Siemens Says…

As a result of two local actions at Siemens - one in Oldham and another at the Princess Parkway offices - the company agreed to a meeting to discuss their involvement with nuclear power.


Flashback to the first Siemens action at Oldham in April 1998

Prior to the meeting, members of CND had been in touch with a number of different campaigning organisations here and abroad, finding out more information about Siemens' dodgy nuclear business, and approached the meeting fully armed with details provided by people as far away as Russia and Bulgaria (the wonders of modern technology!). Siemens had several people present at the meeting including Wolfgang Breyer, head of public relations of the KWU Power Generation Group who Siemens had flown over especially for the meeting.

We stressed why the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is also concerned about nuclear power, and explained our reasons for targeting Siemens. Mr Breyer detailed the reasons why Siemens are involved with nuclear power, which were nothing more than expected from a promoter of nuclear power: the need for energy resources is growing, fossil fuels are environmentally unsound, and alternative energies cannot meet the demand. His quote of the day emerged, "Nuclear power has proved to be an abundant, clean and cheap source of energy in the world".

We of course strongly countered the argument that nuclear power is a clean or even cheap source of energy, and went on to outline the problems surrounding some of Siemens contracts in Russia and Eastern Europe. Mr Breyer argued that the Mochovce plant in Slovakia did in fact meet western safety standards, and that at Kozloduy in Bulgaria, Siemens' contract was to upgrade the safety, which they had done to the highest levels. The one issue to which he was unable to respond was regarding the project at Kalinin in Russia, where local people had strongly opposed the plant on the grounds that the reactor used water from the only drinking water lake in the area. The local parliament banned the plant from using the water, but it continues to do so, putting the lives of residents at risk. Mr Breyer claimed ignorance of this project, and was therefore unable to answer our accusations. We agreed we would forward information from our friends in Russia so he might be made aware of Siemens' dealings in the area.

One point proved to be a fundamental division between ourselves and Siemens: we believe that people, and not the market, should determine whether nuclear power should be used. Mr Breyer at one stage said he believed that society should dictate policy on nuclear power and other issues. We quite agree, but our idea of society is people-led, not government-led. We do not believe that just because a government is democratically elected, it then has a mandate to do anything it deems profitable, including putting its people at risk of nuclear accident.

We also talked about the most problematic area of nuclear power: nuclear waste. We did not feel reassured by Siemens' answers to the question of waste.

In conclusion, everyone present felt the meeting had involved a frank exchange of views, and while we did not agree on much, we all felt we had learned something useful. While being impressed with the way we were treated by Siemens, both on the previous NVDAs, and at the meeting, we must bear in mind that money is little object to a company this size, and that they spend a fortune on public relations and smoothing over protests. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be taken in: however polite, friendly, and accommodating Siemens may have been, they are still a multinational which will always put profit first.

Greater Manchester and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (0161 834 8301, gmdcnd@gn.apc.org)