Belgium - Plutonium Investigation n°9

September 1998                                 Editorial

Democracy or Pluto's Kingdom?

The presentation was a complete disaster. As everybody who assisted that session of the Economic Affairs Committee at the Belgian Parliament five years ago, when Electrabel and Synatom top managers gave evidence on the plutonium strategy of the industry, will remember. In fact, the speeches of the cream of the Belgian nuclear establishment had been prepared by the Public Relations Departments of the respective companies on the basis of transparencies (not transparency), but, unfortunately, there was no overhead projector to use them. Tough luck, the bosses were lost, they stammered, perspired, were yelled at and stormed out. While this kind of misfortune can happen - and does happen - to anyone of us doing presentations in public, the scene in the Belgian Parliament was highly symbolic of an unhealthy but common phenomenon: the representatives of the nuclear industry are not used to putting their decision making up for public scrutiny. While any other public and private budget line is subject to intense wheeling and dealing to avoid the usual cut, the nuclear industry spends dozens of billions of dollars without ever having to justify much. And certainly even less so in public. Over the last five years the Belgian industry has demonstrated once more its lack of respect of parliamentary decisions. While the December 1993 resolution was based on a democratic process, the industry has not since done its homework. Instead of carrying out the resolution to letter and spirit of the law - and confront the parliament with a well tuned new back-end strategy - the lobby most obviously has and is trying to cut short any attempt to organise a real debate at the House of Representatives. Parliamentarians where are you?

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