they don’t have to explain what the money is being spent on. The money they are getting from the members. They have stated quite clearly that if they don’t think that the query about what the money is being spent is relevant, they won’t answer. So therefore there are suspicions which ever way you look at it. POOLE: I can see that, but what the members think about the running of their own charity which is separate from the grant, is entirely separate from the grant. What members feel about the way their charity is being run is a totally different issue. It is not about the Aged Veterans Fund grant… RIMMER: But you really see nothing wrong…surely you have got to remove yourself of any involvement with this kind of money at stake? You surely just can’t resign your post set up a company, decide and become the partner with a person who is still within that charity then bid for £1million and go on a salary for it. I do see that people could find that suspicious. POOLE: Well it’s not suspicious because it has been declared and disclosed… But only to you Well you and I know the facts..
RIMMER: Well I didn’t. I had to find out the facts. There was no saying at any time what they were going to do. This is why people like me report it, because it doesn’t look right and it doesn’t sound right. POOLE: I hope you have really understood the reasoning. It is perfectly in order; that it is entirely appropriate under charity law and under the concept of the probity of the grant and it’s the members of the association if they are concerned about the running of the money from their membership fees that is separate to the issue about the running of the grant where it has all been disclosed and it is in public knowledge. RIMMER Well what would you think if you gave a grant to a disreputable organisation…you don’t seem to care about that; you just seem to say well they’ve asked for a grant they’ve put forward a project… POOLE: No Alan, that is really unfair because we care enormously about the probity of the organisation.. RIMMER: But that’s the point. This organisation are the members. These are the people who are ill. These are the people who are sick. These are the people you should be concerned about…not about the people running it. POOLE: Yes Yes. You are absolutely right that is the point of having a charity to look after their interests. RIMMER: Right. I agree with you and this charity has now been given a £1m grant which is great. Wonderful. But then they turn round and say well actually the former chairman and a present member have set up a company to manage this money. We are a charity, but we have set up a company to manage this thing… POOLE: It is a separate legal entity. Not related to the charity. It is a private company owned by two individuals and they are providing essential management services for the grant out of the, the grant which we have approved because it was cheaper to do it that way rather than any other way and therefore much better value for money. And leav-
ing more money for the beneficiaries of the grant to be spent directly on them. And it was absolutely part of the requirement to running a grant for £1m that we have that reporting over the three years and normally under certain circumstances we allow up to 10 per cent of a grant for project management and in this instance it is significantly less. So it is really bearing in mind the need for getting the money directly to those that benefit most. RIMMER: So how much money are they getting for their services. As a company? POOLE: As a company, I am hesitating…I’ll tell you what the figure in my mind is, and this is why I am hesitating because I haven’t got it in front of me and I do have to tell you this in confidence because it is confidential information so you cannot print it…I will tell you. Over the three years it is (REDACTED). And when you think we allow up to 10 per cent of a one million pound grant for project management services you can see why this is extremely good value for those… RIMMER: Well would it not be a good idea that I publish all the figures so that I can try to rest the minds of people who do tell me they are deeply suspicious? That would be the most impressive thing to do. There is a vast swathe of people out there who are going to be excluded from everything, but you are not concerned about that because all you are concerned about is the grant holders. All I am concerned about is the majority, not the few who hold the purse strings. POOLE: Money that they got from their members is obviously nothing to do with the money that is going to go to them in grant and that is why we do have to see
these two things as slightly separate.. It goes back to my bubbles. There is an issue around the charity and its members, absolutely, and the trustees and how they manage their members’ money. But we have given the grant on trust.. RIMMER: But given that there is an issue, are you not a little wary about what’s going to happen here? I mean you take at face value the disclosures etc that have been made and you have no problem with the fact that this disclosure was not made to the rank and file or publicly. You have no problem with that because you have made your own checks and you’ve decided it’s OK. POOLE Well the members are not necessarily the beneficiaries of our grants I mean I come back to the fact that we have to be really careful about not cross-muddling the two. RIMMER: But it’s not only that; all of a sudden we’ve got a new charity grafted on, a nuclear community, this charity is supposed to be for nuclear veterans. People really don’t understand; all of sudden we have got one charity and then its another charity. We had the BNTVA which is now attached to the NCCF which is attached to BH Associates… all these different tiers of influence. It seems to the lay person, to someone looking in from the outside, it’s a muddle. But at the centre of it all there are suspicions for good reasons because you have the former chairman and a committee member setting up a company to look after monies that have been granted to a charity by the government using public money. That is the issue really. That’s why people are jumping up and down.
POOLE: Well now you know the reason why they shouldn’t be jumping up and down, it’s because its all been disclosed. There is absolutely no issue provided that we know there is this service management company in existence running the project management… RIMMER: Set up by the former chairman and a current committee member… POOLE: And why does that matter, if they provide the right services at very good cost? RIMMER: Of course it matters..in your world in your technocratic bubble of civil servants, this may all be perfectly normal. Noone seems to realise the outrage of the people in the real world… POOLE: Well I think that is just a little unfair because the outrage is based on a non-understanding of the facts. RIMMER: But the facts have not been explained to them POOLE: They have RIMMER: You are explaining now. But you are presenting a fait accompli. This should have been done before. It should have been explained to the members that they were thinking about giving this grant to these people who used to part of this organisation POOLE: When would I say that sort of thing in the grant process? RIMMER: Well you’d publish it presumably. POOLE: Where would I publish this I just can’t see how you would… RIMMER: Well because you have already admitted there is a perception that there could be a conflict here POOLE: What the members feel about the members subscriptions of course is entirely different and nothing to do with us and their subscription money does not in any way impact upon the work undertaken by the grant. They are
two totally separate things and this is the similar sort of thing that, and hopefully you can see, although I fully accept there is the public perception as is often the case when it knows the facts, is wrong here to be so concerned. RIMMER: Well you have given me plenty of time. Thank you very much POOLE: Well thank you very much. I am here to answer your questions. RIMMER: Well you have done, but you have not answered the central question. POOLE: Well I can give you the assurance that clearly on the assessment of this grant we were perfectly satisfied. RIMMER: What you are saying is that yes, you agree, the perception is understandable but the conclusion is wrong. POOLE: The perception is certainly understandable, but it is based on a lack of proper information and understanding because the former relationship has been fully disclosed and that through open competition process the new project management services offered to the organisation are both highly competitive and competent. Just because someone has been a trustee doesn’t mean to say that when the leave being a trustee they can’t act independently. RIMMER: Well one of them is still a committee member POOLE: Oh which one of them is that? RIMMER: Mr Bexon.
POOLE: But it’s Nigel Heaps isn’t it? RIMMER: No the company is BH Associates…the B is for Bexon and he is on the committee of the BNTVA . And Mr Heaps is the former chairman. Mr Bexon is the honorary editor. He is pictured as such in the current Campaign magazine. He’s there, and you see nothing wrong with that? POOLE: OK… RIMMER: Do you see nothing wrong with that? POOLE: I see the perception based on misinformation RIMMER: But you have just put forward an argument saying that as Mr Heaps is now no longer with the organisation, he’s retired and so there is nothing wrong with setting up this company. You’ve just realised now that his partner in this is still on the committee. POOLE: I’m sorry Alan we are just going round in circles about this RIMMER: But how do you feel about that? POOLE: I can only go back again and again and say that I am sorry we are really going to have to see this in different ways. The fact is nothing wrong with a project management company providing a service on a contractual basis to the charity using our grant fund that has been fully disclosed and was part of the assessment. RIMMER: OK. But you have just admitted to me that you didn’t realise that the other partner was a committee member. POOLE: No. No. I’m terribly sorry if I’ve confused you. I mean what I did not have in front of me was the full name of the BH Associates…and there is no deviation from my arguments that there is a difference between the organisation and the grants.. RIMMER: Thank you for your time. POOLE: Thank You.
THE CAMPAIGN by the British Ministry of Defence to bring about a ‘final solution’ to the problem of its troublesome nuclear veterans continues apace. Two extraordinary interviews published in this newspaper illustrate the point. First we have Professor Gerry Thomas, a hired boffin for the MoD at the forthcoming Ionising Radiation Appeal Tribunal, outrageously downplaying the dangers of fallout. In her Alice in Wonderland world, the victims of nuclear power station accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima should just hunker down in their homes and wait for the radioactive cloud to pass overhead, presumably to emerge later safe and well. She sprinkles her narrative with terms such as ‘half-lives’ and ‘short-lived isotopes’ with the obvious intent of downplaying the dangers of radiation. And she goes further by admitting that she is an advocate of nuclear power. These are hardly the views of an unbiased expert witness demanded by courts of law when evidence is taken. Thankfully, Dr Keith Baverstock, a real expert, has comprehensively demolished her outlandish views, as can be seen over several pages of fissionline. One can only hope that those advocating on behalf of nuclear veterans in the Appeal Tribunal next month take note. Then we have Melloney Poole, the Head of the MoD’s Covenant Fund, in charge of the pursestrings for the £25m Aged Veterans Fund. Her relationship with Britain’s nuclear veterans is more complicated. Fresh from her role as Head of the ‘Big Lottery Fund’, she has been busy dishing out the money, culled from Libor fines on the big banks, to a handful of deserving causes like the Royal British Legion and the RAF Benevolent Fund. These, of course, are well-established institutions with well-oiled procedures; they don’t need any help in distributing the cash to its members. Not so, Britain’s
nuclear veterans. According to Mrs Poole, the charity did not have the ability to ‘project manage’ the £1m grant, mainly for research, the organisation was awarded. But, by a happy chance, help was at hand. The former chairman of the BNTVA, the charity awarded the grant, rode to the rescue. He and a current member of the BNTVA Committee had, again by happy coincidence, recently set up a company with the expertise to handle the funds. Mrs Poole, in her lengthy interview with fissionline stoutly defends the unusual manoeuvre, while at the same time acknowledging the ‘raised eyebrows’ perception. But there is a much more important issue: hidden away in all the rhetoric about how the money is being spent, is the question of: just what is a nuclear veteran? When this was put to Mrs Poole she admitted there was no such category as a ‘nuclear veteran’, just an ‘aged veteran.’ So the special nature of the men who witnessed nuclear bomb blasts has been downgraded, relegated to a bit part in something called the ‘nuclear community’. The MoD strategy is clear: first through its expert Prof Thomas, it suggests that radiation is not as dangerous as we are all led to believe, and second, via Melloney Poole, nuclear veterans have been subsumed into a group of ‘aged veterans’ with no special status. And worse it has been done with the full compliance of the veterans own charity. Britain’s nuclear veterans are in dire peril. It is imperative they make a stand and snatch back control of their own organisation from the rump of self-serving individuals who have marched them to the brink of extinction.
Roy Sefton QSM
Dr Ian Gibson
TREVOR BUTLER: THE LAST FAREWELL TREVOR BUTLER fought for justice for Britain’s nuclear veterans right up to the end.
Tests Veterans’ Association. Hundreds of people attended his funeral at Derringham Bank Meth-
Working at his desk in one of the last pictures taken of the grandfather of two, he vowed to carry on fighting despite his serious illhealth.
“The only people who didn’t send a tribute was the BVNTVA charity which Trevor worked so hard for,” she added.
Trevor, who died last month aged 78, was one of thousands of servicemen sent to Christmas Island for the H-bomb tests in 1958. When it became apparent there were serious health issues as a result, he set out to do something about it and became one of the founders of the British Nuclear
His devoted wife Doris said she had been ‘overwhelmed’ by the kindness and tributes paid to her husband.
Mr Butler leaves behind his children, Susan, 53, and Neil, 49, as well as his two grandchildren Matthew, 23, and Hannah, 11. odist Church in West Hull. There were tears when Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World was played, one of Trevor’s favourite tunes.
“He was devoted to his family,” said Doris. “I keep a lovely picture of him on his desk and say goodnight to him as I go to bed. I tell him I’m carrying on the fight.”
International Bulletin of Nuclear Veterans and Children