Friday, 28 June 2013

The Nuclear-Free Future Two-Step

Last week President Obama raised the hopes of millions worldwide that we will move towards a safer and more sustainable world when he said in BerlinPeace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons -- no matter how distant that dream may be…”and added “we are also citizens of the world. And our faiths and fortunes are linked like never before. We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe." ( (“Obama calls for reduction in nuclear arms in broad-brush Berlin speech,”20 June)

This week in a widely hailed speech on ways to combat climate change, he strongly supported nuclear power expansion as one essential option that the US must take.(“Obama vows to bypass Congress to tackle climate change,” 26 June), backed by your leader (“Obama and climate change: fresh air,”) but without reference to his backing of the atom.

Why does he rightly highlight the threat from nuclear weapons, but regards nuclear power as benign?

As with former UK chief scientific advisor to the UK Government, Professor Sir David King, President Obama’s analysis of the threat posed by climate change is excellent, but his prescription to combat it with nuclear is flawed.

In his address on energy to Georgetown University in Washington DC, Obama said ( He stressed how the US Government is pursuing a policy of what he calls “clean energy”,including nuclear.

The White House says in the FY 2014 Budget the resource support is to increase by 30%. The President’s new Climate Action Plan, released on 25 June, states in a section entitled Sustainable energy for all ( The United States will continue to promote the safe and secure use of nuclear power worldwide through a variety of bilateral and multilateral engagements. ..Going forward, we will expand these efforts to promote nuclear energy generation consistent with maximizing safety and nonproliferation goals.”

Much as I admire much of what Mr Obama has done, he is wrong on nuclear power, as is the Coalition and Labour Party It is not secure nor ultimately safe, as the nuclear waste problem remains unsolved. Nor is it possible to make it 100% proliferation proof.

On the same day as Obama unveiled his energy strategy, the US Center for Public Integrity issued a report on just one major US nuclear project that is both not needed and massively over cost, just like many other nuclear projects. The mixed oxide (“mox”) plutonium fuels plant at Savannah River has eaten up taxpayers’ money ( $3.7 billion to date) for 6 years and is now close to cancellation due to cost overruns (

Instead of peddling nuclear power, Mr Obama should adopt the nuclear- free future two-step, out of atomic power and weapons together, and wean the US off this old -ashioned, out-of-date and failed technology and move towards a genuine sustainable security and energy future

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

JFK and Obama have same atomic aim‏

I was surprised to read recently in the Times one of its writers,  Giles Whittell, interprete President John F. Kennedy’s famous Brandenburg Speech in Berlin on 10 June 1963 as a “taunt” to Soviet President Khrushchev. (Times, "Visit that marked JFK’s coming of age,” 20 June).
Professor Jeffrey Sachs in his new book, To Move the World: JFK's Quest for Peace, on the political and historical importance of the speech in context, says that Khrushchev regarded Kennedy's speech as the greatest by an American president since Franklin D Roosevelt.
JFK told his audience fifty years ago: “And above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy – or of a collective death-wish for the world."
Sachs judges that JFK’s speech spurred Khrushchev to clear away many long-standing obstacles to the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) , which was signed in Moscow just seven weeks after the Berlin speech, a remarkably short time to finalise complex diplomacy.
Of course, the treaty was described as “partial” because it limited the test ban to air, space, and underwater, but excluded a ban on underground tests.
Nevertheless, it was a cornerstone to further efforts to curb nuclear weapons, with later Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of July 1968 and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) signed on 10 September 1996, which finally outlawed subterranean test nuclear explosions.
President Obama said in Berlin“Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons -- no matter how distant that dream may be…”and added “we are also citizens of the world. And our faiths and fortunes are linked like never before. We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe." (
I think it is clear Mr Obama has the will to rid the world of the nuclear threat; he must now find, as did JFK, the political means to achieve this.
The UK Coalition Government could do its bit by cancelling the replacement for Trident.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A Blast from the Past: Hinton’s hidden history


Thirty years ago this month, on 22 June 1983, Lord Hinton of Bankside, one of the pioneers and the greats of the early UK nuclear programme died.

Christopher Hinton had been the primary driving force responsible in the first post war decade for development of the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s giant nuclear production and reprocessing plants at Windscale, now Sellafield, the uranium enrichment plant at Capenhurst, the nuclear fuel production plant at Springfields, and innovative research reactors at Harwell (BEPO) and the experimental  fast reactors at Dounreay, on Scotland’s northern shore, as Managing Director of theUKAEA’s  Industrial Group.

Already knighted in 1951, he became the first chairman of the newly nationalised Central Electricity Generating Board in September 1957, (a post he held until 1964), and oversaw the first commercial nuclear reactors being brought into service. A later chairman of the CEGB, Lord (Walter Marshall) described him in an appreciation after Hinton’s death as “the man responsible for establishing Britain’s nuclear energy industry’”

 In 1965 he became a life peer, a decade after being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1954. He was also made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Institution of Chemical Engineers.  Far from retiring, he remained very active in public life, becoming Chancellor of the University of Bath for 14 years to 1980, President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (1966-7), an honorary fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, an honorary associate at the Manchester College of Technology, a member of the international executive of the World Energy Conference, deputy chairman of the Electricity Supply Research Council, and a special advisor to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In his 80s, he was still informally advising the World Bank.

I present his glittering CV, to establish without  doubt, if anyone was in the “nuclear know,” it was Hinton.

Five months before his death, at 82, he gave me an extended interview  in his office at the then Department of Energy - where  he was still active as an advisor -  as part of  my  doctoral research, reflecting on his long time at the centre of nuclear decisions.  I wrote up the interview as a monograph (ERG 048)1 for the Energy Research Group at the Open University in Milton Keyes, where I was then based.

Lord Hinton obviously had an admirable lifetime of experience in the nuclear business, and when interviewed was still spritely, lucid and on top of the issue. Power News, the monthly newspaper produced by the CEGB for its staff, described  him as “unswerving in  his integrity,” in its own appreciation  on Hinton’s contribution.

During my long interview with him, Lord Hinton was candid about many historical matters, and quite prepared to admit where he and his colleagues had, in hindsight , got some  important matters wrong.

The interview took place in London  on 19 January 1983,  a few days after the Public Inquiry into the application by the CEGB to build an American –designed Pressurised Water Reactor at Sizewell in Suffolk. When it was opened in 1995, it was the first non UK-designed reactor to be commissioned in the UK.

At one point in the interview, Lord Hinton was explaining  how plutonium created by irradiating  fuel in  the UK’s first generation  of nuclear plants,  the so-called “Magnox Reactors” was earmarked for future use. I brought to his attention that a detailed  academic book  by business specialist,  Professor Leslie Hannah, on the creation of the UK’s national electricity  generation industry, in which he wrote in respect of the CEGB’s first  fleet of Magnox plants  “some plutonium from the used fuel could be used for the British  atomic bomb stockpile. The Americans also agreed to  take some for military purposes.”

On hearing this, Lord Hinton expressed surprise, exclaiming “He’s said that has he?....This is interesting, because this is what I was refraining from saying, because I did  not  know whether I  should  be offending against the Official Secrets Act… it is a very daring statement”

He went on to muse: “I don’t know  how  much of this is secret. I don’t think any of the plutonium from the British reactors was needed by the British for defence purposes If it was, I was not conscious of it.”

He went on to explain that “While the  initial industrial reactors were being built the UK AEA said they  would  like them to  be  so designed so  military grade plutonium could  be produced  in them. The design was modified in such a way to make this possible.”

“The irradiated fuel  elements were  handed over to the UKAEA ( then also responsible for  nuclear explosives  production ) but its chairman, Lord Plowden did not sell them to the Americans, but exchanged them for enriched uranium…I don’t know whether anyone is in a position  to say what the United States used it for, but if  you use a little nouce you are forced to the conclusion that they  were using it  for military purposes, because what else were they using it for, because ethey  had  no fast reactor programme..”

At this point Lord Hinton called for a press cutting from The Financial Times  covering the opening of the Sizewell Inquiry, which reported the  evidence  from John Baker, the CEGB’s managing director and chief policy witness. Hinton said “I’ve cogitated to what extent.. I tread a very delicate line here. You  see my access to all information could  be cut off  if I use things indiscretly.”

He the read out a verbatim  extract from Mr Baker’s evidence:, which asserted:
"Plutonium produced by CEGB reactors  have  never  been applied to weapons use in the UK or elswhere…I am absolutely certain that that statement is incorrect.”

I intervened asking for clarification if  he was questioning the “or elsewhere”, as Hinton had already  made clear some  plutonium from CEGB reactors had  been swapped with US.

He retorted: “I am questioning the whole statement because it is deplorable. I don’t  know whether they  ought to have a PWR or  not. .” and added forcefully. “I don’t know whether it is right they should get permission for a PWR at Sizewell or not, but what is important is they shouldn’t tell bloody lies in their evidence!”

After some prompting over to which reactors he was specifically referring, Hinton explained it was “certainly true” in relation to the Berkeley and Bradwell reactors [the first two  CEGB  Magnox plants to  come on stream].

So thirty years ago, the very first Chairman of the nationalised Central Electricity Generating Board denounced the  evidence of its then  managing director, John Baker, as not simply inaccurate, but  as “bloody lies” within days of the evidence being presented to the  Sizewell lnquiry Inspector, Sir Frank, later, Lord Layfield, now deceased.

In this extraordinary interview, Lord Hinton, just like his counterpart in the United States, Admiral Hyman Rickover, who created the US nuclear navy and promoted the PWR design, who in a valedictory lecture on his retirement told some painful truths on failures to his successors – “Success teaches us nothing; only failure teaches” -  unburdened himself  of some sensitive  information he  had  thought was secret, but felt finally able to make public.

We should be grateful for his candour. Today’s nuclear operators should learn this lesson from the venerable Lord.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Coalition disarmament disarray gives Labour opportunity for nuclear sanity

The ten Labour MPs, backed by many other Labour Party members, who wrote to the Guardian in a letter published on 21 June (, are absolutely right to call for a serious debate within Labour over Trident renewal.

One Labour politician who should support this is one of Labour’s shadow foreign affairs team, Kerry McCarthy, who responded to a Parliamentary backbench debate on the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Trident on 20 June saying: “

“On Trident and the need for an independent nuclear deterrent, Labour’s continuing objective is to play an active and constructive role in an international effort to achieve a world free from nuclear weapons. Any future Labour policy will seek to take disarmament further by reducing the number of deployable and stockpiled warheads, but Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent has been the cornerstone of our peace and security for more than half a century. In today’s world, so long as there are other countries with such capabilities and the security landscape is characterised by instability and uncertainty—we have heard about the situation in Pakistan, North Korea’s missile tests and the unpredictable situation in Iran, despite the election this week of a new President—it is right that the UK retains an independent nuclear deterrent."

Ms McCarthy should learn some Labour history: it was on 27 June 1968 that the then Labour government presented to Parliament the final text of NPT (as Cmnd 3683), which Labour ministers had helped negotiate.

Papers available in the National Archives in Kew show that earlier that year, on 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley, as the Labour Government's disarmament minister, addressed the plenary meeting of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) in Geneva, explaining why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated NPT, telling the ministerial delegations:

"As I have made clear in previous speeches, my government accepts the obligation to participate fully in the negotiations required by [NPT] Article VI and it is our desire that these negotiations should begin as soon as possible and should produce speedy and successful results. There is no excuse now for allowing a long delay to follow the signing of this treaty."

That was a good start by the Labour Government. But with Polaris in 1968, its upgrade Chevaline developed in secret in the 1970s by a Labour Government (without telling Parliament), and Trident started by the MrsThatcher's Tories in 1980, the UK has gone seriously backwards since. But I think now is an ideal time for the Labour Opposition to renew the push for negotiated nuclear disarmament, with the Coalition in disarmament disarray.

As recently as Monday this week the Coalition minister for nonproliferation, Alistair Burt, said in a written answer to Labour MP Paul Flynn that: “Iran was the only state to issue a statement directly critical of the UK's decision to renew the submarine delivery platform used for its nuclear deterrent (Trident) a[t the NPT review meeting in Geneva]” (17 June 2013 : Column 487W)

Actually, the nuclear weapons states’ intentions - including the UK- and existing programmes for modernisation of their nuclear arsenals faced repeated criticism in Geneva in April.

Critical statements were made by Algeria, Australia, Egypt, South Africa, Mexico, the Non-Aligned Movement, South Korea, Switzerland and Syria... as well as Iran. Indeed, South Africa explicitly warned:
“The development of new categories of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems provide a clear indication that some continue to harbour aspirations for the indefinite retention of these instruments of destruction, contrary to their legal obligations and political commitments.”

Were our diplomats , and indeed the minister, asleep, or simply in denial, in Geneva when these criticisms of Trident modernisation were aired? And was the Labour foreign affairs team similarly somnambulant?
All this week a group of countries who export nuclear technologies- called the Nuclear Suppliers Group - has been holding its annual meeting in Prague. Reports from Reuters ( idUKBRE95D0YR20130614?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&rpc=401)suggest the UK has been lobbying hard to let India join this export club, even though India refuses to sign the NPT, because it wants to keep its nuclear weapons. The Labour Government started off this Indian nuclear export deal process in the summer of 2009.

For the UK- as a depositary state charged with responsibility to protect and promote the NPT- to undermine the treaty by trying to give India the dubious privileges of being part of this nuclear trade club, without requiring New Delhi firstly to sign up to the NPT, is quite simply stupid.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Cognitive Dissonant

I sent this letter to The Times following a particularly boneheaded article by the chief honcho at the Taxpayers' Alliance, who hates green energy subsidies, but ignores those for nuclear. It seems the Times' comment editor, Tim Mongomerie, whom they recruited from blog, does not wish to  publish critical comments of right wing ideologues, so I have posted my views here.


Matthew Sinclair, as chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance apears to be suffering from a form of cognitive dissonance ("TheWasteful State is still burning our money," Opinion, 15 June), in pressing his argument that renewable energy technologies receive unreasonable "enormous"subsidies, but ignoring the massive subsidies already received, and currently being sought, by private sector nuclear companies.
In written evidence ( presented to the House of Commons' Environmental Audit Committee last month by the Energy Fair Group, of which I am a member, we pointed out that for many years, nuclear power in the UK has been benefitting from seven main kinds of subsidy, several of which are "substantial." We calculate withdrawal of just one of those subsidies would raise the price of nuclear power to at least £200 per MWh, for example much more than the unsubsidised cost of offshore wind power (about £140 per MWh).
In addition, the Finance Act 2011 introduced a subsidy for nuclear power by exempting uranium from a tax on fuels used for the generation of electricity.

Three other subsidies have been proposed in the currfent Energy Bill, most notably the “contracts for difference”, as applied to nuclear power. Currently, it seems the applicant company, to build the UK's first new nuclear power plant the French -State owned EDF Energy, would get around £1billion/year in subsidies if the fixed future price is anywhere near what EDF is trying to secure from the Treasury.
In earlier communication I have had with Mr Sinclair on this matter, he seems to be an apologist for nuclear, not applying the same standards to judge vast nuclear subsidies from the taxpayer with those given to renewable generators.
He especially seems determinied to minimise the subsidy benefit accrued to nuclear operators from being grossly underinsured against liabilities from nuclear accidents. At present nuclear operators would have to pay a maximun of £1.3billion compensation after an accident: by comparison, the Chernobyl accident in 1986 has already cost over £200 billion, and the Fukushima accident two years ago in Japan is expected to cost even more.
In a conference of nuclear regulators on "Nuclear Safety in Europe" which I attended last week in Brussels, Dr Peter Faross, deputy Director-General for Energy at the European Commission made it clear the Commission, which released its new revised directive on nuclear safety on Thursday, regards the differential liability on nuclear operators across the EU gives a competition benefit to those with low liabilities - such a in the UK - and the situation is going to be harmonised, with the lower payers having to increase their insurance liabilities, which Brussels rightly conisiders an unfair subsidy currently covered by national taxpayers. instead of nuclear plant owners.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Avoiding action on tax avoidance, evasion and beneficial ownership

David Cameron has been accused by anti-poverty campaigners of "undermining plans to tackle tax evasion," despite his warm words at the G8 at Lough Erne.

There is certainly evidence of a lack of determination to deliver, despite the Prime Minister's protestations he has secured a deal with British Overseas Crown Territories to produce statistics and data on beneficial ownership of companies registered in tax havens.

Earlier this year, in response to veteran Labour backbencher Paul Flynn's question asking the Business department "with reference to the recent sale of the Headquarters of Platinum Prime Property Investments Ltd in the British Virgin Islands, whether he has any plans to require the disclosure of the beneficial ownership of UK property, " was told by junior business minister, Lib Dem Jo Swinson, "The Government has acknowledged concerns about the potential abuse of arrangements for hidden ownership and we have made clear that we will seek to tackle abuse of corporate entities. However, the Government currently has no plans to require disclosure of the beneficial ownership of UK property.(Hansard, 25 February: Column 301W)

How come "beneficial ownership" needs to be disclosed in Crown Territories and not in UK?

In a more recent reply, Treasury minister David Gauke, responding to Paul Flynn's question asking " what recent assessment he has made of the role of brass plate companies in circumventing anti-money laundering regulations; and what recent reports he has received from HM Revenue and Customs on its attempts to control money laundering," that "HM Revenue and Customs has not made any specific assessment of the money laundering risks posed by brass plate companies as this is being considered in the context of wider work on offshore tax evasion. (Hansard, 4 June : Column 1089W)
This week, another Treasury minister, Sajid Javid, told another backbencher Labour MP for Newcastle, Catherine McKinnell, who had asked "how many charities registered with the Charity Commission have been identified by HM Revenue and Customs as being used for tax avoidance purposes in each of the last five years" that " HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) does not keep central records of the charities it has identified as being used for tax avoidance purposes.

This is because tax avoidance takes a number of forms and HMRC's compliance work therefore spans across multiple sections of the Department. Further, the use of a charity for tax avoidance purposes does not necessarily indicate that the charity is complicit or even aware of its involvement in tax avoidance."(Hansard, 17 June : Column 456W)

Collectively, you don't get the impression the Coalition is serious in challenging tax evasion.


Private enterprise drives growth, reduces poverty, and creates jobs and prosperity for people around the world. Governments have a special responsibility to make proper rules and promote good governance. Fair taxes, increased transparency and open trade are vital drivers of this. We will make areal difference by doing the following:


Tax authorities across the world should automatically share information to fight the scourge of tax evasion.2.

Countries should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders to avoid taxes, and multinationals should report to tax authorities what tax they pay where.3.

Companies should know who really owns them and tax collectors and law enforcers should be able to obtain this information easily.4.

Developing countries should have the information and capacity to collect the taxes owed them

– and other countries have a duty to help them.5.

Extractive companies should report payments to all governments -

And governments should publish income from such companies.6.

Minerals should be sourced legitimately, not plundered from conflictzones.7.

Land transactions should be transparent, respecting the property rights of local communities.8.

Governments should roll back protectionism and agree new trade deals that boost jobs and growth worldwide.9.

Governments should cut wasteful bureaucracy at borders and make it easier and quicker to move goods between developing countries.10.

Governments should publish information on laws, budgets, spending,national statistics, elections and government contracts in a way that iseasy to read and re-use, so that citizens can hold them to account.

18 June 2013


Friday, 7 June 2013

Avoiding Atomic Armageddon:Why we should not rejoin the nuclear bazaar

A shorter edited version of this  article will appear soon in the   Scientists for Global Responsibility Newsletter (

Avoiding Atomic Armageddon:

Why we should not rejoin the nuclear bazaar

by Dr. David Lowry

“We nuclear people have made a Faustian bargain with society. On the one hand, we offer -- in the catalytic nuclear burner (breeder reactor) -- an inexhaustable source of energy. Even in the short range, when we use ordinary reactors, we offer energy that is cheaper than energy from fossil fuel. Moreover, this source of energy, when properly handled, is almost nonpolluting. . . .

But the price that we demand of society for this magical energy source is both a vigilance and a longevity of our social institutions that we are quite unaccustomed to. In a way, all of this was anticipated during the old debates over nuclear weapons. . . . . In a sense, we have established a military priesthood which guards against inadvertent use of nuclear weapons, which maintains what a priori seems to be a precarious balance between readiness to go to war and vigilance against human errors that would precipitate war . . .

It seems to me (and in this I repeat some views expressed very well by Atomic Energy Commissioner Wilfred Johnson) that peaceful nuclear energy probably will make demands of the same sort on our society, and possibly of even longer duration.” [Weinberg, Alvin; "Social Institutions and Nuclear Energy", Science, 7 July 1972, p33]

The venerable veteran Labour politician, Tony Benn, who once was responsible for the British nuclear power programme when he was Technology Minister in the late 1960s, when asked  by The Times if he had made any  political mistakes in his life, responded:

“Yes, nuclear power: I was told it was, when I was in charge of it, that atomic energy was cheap, safe and peaceful.  It isn’t.” (Times Magazine, 11 September 2010)

A serious problem for today’s politics is both Conservative ministers, and their Labour opponents , have not learned from Tony Benn’s conversion on the road to energy sustainability, and do support new nuclear, here and abroad..

How was it that thinking politicians like Tony Benn could have originally got nuclear power so wrong in the 1960s and 1970s?

Retro Radioactive

In post-war Britain, after the United States had started the Nuclear WMD Cold War by detonating two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, many nuclear scientists wanted to  put their intellectual  expertise in  atomic science to the  public good, so horrified were they  over the nuclear attacks  on Japan.

The British Atomic Scientists Association (BASA) – founded in 1946 – set about trying to bring good news, in contrast to nuclear weapons deployment, about atomic discoveries and developments to the public, even sponsoring a mobile exhibition called “The Atomic Train” which moved from city to city, town to town, seen by hundreds of thousands of  enthusiastic  members of the  British public.  BASA also published a regular edition of Atomic Scientists News, which became Atomic Scientists Journal, with a widespread readership among teachers, journalists and professionals, including MPs [members of Parliament].

It was absorbed into New Scientist in 1956, the same year the plutonium production reactors at Calder Hall on the Sellafield site – then called Windscale, operated by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) – were opened by  the young Queen Elizabeth, on 17 October that year, 54 years ago.  Her Majesty told the assembled crowd of dignitaries, including representatives of almost 40 nations:

“This new power, which has proved itself to be such a terrifying weapon of destruction, is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community….”

She went on to add

“It may well prove to have been among the greatest of our contributions to human welfare that we led the way in demonstrating the peaceful uses of this new source of power.”

But false words had been put into the mouth of Her Majesty.  Calder Hall was not built or designed to be put to civilian – or peaceful – uses.  Here is what the UKAEA official historian Kenneth Jay wrote about Calder Hall, in his short book of the same name, published to coincide with the opening of the  plant.  [He referred to] “[m]ajor plants built for military purposes, such as Calder Hall.” (p.88)  Earlier, he wrote: “… The plant has been designed as a dual-purpose plant, to produce plutonium for military purposes as well as electric power.” (p.80)

Twenty nine years ago, , the CND Sizewell Working Group, supported by technical work  by Scientists Against Nuclear Arms, SGR’s predecessor  organization,  in evidence to the Sizewell B Public Inquiry, demonstrated in detail how plutonium created in the first generation of Magnox reactors, scaled-up versions of Calder Hall, also produced plutonium put to military uses … in the United States. (see Nature, Vol.407, 19 October 2000)

Just over a year after Britain first tested its own atomic bomb, on 3 October 1952, U.S. President Eisenhower delivered to the U.N. General Assembly in New York what has turned out to be one of the most misguided speeches ever made by a world leader.  This was the notorious “Atoms for Peace” speech, on 8 December 1953. It was crafted at the height of the Cold War, and purported to be an “atomic swords into nuclear energy ploughshares.”

The President opened saying:

“Never before in history has so much hope for so many people been gathered together in a single organization. Your deliberations and decisions during these sombre years have already realized part of those hopes. But the great test and the great accomplishments still lie ahead ….”

He went on to assert:

“The atomic age has moved forward at such a pace that every citizen of the world should have some comprehension, at least in comparative terms, of the extent of this development of the utmost significance to every one of us. Clearly, if the people of the world are to conduct an intelligent search for peace, they must be armed with the significant facts of today’s existence. ... [M]y country’s purpose is to help us move out of the dark chamber of horrors into the light, to find a way by which the minds of men, the hopes of men, the souls of men every where, can move forward toward peace and happiness and well being.”

And [Eisenhower] unveiled to a rapt audience [his plan that]:

“The United States would seek more than the mere reduction or elimination of atomic materials for military purposes. It is not enough to take this weapon out of the hands of the soldiers. It must be put into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.”

He proposed creation of a fissionable (explosive) nuclear materials storage bank and an international atomic energy agency:

“The more important responsibility of this Atomic Energy Agency would be to devise methods where by this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind. Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world. Thus the contributing powers would be dedicating some of their strength to serve the needs rather than the fears of mankind.”

And he closed with these high-fluting words:

“To the making of these fateful decisions, the United States pledges before you – and therefore before the world--its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma – to devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.”

Eisenhower’s PR team went into overdrive after the speech, being instantly distributed in 10 languages, with key excerpts being included in 350 US-based foreign language   newspapers. TV and radio stations, newspapers and magazines, were deluged with articles explaining the case for spreading nuclear technology worldwide. The US Government used the official US Information Agency and the Voice of America radio station (the American equivalent to our own BBC World Service) to propagandise the speech.

Four years later the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was created as a United Nations Agency in Vienna, the centre of Cold War intrigue, to bang the drum for nuclear power across the globe.


Britain’s early unintended export of nuclear proliferation

In the same year the IAEA was founded, the UK made one of its first forays into international nuclear trade, with Iraq, and [with] the opening Baghdad Pact Nuclear Centre on 31 March 1957. It was part of the UK’s own Atoms for Peace efforts.

According to a Parliamentary reply by Michel Heseltine in December 1992, “Iraq ceased to participate in the activities of the training centre when it was transferred to Tehran following the revolution in Iraq in 1959.”

In light of subsequent geo-political history in the region, that was out of the atomic frying pan, into the nuclear fire!

Around this time Britain also sold a single Magnox nuclear plant each to Japan and to Italy respectively.

It is also arguable that the British Magnox nuclear plant design – which after all was primarily built as a military plutonium production factory – provided the blueprint for the North Korean military plutonium production programme too!

Here is what a Conservative minister, Douglas Hogg – later infamous for his moat – told former Labour MP, Llew Smith, in a written parliamentary reply on  25 May 1994:

“We do not know whether North Korea has drawn on plans of British reactors in the production of its own reactors. North Korea possesses a graphite moderated reactor which, while much smaller, has generic similarities to the reactors operated by British Nuclear Fuels plc. However, design information of these British reactors is not classified and has appeared in technical journals.”

North Korea’s other method of producing its enriched uranium nuclear explosives, via its uranium enrichment plant, also originated from the UK. The blueprints were stolen by Pakistani scientist, Dr A.Q.Khan, from the URENCO enrichment plant  (one third owned by the UK) in Holland in the early 1970s. Pakistan subsequently sold the technology to Iran, who later exchanged  for North Korean Nodong missiles.

A technical delegation from the A Q Khan Research Labs visited Pyongyang in  the summer of 1996. The secret enrichment plant was said to be based in caves near Kumch’ang-ni, 100 miles north of Pyonyang, some thirty miles north west of the plutonium production reactor at Yongbon. Defectors have located the plant at Yongjo-ri, Taechon, Mount Chonma or Ha’gap 20 miles northeast of Yongbon-kun, where US satellite photos showed tunnel entrances  being built

Hwang Jang-yop, a former aid to President Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current North Korean President, who became the highest ranking North Korean official to defect when he fled in 1997, revealed details  to Western intelligence investigators. ( source p.281 of  “Deception: Pakistan, The United States, and the Global Weapons Conspiracy, Atlantic Books, 2007, by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark).

So the UK’s proud nuclear export record involves provision of support to both Iraq and Iran, and indirectly to North Korea.

Blowback: NPT as a vehicle for proliferation

At the end of the 1967, the text of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was finalised between the U.S., Soviet Union and the UK, and presented to the United Nations General Assembly next year (1968) for endorsement, with the IAEA playing an enforcement role.

CND and the wider nuclear disarmament movement has spent much of its campaigning time since trying to get countries to sign-up to the NPT; and signatory states to adhere to its articles.

But the Grand Bargain embodied by the NPT –  the non-nuclear weapon states(NNWSs) should renounce possession of, or desire to possess, nuclear WMDs in exchange for civilian  nuclear assistance – has now become a problem in itself. Countries such as the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Japan and Russia are now promoting nuclear technology sales worldwide.

Here is a salient extract from the final document:

31. The Conference reaffirms that nothing in the Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination. … The Conference recognizes that this right constitutes one of the fundamental objectives of the Treaty.  In this connection, the Conference confirms that each country’s choices and decisions in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy should be respected without jeopardizing its policies or international cooperation agreements and arrangements for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and its fuel cycle policies.

Several more paragraphs underscore the agreement to massively expand nuclear trade, including scientific and technological cooperation, and sales of nuclear equipment and nuclear materials.

39. The Conference affirms the importance of public information in connection with peaceful nuclear activities in States parties to help build acceptance of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Experience of such activities by national and international bodies suggest this will be pure propaganda.


Pandora’s Box prized open

The Coalition Government  newly unveiled  policy on promoting nuclear exports will open a Pandora’s Box of problems. Exporting the very technology used to make nuclear bombs and nuclear material -  such as plutonium -  as nuclear fuel, will put nuclear weapons capability and nuclear explosive materials into the hands of many countries – and possibly non-state terror groups – in an increasingly insecure world.

Labour started the decline down this dangerous rocky road in 2009. Chris Bryant, MP, then a foreign office minister, when responding to a Parliamentary debate on prospects for the Nuclear  Non Proliferation Treaty Review (on 9 July 2009) commented sagely:

“It is clearly important that we secure fissile material. One of the greatest dangers to security around the world is the possibility of rogue states or rogue organisations gaining access to fissile material.”

Yet, only a few days later the Labour Government published one of the most dangerous and deluded documents issued in modern times by any democratic government – “The Road to 2010” – interestingly released under the imprimatur of the Cabinet Office, not the Foreign Office.  (The “2010” referred to the NPT Review conference held in May this year at the United Nations in New York.)  Mr Bryant asserted that it would: “lay out a credible road map to further disarmament.”

In my judgment, whatever its laudable aims on nuclear disarmament, it is in effect a blueprint for nuclear proliferation and undermines Government aims to create a more secure world.

The reason for this is the deeply misguided policy to increase nuclear exports and spread nuclear technology and material around the globe.

The “Road to 2010” was a remarkably na├»ve and disingenuous document, and seriously suffers from not having been subject to critical review before publication.

It appears to have been only share with blinkered nuclear industry “cheerleaders”, such as the London-based international industry lobby group, the World Nuclear Association, which in its reportage of the proliferation blueprint wrote glowingly:

“The opening paragraphs in Britain's Road to 2010 strategy set the scene: ‘Nuclear power is a proven technology which generates low carbon electricity. It is affordable, dependable, safe, and capable of increasing diversity of energy supply.  It is therefore an essential part of any global solution to the related and serious challenges of climate change and energy security.... Nuclear energy is therefore vital to the challenges of sustaining global growth, and tackling poverty.’”

In March this year, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – significantly, not DECC - published a suite of documents promoting nuclear power development in the UK and abroad, backed with £31 million of new taxpayers’ money. One of the documents, Long-term Nuclear Energy Strategy, said the following:

The Government commits to further increasing its presence and impact into associated international forums, in particular those relating to nuclear R&D where government representation has waned over the last decade.

At an EU level, the Government will work with like-minded nations to provide a positive and informed political environment for the civil use of nuclear power both domestically and globally. We will develop and implement broader strategic relationships with nuclear interested countries through a programme of coordinated and proactive engagement that can help shape EU policy and that enables nuclear power to continue to have a role in the energy mix and harnesses economic opportunities.”

It added:

Working with embassies, UKTI, industry, NSA Nuclear and academia, we will explore options to better showcase the UK’s knowledge, expertise and facilities to the international market.”

While BIS is providing £31 m to promote nuclear technology, including exports,  figures released to Parliament on 3 June this year revealed the Coalition was simultaneously cutting the budget for nuclear non-proliferation from  £27,197,000 to £23,672,000, between  2012-13 to 2013-14. It also plans to cut the Capital Global Threat Reduction Programme from £6,600,000 to £5,025,000 over the same period, indicating Coalition priorities and dubious  judgement.


(Official Report, 3 June 2013 : Column 954W)

DECC has also made clear it would like to convert our current “civil “ plutonium stockpile of 110,000 kilogrammes of plutonium- a nuclear warhead can be  made with just 5 kgs, the size of a grapefruit- into MOX ( mixed plutonium- uranium oxide) fuel, and would like to export  the substantial  proportion of this across the  coming decades. To make this MOX, upwards of £1billion of taxpayers money will be needed for construction of a new manufacturing plant at Sellafield

Taken together, these nuclear promotional and export strategies one day will, I fear, result in multiple radioactive mushroom clouds rising from centres of global cities, as terrorists carry out their ultimate spectacular.

This may happen after the architects of this truly mad policy are dead. Sadly, they are condemning hundreds of thousands - possibly millions- innocent citizens join them before their time.

The spectre of an uncontrolled nuclear detonation should chill us all.

As President Obama told Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward in the famed Watergate reporter’s book, Obama’s Wars

 “When I go down the list of things I have to worry about all the time, that [ a nuclear terrorist attack] is at the top, because that's one where you can't afford any mistakes.”

He is right. And it is a big mistake to resurrect global nuclear technology and material sales.

Ironically, the two Cabinet ministers promoting our nuclear exports  strategy with taxpayers’ money are both Liberal Democrat, Energy  & Climate change Secretary Ed Davey and Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable, who,  three years ago were elected on a Liberal Democrat Manifesto that opposed all nuclear power projects.

Their U-turn discredits political integrity and promotes global insecurity. Just who is advising these ministers?