SENIOR ACADEMICS have this week demanded that pro-nuclear lobby group Supporters of Nuclear Energy be evicted from offices within the ICE's headquarters at One Great George Street.
SONE, which is headed by former Tory party press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham, shares office space at the ICE with existing tenant the British Nuclear Energy Society.
But in an open letter to NCE this week, ten high-ranking civil engineers claim the arrangement threatens the ICE's status as an independent and impartial organisation (see Letters, page 14). By sharing the same address with the lobby group, the letter claims, the ICE is seen to endorse SONE.
Professor William Powrie of Southampton University, one of the letter's signatories, said: 'We are not necessarily against nuclear power but there is a difference between the ICE hosting a learned society and a lobby group.
'We cannot afford to be seen as a vested interest group. We have to be seen as being in favour of what is best for society,' he added. 'The ICE needs to be seen to be even-handed.'
But in response ICE director general Roger Dobson claimed that SONE was clearly identified as a 'subset of a learned society', the BNIF. 'This is not the ICE giving house room to SONE, it is the BNES.'
Dobson added that the ICE maintained an 'arm's length' relationship with SONE and had set up an 'embarrassment clause' in its contract with SONE to allow the tenancy agreement to be broken at any time.
However, he conceded that SONE had misused the One Great George Street address. In correspondence SONE failed to admit being in the care of BNES, giving the impression that it was cohabiting with the ICE.
Dobson said that if enough members were strongly opposed to the ICE hosting the lobby group it would not renew its contract.
But Powrie feared evicting such a high-profile group would be difficult as it would embarrass the ICE. 'It is a shame the agreement was entered into without more consultation,' he said.