September Newsletter No192

Posted by SONE on 30 September 2014 in Newsletters

Tagged with: EDF, Harold Bolter, Hinkley Point, Sir Bernard Ingham.

A call to arms: Your committee needs you

If this year’s Annual General Meeting on Monday, October 20 does not entirely mark all change, SONE will nonetheless be seen to be gearing up for the future.

First, the committee has appointed a new Secretary. He is Harold Bolter, a former member of the main BNFL board who before that was industrial editor of the Financial Times. He succeeds Sir Bernard Ingham who has been secretary for virtually the whole of SONE’s 16 years’existence. Mr Bolter cannot attend the AGM because he will be abroad but will take over immediately afterwards.

It has been clear for more than a year that Sir Bernard has been struggling with severe breathing difficulties – a legacy of a lifetime’s asthma – and an offer by Harold Bolter to take over came with the sort of relief, he says, brought by the American Cavalry.

Two other stalwarts of the committee are resigning on grounds of age or infirmity – Jim Corner, who was SONE’s founding Treasurer, and Peter Vey. A fourth committee vacancy has sadly occurred with the sudden death in August after a minor fall of Robert Freer, a leading member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

This means that the chairman is appealing for new blood to join the committee. If you would like to take up the work, please let us know on (Tel 0208-660-8970). The committee meets quarterly in central London, with the dates settled nine months in advance.

Sir Bernard told the September meeting of the committee that because of his medical problems SONE would inevitably be marking time so long as he continued as secretary. Neville Chamberlain then reported that Harold Bolter knew of Sir Bernard’s difficulties and had expressed a desire to help. He took on the job after a series of telephone calls to the chairman and those most involved in the running of SONE.

Your new Secretary

Harold Bolter was the youngest of a West Bromwich family of ten. After grammar school in Smethwick he joined the Birmingham Post as a copy boy and became its industrial editor before joining the Financial Times for eight years, latterly serving as its industrial editor, too.

In 1975 he was recruited by the newly formed BNFL as Director of Information and was responsible for creating the Sellafield Visitor Centre, one of the nation’s more unlikely tourist attractions. The associated advertising campaign won the advertising industry’s top award in 1987.

He later became BNFL company secretary and director of corporate affairs, a member of the main board and a director of several subsidiaries and associated companies, including UK Nirex which was then responsible for trying to find a site for nuclear waste disposal. He was awarded the CBE in 1992 for services to the nuclear industry.

Your old Secretary

Sir Bernard Ingham, retiring secretary, followed a curiously similar route to Harold Bolter. He was recruited from Hebden Bridge GS at 16 by the local paper as a junior reporter and was editing it in all bar name by the age of 18. He worked for 18 years in journalism (Yorkshire Evening Post, Yorkshire Post, and Guardian) before joining the Civil Service on a two-year contract in 1967. It took him 24 years to get back to Fleet Street.

In between he was press secretary to Aubrey Jones (Prices and Incomes Board), Barbara Castle, Robert Carr and Maurice Macmillan (D/Employment) and Lord Carrington, Eric Varley and Tony Benn (D/Energy). He was then recruited by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1979 as her chief press secretary and remained in that post until her resignation and his retirement in 1990. He was knighted in her resignation honours and then returned to journalism as well as business and public speaking. He was asked to form SONE in 1998 when he was working as a consultant to BNFL.

Your retiring committee members

Jim Corner’s lifelong association with energy and power engineering began in the coal mines of his native Northumberland. As a qualified mining engineer, he first went to the National Coal Board’s HQ in London before becoming editor of a leading mining magazine. He subsequently went into media relations and public affairs with English Electric (later GEC) and the CEGB. When the “Green” movement began to rise, he was appointed director of the British Nuclear Forum, then the industry’s trade body, and secretary-general of the European Atomic Forum (Foratom). He sought to counter “Green” propaganda by explaining the case for nuclear power to the news media, British MPs and members of the European Commission and European Parliament.

Peter Vex is another journalist who came to serve the nuclear industry. He began his working life in 1944 as a navigation apprentice in the Merchant Navy on board a Merchant aircraft carrier in the North Atlantic. After six years at sea he came ashore, learned shorthand and typing and joined his local newspaper as a reporter. He went on to work for provincial daily and national newspapers.

After a spell in oil and motor manufacturing industry public relations, he joined the Atomic Energy Authority in 1976 as director of public information. Six years later he went to the Central Electricity Generating Board as director of information and public affairs under Lord (Walter) Marshall’s chairmanship.

Robert Freer

Robert Freer, who has died suddenly aged 82, was a member of SONE’s committee for several years and a technical adviser to the Renewable Energy Foundation, which keeps a critical eye on the deployment of renewable energy. He had also served on the council of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

As a civil engineer he worked mainly on energy and maritime projects, especially at the interface between research and practical application. He was involved in the design and construction of nuclear, hydro, diesel and gas turbine power stations at home (notably Winfrith and Dounreay) and abroad (Kariba and Aswan), and on the development of a prototype wind energy generator and wave energy device.

He was awarded the George Stephenson Medal by the ICE in 2002. He organised and led two DTI sponsored visits to a number of European countries and Japan on dam safety and energy from waste. At his death he was seeking sponsorship for a nuclear education pack for schools.

The challenge to SONE members

We have given you these potted biographies to emphasise the wealth of expertise and experience that your committee is losing. Harold Bolter provides a substantial replacement of it, but we hope that SONE members, whatever their background, will offer their services, energy, ideas, experience and commitment to fill these gaps. The battle is far from won.

Six years after the Government belatedly admitted nuclear to the mix of fuels for use in the UK, we have yet to start building a new nuclear power station, even though it is the obvious solution to the national requirement for secure, reliable and economic low-carbon electricity. We can leave nothing to chance, though things may be looking up (see below).


SONE’s AGM is to be held on Monday, October 20, at the Institution of Civil Engineers in Great George Street, London, just off Parliament Square. Tea and coffee will be served at 2:00pm. The meeting will first hear from our speaker, Professor Andrew Sherry, Director of the Dalton Nuclear Institute in Manchester who is chairing a Nuclear Institute Council working party on public attitudes to nuclear power. The AGM will begin at 3:45pm followed by a discussion about SONE’s future. The committee is recommending that we should continue the fight subject to resources.

Are we at last in business?

Things seem to be looking up for EdF’s great nuclear project at Hinkley Point, Somerset. On September 23, the Daily Telegraph reported that Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, who has been conducting a “state aids” inquiry into the project, had decided it should be allowed to go ahead, subject to undisclosed conditions. His spokesman said discussions with the UK authorities had led to an agreement and he intended to recommend the college of EU commissioners should take a positive decision.

That is not the end of the road. EdF will then have to negotiate deals with Chinese companies wishing to secure a piece of the action before deciding whether to go ahead.
But it is at least progress.


We regret to record the death of another distinguished member, Professor Brian Eyre CBE, FRS, FREng., of Wallingford, Oxon. He made important contributions to nuclear technology through his studies of irradiation damage in metals and alloys and their deformation and fracture processes. After the CEGB he became deputy chairman and CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. He was professor of materials science at Liverpool University and visiting professor at UCL and Oxford.