Health and safety watchdog admits firms and hospitals have mislaid dangerous substances that could be used by terrorists
Radioactive materials have gone missing from businesses, hospitals and even schools more than 30 times over the last decade, a freedom of information request to the UK’s health and safety authorities has revealed.
Nuclear experts have warned that some of the lost material could be used by terrorists and said there should be a crackdown by the regulators to ensure such “carelessness” is brought to a speedy halt.
Among the big names that have lost potentially dangerous materials are Rolls-Royce at a site in Derby, the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria and the Royal Free hospital in London. Some organisations have been prosecuted but others have got away with little more than a warning notice, papers released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal.
Missing items include a 13kg ball of depleted uranium from the Sheffield Forgemasters steel operation in 2008, plus small pellets of extremely radioactive ytterbium-169 from Rolls-Royce Marine Operations.
The Royal Free hospital lost caesium-137 – used in cancer treatment – which a report into the incident accepted had “the potential to cause significant radiation injuries to anyone handling [it] directly or being in the proximity for a short period of time.”
In another case, at the site of the former atomic energy research station at Harwell near Oxford, cobalt-60 was “found in a tube store under a machine during clearance,” according to the HSE.
The oil services firm Schlumberger also “temporarily lost” caesium-137 radioactive materials on a North Sea platform, while Southampton General hospital could not locate an “unsealed source” of iodine-131 in February last year.
John Large, an internationally renowned consultant to the nuclear industry, said it was disturbing that losses of the magnitude detailed were happening so frequently.
“The unacceptable frequency and seriousness of these losses, some with the potential for severe radiological consequences, reflect poorly on the licensees and the HSE regulator, whose duty is to ensure that the licensee is a fit and competent organisation to safeguard such radiological hazardous materials and substances. I cannot understand why it is not considered to be in the public interest to vigorously prosecute all such offenders.
“Clearly these organisations have been careless and wanting in their duty to safeguard and secure these radioactive substances, some of which remain extremely radiologically hazardous for many years – such slack security raises deep concerns about the accessibility of these substances to terrorists and others of malevolent intent.”
The HSE said it always considered all enforcement action against those involved, up to and including prosecution, but its final decision rested on issues including the likelihood of securing a conviction and the public interest. “Prosecutions have been undertaken successfully by HSE in the case of Schlumberger and the Royal Free hospital,” it said in a statement.
By contrast, the universities of York and Warwick received “written advice” and an “improvement notice” respectively over the loss of radioactive materials used for demonstrations in their science departments. Loreto high school in Manchester is being investigated by the HSE over the loss of an americium-241 radioactive source and four small mineral samples.
In February of this year the Sellafield nuclear plant pleaded guilty at Workington magistrates court to sending several bags of radioactive waste to the wrong facility.
The company was prosecuted by the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation after four bags of mixed general waste, such as plastic, paper, tissues, clothing, wood and metal, from normal operations in controlled areas of the site were sent to Lillyhall landfill site in Workington. The bags should have been sent to the Low Level Waste Repository at Drigg, Cumbria, – a specialist facility which treats and stores low-level radioactive waste consignments.
Large, who led the nuclear risk assessment team for the raising of the damaged Russian nuclear submarine Kursk in 2001, said in a number of cases publicised through the FoI disclosure people seemed to have been potentially put in danger. “The licensed use of such radioactive sources requires the licensee to be a fit person and demonstrate competence and each of the sources is accompanied by ‘cradle to grave’ documentation that requires a prearranged and managed storage/disposal route – these safeguards have clearly failed and the workforce and, indeed, members of the public may have been placed at radiological risk.”
He added: “Some of these lost radioactive sources are very persistent, for example the Royal Free hospital’s lost caesium-137 has a radioactive decay half-life of around 30 years, so it remains radio-toxic for at least 10 half-lives or about 300 years, and the unsealed source of iodine-131 lost by Southampton hospital is extremely volatile, easily breathed in and reconcentrated by the thyroid gland, presenting a cancer risk, and certainly not amenable to release into the atmosphere of a public place such as a hospital.”
Apocalyptic predictions are circulating about the size of electricity bills in 2030 if the move to green power goes ahead. There is no need for them to come true
The UK’s energy policy is not “plausible” and a “crisis” is inevitable. That is the view of Peter Atherton, a respected utilities analyst who works for Liberum Capital, an investment bank in the City.
Atherton is convinced that successive UK governments have grossly underestimated the engineering, financial and economic challenges posed by the planned move from a high-carbon electricity sector to a low-carbon one.
He believes that the cost of switching from largely coal- and gas-fired power stations to a mix of gas-, wind- and nuclear-generated electricity will cost more than £160bn by 2020 and more than £375bn 10 years later. He warns that it means “electricity bills rising by at least 30% by 2020 and 100% by 2030 in real terms.”
That would be political dynamite and Atherton knows it. He predicts that there will be three groups of “casualties”: the government, consumers and investors.
This apocalyptic scenario – contained in an investment note issued last week – will warm the hearts of many in the City (and possibly some in the Treasury) who believe the green agenda is a giant waste of money.
It will alarm the wider community who accept that climate change must be tackled, and those who believe a “carbon bubble” is developing around fossil fuel companies whose assets are overvalued in a world turning away from coal and oil.
And it is clearly at odds with the ideas of ministers such as Ed Davey, the energy secretary, whose Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) calculated last month that “household dual fuel bills are estimated to be on average 11% (or £166) less in 2020 than they would be without policies being pursued.” Those figures do, however, involve some heroic assumptions about energy-efficiency measures being
Supermarket says it is winning shoppers from Tesco after no horse DNA was found in its products
Unlike many of its rivals, Waitrose has benefited from the clean bill of health it was given during the horsemeat scandal, with the upmarket retailer reporting an 11% boost in sales in the past three months.
The company, which was unaffected by the appearance of horse DNA in any of its products, said customers trusted the stores over its competitors and that it had been winning shoppers from Tesco – one of the worst-affected grocers.
The managing director, Mark Price, said: “I think we’re a business that has got a heart and soul, which we haven’t lost through the economic downturn, and we want to help our customers while being true to our principles.
“There are moral issues in some of the ways things are produced and customers may not have as much money in their pockets, but want to know now more than ever where their meat has come from and that it has been treated fairly.”
Fresh meat sales increased 12% over the last three months, with prepacked beef sales up 15%. Customers topped 5 million over the quarter for the first time in the supermarket’s history, along with a 50% rise in online grocery sales, which are now worth £300m a year.
Although no horsemeat was found in Waitrose products, the company did discover pork in some of its beef meatballs. Price admitted: “That was embarrassing and we ended that relationship with the supplier. But we’ve since launched our own frozen processing plant, so we know exactly what goes into our food.”
The new factory will open next month and it means several frozen meat lines have been taken off Waitrose shelves as bosses wait for the new site to open.
The company, part of the John Lewis Partnership, now sources all its beef from the UK, including in its ready meals, sandwiches and fresh mince.
Waitrose corned beef is also being produced in the UK for the first time, after its rival Asda found the horse drug phenylbutazone – or bute – in its own-brand corned beef. This week Waitrose also announced that all fish would come from independently certified sustainable sources within three years.
According to the latest Kantar Worldpanel retail data, Waitrose’s market share grew to 4.9% in April, compared with 4.5% last year, gaining customers faster than Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons combined.
Price also believes one of the biggest causes of a shift to Waitrose has been the company’s price promise, matching Tesco on 7,000 items and also beating Sainsbury’s on some products.
He said: “We are less expensive than we were perhaps historically, but I think customers are now realising we match Tesco and in many cases beat Sainsbury’s on price. Also, some of the basic lines we sell are better quality than Tesco finest.”
Last year Waitrose sales were up 6.7% to £5.76bn, with an operating profit of £292.3m, up 12.2%. It led to staff earning a 17% bonus.
With Waitrose’s online service continuing to grow, it could end its exclusive product relationship with Ocado after it was revealed that the online grocer was in discussions with rival Morrisons over launching a delivery service.
Many British Gas customers on a heavily promoted fixed-price deal would have done better on the standard tariff
Thousands of British Gas customers who signed up for one of its fixed-price tariffs two years ago have, in effect, been overpaying for their gas and electricity since then, it has been claimed. In some cases they have paid £800 more than if they had taken a rival deal.
In May 2011 British Gas contacted many of its long-standing customers to offer them a new tariff called Fixed Price March 2013. At the time, the company was just about to increase prices, but offered this deal on the basis that it was more expensive than standard prices, but there would be no hikes until it expired at the end of March.
It was marketed, in particular, to those coming off previous British Gas fixed-price tariffs as offering them peace of mind. But while thousands of other households coming off rival fixed tariffs will soon be paying more for their energy, those who signed up to this particular deal will see their prices fall after being moved on to British Gas’s standard tariff.
With the average household energy bill having risen to an estimated £1,350 a year, and against a backdrop of energy chief executives constantly warning that bills are only set to increase, experts often suggest that the best bet is a fixed-price tariff.
In recent years all the big energy firms have offered fixed-price and guaranteed-discount tariffs in a bid to keep hold of customers. While those on other British Gas fixed tariffs have done well in the past, those unlucky enough to have signed up to this deal have overpaid.
According to an analysis by the switching comparison site TheEnergyShop.com, they have typically paid £480 more than they would have done had they been on the most competitive fixed price tariff offered by rivals.
Those living in households that consume above-average amounts of power could easily have overpaid £800 or more over two years. Had they stayed on the company’s standard tariff they would have still paid less, even though it has seen two price rises in the past two years
Joe Malinowski, founder of TheEnergyShop.com says: “This tariff was sold to British Gas customers who were coming off previous fixed-price deals, but it was a just a terrible deal,” he says. “It was offered at an initial 30% price premium over standard prices but was only available direct from British Gas.
“If your energy company phones telling you it’s got a great new fixed-price deal, it should send alarm bells ringing. Go online and do a comparison, and you may find it’s not quite as good a deal as you were led to believe.”
A spokeswoman for British Gas says: “Fixed-price products are offered to customers to insure against price rises and to guarantee the price they will pay for their energy for a fixed period. Customers can make a choice about the product they decide to buy, and in many cases this will prove to be a better long-term option. But prices can go down, as well as
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AXA Equitable Opens New Charlotte Operations Center
Innovation Park location sets new standard for more ‘open and collaborative’ environment
CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 2, 2013
CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 2, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — On May 1, AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the company’s new Life Operations headquarters, located at 8501 IBM Drive in Innovation Park and host to nearly 700 employees.
(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130502/NY06730-a )
(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130502/NY06730-b )
The physical design of the Innovation Park work space reflects the organization’s emphasis on building a company culture and work environment that is conducive to collaboration and innovation. In this way, Innovation Park’s modern, open space design underscores AXA Equitable’s focus on growth, employees and customers.
The ceremony, which was hosted by Chairman and CEO Mark Pearson and members of the executive leadership team, was both a celebration and an opportunity to outline how the relocation supports AXA Equitable’s long-term commitment to its employees, customers and the Charlotte community. Attendees included President Andrew McMahon; Rino Piazzolla, Chief Human Resources Officer; Mike Healy, Chief Information Officer; Manish Agarwal, head of Financial Protection; and Jacquline Morales, head of Life Operations.
“AXA Equitable’s aspiration is to build our market leadership through innovation, delivering on our promises to our customers and being a trusted partner to our distributors,” said Pearson. “To pursue excellence and deliver exceptional value to our customers, we need to create a more open and collaborative work environment, and we are starting here today in Charlotte.”
The Common “Glide-Path” Tactic of Reallocating Growth Assets to Fixed-Income Assets as Plans Become Funded Is Too Mechanistic in Today’s Low-Interest Rate Environment; Pensions Need to Adopt a Holistic Glide Path That Maximizes Return at Each Targeted Level of Risk
See the original post: Many Pensions’ Current Approach to De-Risking Actually Increases Risk of Needing to Make Higher Contributions in the Future, According to Cambridge Associates Report
McDonald’s reports a drop in first quarter global sales and says it expects sales to fall in April as well, as a “challenging” environment hits trade.
Read more here: McDonald’s sees fall in global sales
Coffee chain says £1 cups will encourage customers to cut waste and save them money on every order
The coffee chain Starbucks is introducing a reusable cup which UK customers can keep, in a move designed to encourage them to be more environmentally conscious while saving money.
The reusable cup is based on the design of the brand’s distinctive white and green paper cups and will cost £1.
Customers who use their reusable cup will receive a 25p discount off their Starbucks drink every time they use it. The cup is made of a high-quality material which is lighter than the Starbucks ceramic tumblers, which will still be available.
The reusable cups will be available in selected stores nationwide from today but will be rolled out gradually elsewhere.
The US coffee giant has pledged to press ahead with a major expansion plan in the UK – aiming to open 300 new stores and create 5,000 extra jobs by 2016 – amid ongoing controversy over its failure to pay UK corporation tax over the past three years.
Ian Cranna, vice-president of UK marketing for Starbucks, said: “We know that our customers really care about saving money and doing their bit for the environment; between 2008 and 2012 the number of people using a Starbucks reusable tumbler increased by 235% and our new reusable cup is a low-cost, high-impact way to help make a difference on reducing waste.”
Globally the chain is aiming for 5% of drinks made in its stores to be served in reusable cups by 2015 and the company says its move in the UK is a key step towards reaching this goal.
GOWEX strengthens its Board Advisors and Directors by engaging world experts in telecommunications
You’ve probably never heard of him, and for years Jeremy Grantham liked it that way. But now the man who made billions by predicting every recent financial crisis is speaking out
One icy morning in February, a train pulled into Washington DC. It was loaded with environmentalists planning to handcuff themselves to the gates of the White House, in protest at the building of a 3,500km oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Amid the hundreds of placard-carrying protesters stood a somewhat incongruous figure in a suit – Jeremy Grantham, a 74-year-old fund manager. “What we are trying to do is buy time,” he told reporters. “Buy time for the world to wake up.”
Grantham – who occupies a legendary place in the world of finance for predicting all the major stock market bubbles of recent decades (and doing very well in the process) – had decided, after 15 years of low-key environmental philanthropy, to, as he puts it, “walk the walk”.
“I was committed to getting arrested,” says Grantham, a tall, slight man, as he looks out across the City from his