Sunday, 25 December 2016

Trumped by nuclear weapons risks

Letter sent to the Times:

Tim Montgomerie makes the argument that President-elect Trump is right to spend $50 billion of US taxpayers’ money to upgrade the US nuclear weapons triad, mainly to demonstrate to potential foes ( he cites China and Russia) they cannot overcome US defense systems.(“Trump is right to invest billions in US arsenal,” Thunderer,  Dec 24;

It is a perverse argument, which will only set off another exorbitantly expensive atomic arms race. Until the US abides by the same treaty requirements as are upon Russia, the US , China and France,  under the 1968 Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, to negotiate nuclear disarmament “ in good faith at an early date, what is needed is upgrades in the safety systems of nuclear weapons to diminish the chance of accidental nuclear war.

In a chilling extended essay in the New Yorker magazine edition of 23 December (“World War Three, by Mistake,” (  author  Eric Schlosser - the author of “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety (2013),” from 2013demonstrates with frightening historic examples the vulnerability of the existing nuclear command-and-control system, which have made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever.

To cite just one, dating from June 3, 1980 Schlosser describes how  computers at the National Military Command Center, beneath the Pentagon, at the headquarters of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), deep within Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and at Site R, the Pentagon’s alternate command post center hidden inside Raven Rock Mountain, Pennsylvania, issued an “urgent warning: the Soviet Union had just launched a nuclear attack on the United States.”

U.S. Air Force ballistic-missile crews removed their launch keys from the safes, bomber crews ran to their planes, fighter planes took off to search the skies, and the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to order every airborne commercial airliner to land.

Schlosser cites the words of wisdom of Dr Sidney Drell, the  deputy director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center ( now the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory for thirty years, who died on 21 December aged 90, ( , as one of the most brilliant and impressive nuclear weapons strategists ( he received the National Medal of Science from President  Obama  in 2013) - and for fifty-six years possessed a Q clearance, granting him access to the highest level of classified information -  who, when I asked for his opinion about launch-on-warning, said, “It’s insane, the worst thing I can think of. You can’t have a worse idea.”

Friday, 23 December 2016

Reed jumps onto sinking nuclear ship at Sellafield

The Labour Party should careful in following Jamie Reed’s local campaigning strategy if they want to retain the Copeland seat in Cumbria containing Sellafield, the giant nuclear waste plant, following his  imminent resignation. (“Corbyn critic quits as Labour MP, triggering tight byelection race,“ 22 December,

Despite proclaiming to represent the local nuclear interest in Parliament, his majority has dwindled from  6320 when first elected eleven years ago  to 2564 in the 2015 General Election.

As Copeland’s MP he has been a robust propagandist for Sellafield and the driving force behinds the plans by NuGeneration (NuGen) to develop a new nuclear power station on its Moorside site directly adjacent to Sellafield.
But backing Moorside is very politically problematic. For far too long, the people of Cumbria’s prosperity has been far too dependent on all their economic growth being dependent on nuclear: the Sellafield waste complex and nearby Drigg nuclear waste surface storage site.
As local campaign group, Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE)  recently argued: “NuGen’s less than subtle ploy to boost its case for infrastructure improvements by lumping together Moorside and Sellafield decommissioning, local communities will not fool long suffering local Copeland voters who  know to their frustration that pleas to improve West Cumbria’s chronic road and rail infrastructure have fallen on deaf Government and nuclear industry ears for decades.”  (/
The very notion that the Treasury should ride to the rescue of NuGen’s vested interest in a new-build project that has considerably less than full public support will be anathema to taxpayers, particularly as they witness hospital and community services in West Cumbria – whose survival is in everyone’s interest – being increasingly starved of Government support.
Additionally, the local Copeland newspaper The Whitehaven News reported on 6 December that the Moorside new nuclear plant could hamper the Lake District’s  world heritage bid. The Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the National Trust have commissioned research which they say shows that short-term economic priorities – such as Moorside - are resulting inappropriate developments in national parks. (

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Nuclear takes lion's share of energy subsidies with little climate benefit

Letter sent to The Times:
Matt Ridley fails to mention the huge amount of taxpayer-funded and electricity bill payer-funded subsidies that have been allocated to the nuclear sector (“Climate Change Act has cost us the earth,” Comment, Dec 12;, in the mistaken belief by ministers responsible for energy policy over the past decade ie Ed Miliband (Labour); Chris Huhne and Sir Ed Davey (Lib Dem) and now Greg Clark (Conservative), that nuclear energy is a meaningful way to reduce carbon emissions.

Production of nuclear electricity is not carbon free, because the production of nuclear fuel for these reactors is significantly energy intensive. While it is true that most nuclear reactors do not emit CO2 at the point of generation, reactors are a small part of the nuclear fuel cycle, which emits large amounts of CO2. These arise from the so-called front end of the fuel cycle - uranium mining, ore milling, uranium hexafluoride conversion, fuel enrichment and, finally, fabrication of the fuel rods. Moreover, nuclear waste management at the "back end" is already energy-hungry in the  treatment, conditioning, transportation and final disposal in some future repository (if ministers ever give the green light).

Thus full  life-cycle analyses are essential to assess the true impact of the entire processes. A number of such studies have examined CO2 emissions - commonly expressed as CO2 equivalents per kWh - for different methods of producing electricity. The most comprehensive model has been created by the ├ľko Institut (, which advises the German environment ministry, and by Professors Jan Willem Storm Van Leeuwen and the late Philip Smith at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands (eg .’Nuclear Power: the Energy Balance’

Both studies conclude that the nuclear fuel cycle can emit relatively large amounts of CO2 .The lower the uranium concentration in ore, the more CO2 generated; and as a means of enrichment, gas diffusion was much more energy intensive - and thus CO2 emitting - than centrifuge separation.

Using sensible assumptions, Professors Smith and Van Leeuwen determined that nuclear generation produced about a third as much CO2 per kWh as conventional mid-sized gas-fired electricity generation.

The global research on this matter has been excellently synthesized in a paper “Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey,” published in the journal Energy Policy in 2008 by Professor Benjamin Sovacool, now director of the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand and leader of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex.( (

The current secretary of state for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Dr Clark, and his officials should take note

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Saudi middle east meddling: Boris Johnson agrees with Hillary Clinton

Letter sent to the Guardian:
I was encouraged by foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s candid admission that the Saudis are in his words “puppeteering” in the middle east conflicts. (“Johnson hits out at Saudis on proxy wars,” 8 December;


It is a pity he made these accurate observations at a conference  in Rome, but when given the opportunity on national television last Sunday on the Marr programme, he opined the opposite view!


Johnson’s view reflects  a similar interpretation of Saudi interference as held by Hillary Clinton when she was US secretary of state, made in a private email dated 27 September 2014 to John Podesta, a senior Democratic party insider, made public by Wikileaks earlier this year.

She wrote explicitly: ““While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”

This was reported in the US media  in several place,eg “Hillary In Leaked Email: Saudi Arabia And Qatar Are Funding ISIS,“ Daily Caller, 10 October 2016 ( and “The Terrorists the Saudis Cultivate in Peaceful Countries, “ New York Times, 3 July 2016;, this week foreign office minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns told peers in a written answer: “The Saudi Arabian Government has been at the forefront of international efforts to defeat Daesh and its poisonous ideology.( HL3556, 7 December)


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

UK Government increases insecurity at global nuclear security conference

A rare 5-day International nuclear security conference opened at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna yesterday, with the conference strapline reading. “Security Culture: One for All, and All for One


IAEA secretary general Yukiya Amano opened the conference with words:

“Ensuring effective nuclear security is important for all countries, including those which possess little or no nuclear or other radioactive material.

Terrorists and criminals will try to exploit any vulnerability in the global nuclear security system. Any country, in any part of the world, could find itself used as a transit point. And any country could become the target of an attack. That is why effective international cooperation is vital….we can never relax our guard. Continued vigilance is essential as the threat evolves.  

The IAEA will continue to play its part in helping to ensure that all countries are able to make the best use of available technology and to ensure state-of-the-art nuclear security.

Member States have made clear that they want increased assistance in strengthening computer security in the nuclear industry and related sectors…”

.(IAEA Director General's Speech at International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions, International Conference on Nuclear Security; Monday 5 December 2016;Vienna;



The UK delegation included several specialists who participated in technical workshops: these include: D. Shepherd; L. Bailey R. Hardiman; L. Young, M. Owen  and V. Porter. No first names – or even genders - are provided in the178-page conference programme, perhaps for security reasons

But the British minister is known - her name is Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe-  and her speech, rather than concentrate on nuclear security, disgracefully used the conference platform to try to cheerlead for the UK nuclear industry supply chain and nuclear new build. She made no attempt to consider the  very serious implications for UK, or indeed or wider global security, of expanding the nuclear industry, although she made several meaningless assertions that "Our Government is fully committed to further strengthening the global nuclear security architecture."
Her decision to present such a promotional speech, and the departmental or security service officials who drafted it ignorant of nuclear security implications, is very worrying.
Here is her disreputable speech in full:


UK statement to the IAEA international conference on nuclear security


Delivered on:

5 December 2016 (Original script, may differ from delivered version)

First published:

6 December 2016

Part of:

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property, delivered the UK’s Statement to the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security supporting the IAEA’s pivotal role in global nuclear security

Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG


It was during this week in 1953 that the famous ‘Atoms for Peace’ speech was made to the UN General Assembly and the message in that speech is as true today as it was then. Nuclear power is an astonishing achievement, splitting atoms to create such enormous amounts of energy. It does, however, need careful handling and so we must ensure that it remains both safe and secure.

The UK has been producing nuclear power longer than any other state and has recently decided to proceed with our first new nuclear power station for a generation. With this commitment comes responsibility. That is why I would like to thank the IAEA for hosting this conference and to Director General Amano for his continued leadership on this topic.


The UK recognises that the IAEA plays a pivotal role in the global nuclear security architecture and in coordinating international efforts as new challenges and opportunities emerge.

We must ensure that the IAEA is properly resourced so that it can carry out this role, and that is why the UK is proud to be a leading contributor to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund. I am pleased to announce today that we will make a further contribution of at least £5.5 million before the end of March 2017 to continue to ensure this important work.

This fund, alongside wider efforts by the IAEA with its Member States, has helped to deliver important tools and services in 2016. These included seven IPPAS missions; nine national Design Basis Threat workshops; assistance to Member States at their request; and two more publications under the Nuclear Security Series. We welcome these achievements but we must continue to make progress and we hope that Member States will join us in making further contributions to the Nuclear Security Fund.

The Future of Nuclear Security: challenges and opportunities

The threat we face from terrorism and crime is changing and evolving and we all share the responsibility of ensuring nuclear and radiological material is safe and secure. It is therefore vital that we prioritise our efforts on nuclear security and maintain our readiness to respond quickly and effectively to this threat.

At the same time, we must adapt to the changing face of technology; embracing the opportunities it presents and meeting the challenges that come with it. For example, cyberspace can present both a threat to nuclear security and provide tools for improving the systems and techniques underpinning nuclear security. It is right that we are focusing efforts in this space.

The UK is proud to have taken forward the commitments it made at the Nuclear Security Summit earlier this year on cyber security. We have successfully delivered two workshops on industrial control systems for international participants and completed a joint exercise programme with the United States. This work enhanced our combined ability to respond to major cyber-attacks on the civil nuclear sector.

We face diverse threats, and we need a strong, engaged and diverse workforce to counter them. An effective, versatile and global approach to nuclear security relies upon a diverse range of people, from all backgrounds and disciplines. I would like to emphasis this point, which is in line with the position I have taken in other sectors of the global economy. I see a major role for women in successful global nuclear and security industries. With this in mind, I’m delighted that the UK was able to fund the 2016 International Essay Competition on Nuclear Security to encourage newcomers into the sector. The winners were all women - coming from Singapore, Sudan, and the United Kingdom – and this demonstrates that valuable expertise is coming through the pipeline from all corners of the world and from women who have been underrepresented in the sector to date.

Ensuring a Sustainable Global Nuclear Security Architecture

The responsibility for securing nuclear and radiological material rests with us as states, and we need to ensure that the current nuclear security architecture is properly implemented within our home countries.

One area where there is collective recognition that more needs to be done is transport. Together there has been some good progress and the UK is committed to continuing this. We are pleased to have a world-leading nuclear shipping capability in the International Nuclear Services here at the conference. We have also hosted a follow-up International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission earlier this year, and found it a valuable opportunity to share good practices. We encourage others to host their own IPPAS missions.

Our Government is fully committed to further strengthening the global nuclear security architecture. To do this we must maintain the momentum of the Nuclear Security Summits, building on the raised profile of nuclear security, supporting the central role of the IAEA and addressing new and emerging security challenges.

Nuclear security cannot be achieved unilaterally. At the international level, we should all work together to build on recent successes including the successful entry-into-force of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. We are committed to promoting the full implementation and universal take up of this and other legal instruments that strengthen global nuclear security.

I also want to acknowledge the central role that the IAEA plays in coordinating our efforts to strengthen nuclear security which complement the global architecture.

Nuclear Renaissance

The UK Government’s reaffirmed commitment to new nuclear, coupled with the new emphasis on industrial strategy, makes this a prime opportunity for the nuclear industry. Of course, nuclear security will be vital component of this. Once completed, Hinkley Point C will provide up to 7 percent of the UK’s electricity needs and bring benefits to both the local and global supply chain. Beyond Hinkley, industry has set out proposals to construct five further power stations, with the potential to generate around 30 percent of the UK’s electricity needs by 2035.

In order to reap the benefits of nuclear energy and ensure it fulfils its true potential, we are taking action now to address the skills gap. We recently announced the National College for Nuclear, which is set to open its doors next year and aims to train 7,000 people by 2020 who we hope will go on to become next generation of nuclear innovators. The college will be complemented by our strong academic community and I am pleased that we have representatives from many of these institutions, including King’s College London, here at the conference.


We are at an exciting moment in the history of civil nuclear and this conference provides a prime opportunity to work together towards a stronger sustainable global nuclear security architecture that works now, and into the future.

Thank you.

Here is the wider international ministerial declaration  issued on Monday evening:


International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions, 5-9 December 2016 IAEA Vienna, 5 December 2016





1. We, the Ministers of the Member States of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), gathered at the International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions, remain concerned about threats to nuclear security and therefore committed to continuously maintaining and further strengthening nuclear security through national actions, which may involve international cooperation, primarily through the IAEA, as well as through other relevant international organisations and initiatives, in accordance with their respective mandates and memberships.


2. We reaffirm the common goals of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, recognize that nuclear security contributes to international peace and security, and stress that progress in nuclear disarmament is critically needed and will continue to be addressed in all relevant fora, consistent with the relevant obligations and commitments of Member States.


3. In the spirit of the 2013 Ministerial Declaration of the International Conference on Nuclear Security: Enhancing Global Efforts, we welcome the advances made by IAEA Member States in developing and enhancing their national nuclear security regimes. We also welcome the positive impact of the Agency’s increasing nuclear security efforts, while noting that much more work needs to be done.


4. We underline the importance of keeping pace with evolving challenges and threats to nuclear security. We affirm the important role of science, technology and engineering in understanding and addressing such challenges and threats, and commit ourselves to stay vigilant and continue to take steps to confront, reduce and eliminate them.


5. We reassert that the responsibility for nuclear security within a State rests entirely with that State, in accordance with its respective national and international obligations, to maintain at all times effective and comprehensive nuclear security of all nuclear and other radioactive material under its control.


6. We call upon all States to ensure that measures to strengthen nuclear security do not hamper international cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities.


7. We recognize that bilateral, regional and international cooperation can serve to strengthen nuclear security, and support, in this context, the central role of the IAEA in facilitating and coordinating international cooperation and in organizing Information Exchange Meetings with other organizations and initiatives on nuclear security.


8. We acknowledge and support the IAEA’s core nuclear security activities that assist States, upon request, in their efforts to establish effective and sustainable national nuclear security regimes, including guidance development, advisory services, and capacity building. Moreover, we encourage Member States to contribute to the Agency’s nuclear security assistance by sharing national expertise, best practices and lessons learned.


9. We recognise physical protection as a key element in nuclear security, and support the further development of the IAEA’s assistance in areas of importance to Member States such as nuclear

forensics, nuclear security detection architecture and response, information security, transport security, and insider threat mitigation, recognizing the need for appropriate measures to protect sensitive information in achieving this objective. In particular, we support the IAEA’s efforts to assist Member States to strengthen computer security, recognizing the threat of cyber-attacks against nuclear installations.


10. We welcome the entry into force of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection on Nuclear Material (CPPNM), look forward to its full implementation, and encourage IAEA’s continued efforts to promote universalization. We encourage all Member States that have not yet done so to become parties to the Amended CPPNM and also in other international nuclear security instruments such as the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT).


11. We will continue providing the necessary technical, human and financial resources, including through the Nuclear Security Fund, in line with our respective capacities and commitments, as required for the Agency to implement its nuclear security activities and to provide, upon request, the support needed by Member States.


12. We recognize that highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium in all their applications require special precautions to ensure their nuclear security and that it is of great importance that they be appropriately secured and accounted for, by and in the relevant State. We encourage the Member States concerned, on a voluntary basis, to further minimize HEU in civilian stocks and use LEU where technically and economically feasible.


13. We commit to maintain effective security of radioactive sources throughout their life cycle, consistent with the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources. Moreover, we encourage the IAEA to promote and facilitate technical exchanges of knowledge, experiences and good practices on the use and security of high activity radioactive sources.


14. We commit to continue taking active steps to combat illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive material, to protect and secure all such material to ensure that it cannot be used by non-State actors in criminal or terrorist acts, and to continue efforts on our territories to prepare for recovering such material in case it has fallen out of regulatory control, taking into account relevant international instruments. We emphasize the importance of strong national legislative and regulatory frameworks for nuclear security.


15. We support the IAEA’s and Member States’ efforts to strengthen nuclear security culture and provide education and training opportunities in nuclear security, including by using national and regional Centres of Excellence and Nuclear Security Training and Support Centres, to ensure that the current and future generations of nuclear security professionals are well equipped to meet the challenge of ensuring effective and responsive national nuclear security regimes.


16. We welcome the consensus reached on the 60th GC Nuclear Security Resolution, and remain determined to build upon it. This Declaration and the 2016 International Conference on Nuclear Security will be taken into account in the consultation process between the Secretariat and the Member States on the IAEA’s 2018 – 2021 Nuclear Security Plan. We call upon the IAEA to continue to organize international conferences on Nuclear Security every three years and encourage all Member States to participate at a Ministerial level.


ROGRns conferenceAMME


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Mr Johnson's very partial respect for international rules based world order

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, in his speech on 2 December at Chatham House think tank in London aiming to  re-set the strategic direction of British foreign policy, stressed that after the second world war, in contrast to the geo-political dominance strategy of defeated Nazi Germany, the United Kingdom  and United states established:

“a new system based not on power, not on centralised and federal law-making but on rules embodied by genuinely global institutions..”

which included, he noted,  creation of the United Nations.(

But Mr Johnson  presents a very partial version of what he terms the merits of “our emphasis on the rules-based system.”

The most egregious case is the UK’s refusal to meet its international obligations to engage in negotiations towards nuclear disarmament in good faith and at an early date, which is what   the UK signed to do under article 6 of the 1968 nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - a rules-based agreement which British diplomats helped to draft- between 1966-68

There was a perfect recent opportunity for the United Kingdom to demonstrate at the United Nations  its commitment to multilateral negotiated nuclear disarmament, but on 27 October at the UN First Committee, when 123 countries adopted a landmark resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons, the  UK along  with US ( whose outgoing President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting nuclear disarmament) ,voted against. Even North Korea voted for!

Meanwhile the US Government pressurized fellow NATO countries to vote down the ban, as was revealed in a leaked memo distributed  to member states of the Committee on Proliferation by the US Ambassador to NATO dated 17 October. (
Documents I uncovered the British National Archives in Kew reveal what British diplomats predicted should happen with the nuclear disarmament commitment

On 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley, as the UK Labour Government's minister of state for foreign affairs, addressed the 358th plenary meeting of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) in Geneva, the predecessor committee to the current Conference on Disarmament, explaining why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated NPT, he told 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."(emphasis added)

Mr Johnson declared his was “the first in a series of speeches setting out our foreign policy strategy, is that this global approach is in the interests both of Britain and the world.”

Perhaps he could explain when his Government intends to fulfill a 48 year old commitment to the international community to start negotiating way nuclear weapons.