Thursday, 21 December 2017

Siamese atomic twins re-joined

In her excellent ‘Long Read’ on the Hinkley C nuclear plant financial fiasco (“Hinkley Point: the ‘dreadful deal’ behind the world’s most expensive power plant,” Guardian, 21 December;, Holly Watt mentions the innovative insight of Sussex University academics Prof. Andy Stirling and Dr Phil Johnstone who have identified the central importance of expansion of the  skill base of the  new nuclear build programme – headed by Hinkley C- for the  Trident  military nuclear WMD renewal programme

Indeed, in a little noticed report issued by the House of CommonsExiting the EU Committeepublished on 1st December-  on  The progress of the UK's negotiations on EU withdrawal,’ supporting industrial sectoral evidence  number 24 on the nuclear industry notes at para 13:

“There are also synergies between UK civil nuclear and the defence nuclear programme, particularly in terms of the transferability of the skilled workforce.”

In her article Ms Watt also mentions the first nuclear plant built on the same site, Hinkley A. What is barely acknowledged about this reactor is it was both built and operated to manufacture plutonium for British nuclear warheads, and probably some plutonium created in the reactor was sent to the US for use in its military stockpile too.

I have dug up considerable primary and secondary evidence that demonstrates this beyond any doubt.

The first public hint came with a public announcement on 17 June 1958 by the Ministry of Defence, on: “the production of plutonium suitable for weapons in the new [nuclear ] power stations programme as an insurance against future defence needs…”

A week later in the UK Parliament, Labour Roy Mason, (who incidentally later became Defence Secretary, why Her Majesty's Government had


“decided to modify atomic power stations, primarily planned for peaceful purposes, to

produce high-grade plutonium for war weapons?”

to be informed by the Conservative government’s Paymaster General, Reginald Maudling, who said, inter alia:

“At the request of the Government, the Central Electricity Generating Board has agreed to a small modification in the design of Hinkley Point …so as to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted should the need arise. The Government made this request in order to provide the country, at comparatively small cost, with a most valuable insurance against possible future defence requirements. The cost of providing such insurance by any other means would be extremely heavy.”  (Hansard, 24 June 1958 columns 246-8;

The headline story in the Bridgwater Mercury, serving the community around Hinkley, on 24 June was:

 “Military Plutonium to be manufactured at Hinkley”

The newspaper described the plan as “an ingenious method.”

The nuclear world has thus turned full circle:  as the atomic Siamese twins that had been painfully separated for nearly fifty years are being  rejoined in an insidious way  by this new Conservative government.

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