Friday, 1 April 2016

Nuclear Delusion

“Britain, a world leader in civil nuclear security, will also use the summit to launch a scheme that will strengthen other countries’ abilities to withstand cyber- attacks at nuclear sites and power plants…”
So announced a low key press release issued collectively on 31 March by the Foreign office, the Prime Minister’s office and the Department of Energy and Climate make the UK involvement in the fourth - and final-  global Nuclear Security summit in Washington DC (31 March - 1 April;
Ministers are severely deluding themselves if they think the UK is a “world leader in civil nuclear security.”
In early January 2016, the respected Washington DC-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) published its annual report. The NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission to strengthen global security by reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and to work to build the trust, transparency, and security that are preconditions to the ultimate fulfillment of the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s goals and ambitions.
Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former IAEA secretary-general, said of NTI:
 “The Nuclear Threat Initiative is a role model for me of a private-public partnership in issues of security and of survival... NTI has been a trailblazer."
Of the 25 states with weapons-usable nuclear materials, the UK is ranked joint 11th with the US. Their relatively low ranking comes out of being bottom of the list for the quantity and amount of sites with such material – the UK has the largest stockpile of plutonium in the world, most of it at Sellafield, where a long-term decision has still to be made as to what to do with it.
Rank / 25 Score / 100 Δ
=1 Argentina 100 +5
=1 Australia 100 +5
3 Uzbekistan 95 +5
4 Iran 89 –
=5 Belarus 84 –
=5 Poland 84 +6
7 Norway 83 -5
8 South Africa 79 +6
9 Italy 73 –
10 Switzerland 72 –
11 Canada 67 –
=12 Belgium 62 +6
=12 Germany 62 –
=12 Netherlands 62 -5
15 North Korea 60 –
16 Kazakhstan 57 -6
17 Israel 44 –
=18 China 34 –
=18 France 34 –
=20 Russia 23 –
=20 United States 23 –
=22 India 22 –
=22 Japan 22 –
=22 Pakistan 22 –
25 United Kingdom 11
Another announcement  made jointly by the  US and UK, and included in the press release, stated:
“Under the agreement, which will be announced by the Prime Minister at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington later today, the UK will transfer around 700 kilograms of excess Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) from the Dounreay nuclear site on the north coast of Scotland to the US. As the largest ever single move of HEU, the transfer will reduce Britain’s overall stockpile of nuclear material. In exchange, the US will send a different type of HEU to the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in France, where it will be converted into medical isotopes.”
This may or may not be a good commercial deal, but it certainly does not enhance nuclear security.
Shipping nearly 30 nuclear warheads-worth of nuclear explosive material from a secured site in Scotland   across the Atlantic by sea or possibly by air ( from Wick commercial airport, or an RAF airport near Inverness)) is not a security measure.
The HEU coming the other way to France suffers from similar insecurities. It diminishes security, potentially making the nuclear explosives more accessible to terrorists with malevolent intent.
What is just as depressing as this spin by the Government is the lack of challenge by the media, all of which reported the initiative without any question. What has happened to basic investigative reporting?

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