Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Multiple international nuclear security threats unveiled at Vienna atomic conference

The UN’s global nuclear watchdog has revealed in its 21-page annual Nuclear Security Report – released in Vienna this week - that 235 new incidents of significant nuclear materials losses were reported in the year to end of June 2018. (
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published the report as a suite of documents issued  as part of the annual IAEA General Conference (
In another important development, the report reveals that the nuclear security plans used by all nations, the so-called Design Basis Threat (DBT), is under IAEA review, stating: “In 2016, the Agency agreed to review and revise IAEA Nuclear Security Series No. 10, Development, Use and Maintenance of the Design Basis Threat. The Agency held a Technical Meeting in Vienna, Austria in February 2018 to review the draft of the revised publication, and to discuss an updated methodology for development, use and maintenance of the nuclear security threat assessment, representative threat statement and design basis threats (DBTs). Following this meeting, the draft publication was approved by the NSGC to be sent to Member States for a 120-day review period”.
IAEA expenditure on nuclear security in the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 comprised disbursements of approximately € 28.3 million., which is a really miniscule amount   considering the near existential threat being confronted.
The relevant section on  Incident and Trafficking Database reads as follows:
“9. In the period between the inception of the ITDB and 30 June 2018, States had reported — or otherwise confirmed to the ITDB — a total of 3374 incidents. Reports of 235 incidents were added to the database in the reporting period. Of these incidents, 127 occurred between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018. While the Agency does not verify States’ reports, the number of incidents voluntarily reported by participating States to the ITDB demonstrates that illicit trafficking, thefts, losses and other unauthorized activities and events involving nuclear and other radioactive material continue to occur.
10. Of the 235 newly reported incidents, 3 were related to trafficking and 4 were scams. All of the material involved in these incidents was seized by the relevant competent authorities within the reporting State. No incident involved high enriched uranium, plutonium or category 1 sources.
11. There were 33 reported incidents in which the intent to conduct trafficking or malicious use could not be determined. These included 17 thefts, 4 unauthorized possessions and 12 incidents of missing materials. In 25 incidents the materials were not recovered including 1 incident involving category 3 radioactive sources, while the remainder involved lower-risk sources below category 3.
12. There were also 125 reported incidents in which the material was out of regulatory control but not related to trafficking, malicious use or scams. Most of these incidents involved unauthorized disposal, unauthorized shipments and unexpected discoveries of material such as previously lost radioactive sources.”
For an industry that proclaims it wants to expand worldwide into new countries, and extend  reactor fleets in several existing nuclear  power  countries, these figures should  really have sent alarm bells ringing that there are many  unclosed holes in the global nuclear security apparatus.
But complacency seems to be the prevailing demeanor, as no calls have come from the nuclear sector, nor from government ministries or  sponsoring agencies  for nuclear  projects, that urgent action is needed to stop such highly dangerous leakages from security control of  nuclear materials that – in some cases - could be used to make deadly fission  nuclear bombs  or certainly  radiological  ‘dirty’ bombs. Instead, the report lists dozens of meetings held all over the planet, aimed at tutoring member states to deal with  nuclear materials in the most up-to-date and secure fashion.
The IAEA report weakly records “The triennial Technical Meeting of States’ Points of Contact for the ITDB was held in Vienna, Austria, in May 2018. During this meeting, an effort to update the ITDB terms of reference was initiated to bring them in line with previously agreed ITDB conceptual framework trafficking definitions.”
More helpfully, the report adds: “The Agency continued to maintain and improve the Nuclear Security Information Portal (NUSEC) to provide a comprehensive information tool to meet the needs of Member States and to exchange information across the nuclear security community. The web-based NUSEC has more than 4800 registered users from 165 Member States and 17 organizations. An approximately 18 per cent increase in registered users in the past year improves the Agency’s capability to reach the wider international security community with information on developments in nuclear security. Improvements made to NUSEC in the reporting period include continued support for the International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) Good Practice Database, further enhancements to the International Network for Nuclear Security Training and Support Centres (NSSC Network) database, and enhancements to the common calendar that provides information on all training courses and other events hosted by NSSC Network members. In addition, a new User Group focused on Science and Technology for Nuclear Security facilitates communication among Member States on this topic.” [GOV/2018/36-GC(62)/10 Page s 4-5]
The report also revealed that the IAEA also convened a technical meeting on reducing cyber risks in the nuclear industry supply chain in Vienna, Austria, in June 2018, with more than 100 participants from 35 Member States attending.
Russia seemed to be the state at the forefront of training for secure  storage of  sensitive nuclear materials, with  report recording: “The Agency, in cooperation with the Russian Federation, conducted four additional training courses, namely, an international training course on the Practical Operation of Physical Protection Systems at Nuclear Facilities in Obninsk, Russian Federation, in November 2017; an international training course for Newcomer Countries on Nuclear Security Systems and Measures for the Implementation of a National Nuclear Power Programme in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, in September 2017; a regional training course on Nuclear Security in Practice: Field Training for University Students in Obninsk, Russian Federation in October 2017; and an international training course on the Establishment of a Nuclear Security Regime for Nuclear Power Programmes in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, in May 2018.”

The IAEA’s Nuclear Security Series Implementing Guide Preventive Measures for Material out of Regulatory Control and the Technical Guidance Planning for and Organization of Nuclear Security Measures for Material out of Regulatory Control received final approval for publication during the period covered by the report.



By 30 June 2018, there were 30 current publications in the Nuclear Security Series, a further 8 approved for publication, and 17 others (including 3 revisions of existing Nuclear Security Series publications) at various stages of development, in accordance with the roadmap agreed, the IAEA reports.



The IAEA hosted two Information Exchange Meetings in Vienna, Austria, in November 2017 and in April 2018 “to coordinate activities in nuclear security and to avoid duplication in the activities undertaken by various relevant organizations.” Participants from 11 organizations and initiatives such as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction exchanged information, discussed various themes within nuclear security, and reached a better understanding of activities being undertaken by each organization, it reports.


The International Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN) continues to assist its member institutions and States in establishing and enhancing educational programmes on nuclear security based on international guidance and recommendations, with the Network now having 170 institutions from 62 IAEA member States.


Additionally, in February 2018 the IAEA signed a Practical Arrangement with Japan, as part of its preliminary arrangements to provide nuclear security support to the 2020 Olympics, to be held in Tokyo.


IAEA  Nuclear Security Report 2018
Board of Governors  General Conference
6 August 2018


 “The IAEA General Conference requested that the Director General submit an annual report on activities undertaken by the Agency in the area of nuclear security, and on external users of the Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB) and on past and planned activities of educational, training and collaborative networks, as well as highlighting significant accomplishments of the previous year within the framework of the Nuclear Security Plan and indicating programmatic goals and priorities …”

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Atomic hypocrisy peaks in Vienna

All this week the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  has held its annual  (62nd) General Conference in Vienna.

On 17 September, the junior Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan, told the conference “We live in an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world. We have seen the destabilising consequences when States pursue nuclear weapons. And we have worked together to prevent terrorists acquiring nuclear material”. (

This statement makes a lot of sense, until it is put in the context of what his own British Government is doing in wasting £205,000 m (£205 billion) of tax payers’ money of replacing the Trident nuclear WMD system, which makes the faux concern over nuclear weapons pure, unadulterated hypocrisy

To put the scale of this gross hypocrisy in context, Duncan asserted in Vienna that he UK had “already contributed £4.1 million this year to the Nuclear Security Fund,” and  urged all to “support the Agency’s work to help Member States implement robust nuclear security regimes.”

This ‘do as we say, not as we do’ policy cuts zero ice with the vast majority of sensible Governments, who want genuine global  nuclear disarmament, not shameful  finger-wagging from countries bristling with deadly nuclear weapons like the UK.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

UK atomic aficionados seduced from Russia with love


Last week much media attention was devoted to the British Security Service’s revelations - via Prime Minister May in Parliament – to what they claim happened when alleged Russian military intelligence (GRU) agents brought the deadly nerve agent Novichok into Britain in March to poison former double agent Sergei Skripal in the sleepy but historic regional city of Salisbury.(“US, Canada, France and Germany back UK over novichok attack: May wins support for claim Salisbury attack was perpetrated by Russian agents”; Guardian, 6 September 2018;

The day after the revelations in Parliament and simultaneous with the British Ambassador repeating the allegations in the United Nations Security Council in New York, another Russian  came to Britain with details of the desire by Russia to import another very dangerous  technology into the UK, with the capability to kill tens of thousands. But on this occasion the Russian, Kirill Komarov, chairman of the World Nuclear Association was talking about the legal import of nuclear, not poisonous gas technology, in a keynote presentation to open the WNA annual symposium in London. (“Harmony: From initiative to reality, 6 September 2018;

Komarov outlined the concrete steps being taken to help reach the goal of the Harmony initiative - to achieve a 25% share of world electricity production by 2050 through the addition of 1000 GWe of new capacity. Launched three years ago, Harmony encompasses three objectives - a level playing field for all clean-energy sources of electricity, harmonised regulatory processes, and an effective safety paradigm, the WNA reported

Kirill Komarov (Image: World Nuclear Association)

Opening World Nuclear Association Symposium 2018 in London, the Association’s current chairman, Kirill Komarov, stressed the purpose of this year’s event.

“The reason we have gathered here is to discuss how the global community could create the environment in which the Harmony plans for a 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2050, could become a reality,” Komarov told delegates, adding “We all understand that there is no sustainable future without nuclear as it is one of the most efficient, environmentally friendly energy sources, which provides electricity in a resilient and sustainable manner.”

Mr Komarov isalso  first deputy director-general for corporate development and international business at Russia’s Rosatom,

Progress towards the Harmony target were highlighted the launch last month of the WNA’s third annual edition of the World Nuclear Performance Report.

Evgeny Pakermanov, president of Rusatom Overseas -  a subsidiary of Rosatom-  highlighted the importance of international collaboration, particularly in work on innovative technologies. Rusatom Overseas has commissioned 13 new nuclear power units over the last 11 years, in China, India, Iran and Russia. Its current VVER portfolio includes 35 units. It has 60 units in operation and 41 at the project implementation stage. Novovoronezh II-1 - Rosatom’s first Gen III+ VVER Design - started commercial operation in February last year, and its second, Leningrad II-1 was grid connected in March this year.

Pakermanov described small modular reactor technology as “a truly innovative solution” both on land and at sea. Rosatom has 400 reactor years of experience in nuclear icebreakers, he said, and its Akademik Lomonosov will next year become the world’s first floating nuclear power plant to be commissioned. Next year, Rosatom will also commission the first nuclear icebreaker to be fully built in modern-day Russia. Arktika is the first of three vessels of Project 22220 which will be able to break through ice 3 meters thick as they escort vessels across the Arctic Ocean.

Work to close the nuclear fuel cycle, with the recycling of used nuclear fuel, is “the future of world nuclear energy”, Pakermanov said. For Rosatom, this includes MBIR - the multipurpose sodium-cooled fast neutron research reactor that is under construction at the site of the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors at Dmitrovgrad. This high-flux fast test reactor has “unique capabilities” and will be open to international participation, Pakermanov added. The same applies, he said, to the International Centre for Neutron Research - based on a high-flux research reactor PIK.

Rosatom commissioned the BN-800 fast neutron reactor at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in 2015 and work on the design of the “next Step” - BN-1200 - is nearing completion, he said.

Russia and China intend to develop long-term cooperation in fast neutron reactor technologies and will work together on a floating nuclear power plant, he said.

“The opportunities for partnerships and cooperation are much bigger than for competition,” he said, adding “Strong collaboration is a key driver for us to move towards a better future together.”

Sometime soon, the new generation of technologists who brought the planet the  Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in 1986, are keen to export their  technology to the UK.

I wonder how the nuclear-committed UK Government will react to the soothing seduction from their friends in Russia.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The unsung nuclear disarmers....and the British chemical weapons bomber

John McCain and Peter Melchett’s commitment to disarmament

David Lowry on McCain’s – and Trump’s – surprising support for nuclear disarmament, and John Marston on Melchett’s participation in a peace protest in East Anglia


Guardian, Thursday 6 September  2018

John McCain with his wife Cindy in 2008, the year he lost the presidential election to Barack Obama.

John McCain with his wife Cindy in 2008, the year he lost the presidential election to Barack Obama. Photograph: Bill Sikes/AP

Former Washington correspondent Godfrey Hodgson’s appreciation of the life’s contribution of Senator John McCain (Obituaries, 27 August) rightly concentrated on his strong political concerns over national security and defence, in the context of his experience as a PoW in Vietnam.

But there is one intriguing and politically brave position taken by McCain overlooked in his obits: his support for nuclear disarmament, a highly unusual stance in US politics, especially for a Republican presidential candidate.

Speaking during the 2008 US presidential election campaign to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, McCain surprised many listeners when he said “the United States should lead a global effort at nuclear disarmament”.

Although McCain lost that election to Barack Obama, the latter subsequently won the Nobel peace prize (somewhat prematurely) for his major speech in Prague a year later pledging to move towards nuclear disarmament, a posture also surprisingly endorsed by Donald Trump in his pre-presidential writings (with thanks to Joseph Cirincione, the president of Ploughshares Fund and the author of Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons, Los Angeles Times, 4 June 2008).
Dr David Lowry
Senior international research fellow, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

• I was very sorry to read of the organic farmer Peter Melchett’s death (Obituary, 4 September). He has been an inspiration in his concern for the environment through Greenpeace, the Soil Association and allied organisations. Perhaps less well known was his support when East Anglia became a prime nuclear target following the arrival of first-strike US bombers at RAF Sculthorpe. Volunteers took part in a perimeter wire-cutting protest over a period. For most it was their first experience of lawbreaking but the court appearance was made a little easier by the presence of this quiet, unassuming peer among us. It was not difficult to imagine the criticism he received elsewhere. It is to be hoped that one day before too long reckless world leaders like Putin and Trump will have to give way to the Peter Melchetts of this world.
John Marston
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

letter sent to the Times, on 5 September

Both the prime minister and leader of the opposition rightly and unequivocally condemned what Mrs May called the “despicable chemical weapons attack on the streets of Salisbury” in her statement to Parliament. (

She insisted to MPs it was totally unacceptable for a foreign state to send military operatives to another country and deploy chemical agent against civilians.

In so saying, she repeated what she had stressed on a visit to Copenhagen  on 9 April, that: "The UK utterly condemns the use of chemical weapons in any circumstances." (

That may be today's policy, but it hasn't always been so. 99 years ago, Britain attacked civilians in Russian villages with chemical weapons, under orders of Minister for War, Winston Churchill.

An astonishing  50,000 top secret ‘M’ Devices - an exploding shell containing a highly toxic gas called diphenylaminechloroarsine, developed at Porton Down chemical weapons centre  in Wiltshire - were  covertly shipped to Russia, and  British aerial attacks using them began on 27 August 1919, targeting the village of Emtsa, 120 miles south of Archangel.

So, as the righteous outrage against Mr Putin and his Government predictably escalates, it should remembered that the UK got its retaliation in first.

Interdependencies between civil and military nuclear infrastructures in the UK revealed

On Tuesday I attended the launch of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report at Chatham House think tank in London. WNISR is the pre-eminent independent analysis of  nuclear statistics- reactor construction, start ups, operation, closure and decommissioning. This year it includes a new policy section exploring the links between civil and military nuclear infrastructures, and their implications. At the Q&A, chaired by Jonathan Porritt, former chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission and former director of Friends of the Earth and currently executive director  of  Forum for the Future, I asked how might the plans of the China National Nuclear Corporation ( a state-owned enterprize that builds both reactors and m nuclear weapons in China) to finance , build and operate the proposed new reactor at Bradwell in Essex be compatible with the  merging of civil and military nuclear activities in the UK programme. One of the co-authors of the chapter republished in full below, Professor Andy Stirling, replied "We live in interesting times"!!!!
Indeed, and I recommend everyone reads the new 2018 edition of WNISR.

Military interests as drivers for lifetime extension and new-build?

Stephen Lovegrove, current Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence and former

Permanent Secretary at the Department for Energy and Climate Change responsible for negotiating the Hinkley Point C contracts, stated under questioning by the U.K. Parliament Public Accounts Committee754: “We are completing the build of the nuclear submarines, which carryconventional weaponry. We have at some point to renew the warheads, so there is very definitelyan opportunity here for the nation to grasp in terms of building up its nuclear skills. I donot think that that is going to happen by accident; it is going to require concerted Government action to make it happen.”

Interdependencies Between Civil and Military Nuclear Infrastructures
Military interests as drivers for lifetime extension and new-build?
The Odd Persistence of Nuclear Power
Why is it that nuclear power is proving surprisingly resistant in particular places around the world, to dramatically changing global energy market conditions and structures for electricity supply?690 Against a backdrop of decline in the worldwide nuclear industry as a whole, plans for plant life-extension and nuclear new-build remain major areas of investment in a few specific countries. Intense attachments persist to projects like Hinkley Point C in the United Kingdom (U.K.), for instance, despite: a delay standing presently at more than a decade; costs multiplying fivefold over original estimates; a series of still-unresolved technical difficulties; and demands for escalating government financial concessions and guarantees.691 Globally, successive issues of the WNISR show, how the relatively small number of continuing nuclear programs typically display a similar mix of severely deteriorating conditions and oddly dogged enthusiasm.
Although now increasingly replaced by the iconic status of other areas of innovation (like machine intelligence, synthetic biology, neuroscience and nanotechnology) one possible reason for the persistence of nuclear power in particular settings may relate to a residual effect of the past image of nuclear expertise as an epitome of scientific and technological prowess—and so a symbol of national standing.692
Yet it is surprising to see such persistent nuclear attachments, because nuclear energy has clearly become much less attractive, when compared with competing low-carbon options. Worldwide, nuclear is already significantly more expensive than major alternatives like solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind power—with the disadvantage growing fast (see also Nuclear Power vs. Renewable Energy Deployment).693 Available cost-effective energy resources from these renewables are huge,694 and their modularity, small unit size and short lead times typically make them a more rapid means to carbon emissions abatement.695 Where once nuclear advocates claimed that ‘firm’ (inflexibly-steady) nuclear output is an advantage, grid operators now recognize that new network technologies render the underlying idea of ‘base load’ power to be “outdated”.696 Many options exist to manage so-called intermittent power697 at a fraction of the growing renewable cost advantage.698
Technologies with such strikingly cumulative comparative disadvantages as nuclear would be abandoned in most other sectors. Therefore, serious questions arise as to why the declared commitments of some governments should remain so oddly intense around a nuclear option that under-performs so obviously across so many energy policy criteria.
Neglected Military Dimensions of Nuclear Power
Nuclear reactors, whether small or commercial-size, are the only effective means to produce crucial fissile materials for nuclear weapons, like plutonium-239. The fuel supply chain for nuclear power, and uranium enrichment in particular, is the source for high-enriched uranium, the other main strategic, weapons-usable fissile material. Further ingredients for various types of nuclear weapons, like tritium, are by-products of nuclear power. All these ‘material links’ have been acknowledged for many years and described in great detail. But less well appreciated in public debate, are a set of ‘industrial interdependencies’—involving the wider nuclear skills, education, research, design, engineering and industrial capabilities associated with civil nuclear industries, that are also essential in many ways to the sustaining or introduction of nuclear weapons programs or their associated platforms and infrastructures.699
Together, these material links and industrial interdependencies are important for the world civil nuclear industry. For instance, most reactor design traditions derive from past prioritization of military aims. Heavy water reactors and graphite-moderated designs like the Chernobyl-style RBMK or the French and U.K. natural uranium gas-graphite reactors were based on principles originally chosen to facilitate on-load refueling for production of plutonium required in nuclear weapons manufacture. Likewise, even the most modern variants of light water reactors are still built around basic engineering principles originally optimized for the confined spaces of nuclear-propelled submarines.700 Yet, even after many decades of opportunities to establish entirely new designs dedicated to civilian power production, these military-derived variants still account for almost all of the global civil nuclear power capacity worldwide. In fact, there exists no major commercial reactor design, whose basic configuration was optimized from first principles solely for safe or economic civilian power. A high proportion of leading designs for a currently much-vaunted ‘new generation’ of Small Modular Reactors or SMRs (see the chapter on SMRs in WNISR2017) relate even more closely to contemporary nuclear submarine propulsion reactors.701
perceived needs to maintain the naval nuclear propulsion industry is a major reason to continue with otherwise-declining civil nuclear power
Nor is there any sign that these longstanding connections are diminishing. An additional dimension to civil-military nuclear interdependencies has only come to light over recent years. This is the importance to government support of nuclear power in some countries of continuing commitments to build and maintain military, nuclear-propelled submarines.702 These machines are often identified as being among the most complex and demanding manufactured artefacts ever conceived. Security concerns are seen to require the sustaining of the entire range of necessary industrial capacities within a single country. Only in the last couple of years, are inside sources beginning to acknowledge that (even in large economies like that of the U.S.), it is difficult to sustain this military capability without a parallel civil nuclear power industry.703 High profile documents by industry bodies and senior policy figures openly urge that perceived needs to maintain the naval nuclear propulsion industry is a major reason to continue with otherwise-declining civil nuclear power.704 National achievement of nuclear submarine capabilities is also widely associated with global strategic leadership, for instance with former President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil stating in 2014 on a visit to the new Brazilian nuclear submarine facility: “The Brazilian naval force… have contributed decisively to our nation, towards our country integrating into the select group of five member countries of the Council of the United Nations Security dominating the submarine construction technology with nuclear propulsion”.705
There are, around the world, then, many major connections between civil and military nuclear industrial capabilities, skills, expertise and infrastructures. Furthermore, dependencies between civil and military nuclear are often greater than between nuclear-specific engineering and other industrial sectors.
Thus, if civilian nuclear power and its associated specialist practices are to be allowed (like many earlier technologies) to go obsolete, then the nuclear establishments of a small number of countries that maintain military nuclear ambitions that would disproportionately be the losers. Conversely, for those hoping for long-stalled reversal in either horizontal or vertical nuclear weapons proliferation706, it is possible that obsolescence of civil nuclear power as an energy source forms a potentially major global opportunity.
Broad Patterns in National Civil and Military Nuclear Ambitions
In all states with current and past nuclear weapons capabilities, parallel availability of the skills and industrial and research capacities now associated with civil nuclear power have been essential.707 The revenues arising from nuclear electricity sales have also been important, as part of these flow indirectly into supply chains and research, training and industrial systems that have joint civil and military applications.708 Some states (notably Israel and North Korea) have built modest military nuclear capabilities without directly pursuing civil nuclear power. But even here, existence of wider international nuclear industries (especially in sponsoring powers) has remained crucial.709
Countries like Canada, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland were all enthusiastic pioneers of civil nuclear power, who also entertained early nuclear military ambitions, but which each later relinquished nuclear weapons. And these linkages can also be found in the history of ostensibly civilian nuclear programs of currently non-nuclear weapons states including Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Japan, South Africa and South Korea. Likewise, such links are well acknowledged in contemporary politics around the projected nuclear programs of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The Economist for instance, argues of Saudi Arabia’s potential nuclear new-build program, that it makes “little economic sense”.710 The Saudi King has put this directly into a military context, in stating that “without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible”.711 Civil nuclear programs in Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, are held to be among the countries “most poised to seek advanced nuclear capabilities in response to a resurgent nuclear Iran”.712
if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible
One rough circumstantial reflection of these evident general civil-military nuclear connections can be seen in the coarse-grain structure of resonating nuclear and military enthusiasms around the world today. Figure 32 below illuminates broad overlapping patterns across all relevant countries, between general military standing, nuclear weapons status, nuclear submarine capabilities, global geopolitical profile and the intensity of declared civil nuclear ambitions (as expressed in data published by the leading nuclear industrial advocacy organization).
According to the positions asserted in national data published by the World Nuclear Association (WNA), the five largest-scale prospective nuclear new-build programs in the world are in four of the five ‘official’ nuclear weapons states (excepting France).713 India is also pursuing an ambitious nuclear new-build program. And France is an illuminating exception, in that the scale of its existing reliance on nuclear power in itself militates against further large-scale national expansion. So large is the existing French civil nuclear fleet, that the associated national engineering base also required for military purposes, is much less under threat from nuclear decline than in other countries. But the Le Monde newspaper nonetheless does still highlight “the ultimate question an expert dares asking”: “What would become of the credibility of our nuclear weapons program and our position at the UN [Security Council], if France were to renounce its [nuclear power] plants?”714
  1. Figure 32 | Circumstantial Relationships Between Reported Civil Nuclear Ambitions and Different Categories of International Military and Geopolitical Status (civil nuclear plans are based on WNA data) 715
Source: Andy Stirling, Phil Johnstone, WNISR 2018
The major state-held Russian nuclear construction and services company Rosatom is clear that the “[r]eliable provision of Russia’s defense capability is the main priority of the nuclear industry”.716 And in the U.S., the Nuclear Energy Institute, now strongly lobbies for subsidies for failing nuclear developments, on the grounds that abandonment of these will “stunt development of the nation’s defense nuclear complex”.717 Likewise, the pro-nuclear Environmental Progress group, highlights the national security implications of the U.S.A’s declining nuclear industry.718 Perhaps most significantly, former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, argued in 2011 already in favor719, and launched a report in 2017, which stated that “a strong domestic supply chain is needed to provide for nuclear Navy requirements. This supply chain has an inherent and very strong overlap with the commercial nuclear energy”.720 Accordingly, a memorandum leaked under the Trump administration in June 2018, reveals that recent regulatory measures to protect nuclear power reflect high-level perceptions that the civil nuclear industry is essential to national security, specifically including naval propulsion.721 Incidentally, the same month of June 2018, “several dozen retired generals and admirals, former State, Defense and Energy Department officials, three former chairmen of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and a sprinkling of former senators, governors, industrialists and other worthies”722 wrote a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry723, to commend him “for recognizing the important role our civil nuclear energy sector plays in bolstering America’s national security” and to urge him “to continue to take concrete steps to ensure the national security attributes of U.S. nuclear power plants are properly recognized by policymakers and are valued in U.S. electricity markets”. The authors also state that “the national security benefits of a strong domestic nuclear energy sector take many forms, many of which overlap and together are woven into the nation’s greater strength and resilience”. As example they are citing:
Several national security organizations, including our nuclear Navy and significant parts of the Department of Energy [DOE], benefit from a strong civil nuclear sector. Many of the companies that serve the civil nuclear sector also supply the nuclear Navy and major DOE programs.
In a stinging comment on the Perry letter, Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski, respectively former Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, write:
For years, the nuclear industry insisted that civilian nuclear power had nothing to do with weapons programs. That was then. Now, in a desperate attempt to keep no-longer-competitive nuclear plants from being shuttered, the industry claims there really has been a connection all along, and electricity customers should pay a premium to keep it going. It is one claim too many. (...)
The whole point of the body of the Perry letter is that there is a close connection between U.S. nuclear power and our nuclear weapons programs. Why should we think that this connection is not present in other countries?724
Evident in Figure 32 is a pattern under which, of the relatively few other countries in the world presenting themselves as pursuing the most ambitious civil nuclear new-build plans, eleven out of thirteen hold the status of being major (at least regional) military powers.725 With regard to the next tier of stated national ambitions for nuclear power, an association between civil nuclear and military interests is also apparent. Of 23 countries widely designated as ‘major regional powers’ or above, only Australia has never developed, or is not seeking to develop, a civil nuclear program. And among those in this group who have developed such programs in the past, only Germany and Taiwan are presented by the WNA to be without any nuclear new-build programs.
having nuclear power means that we can manufacture nuclear weapons within a certain period of time
Given the complexities of global affairs, it must be expected that any general pattern like this will include exceptions. That the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the only example in the world of a country displaying high stated civil nuclear ambitions that is not at least a regional military power, is actually an indication of the striking nature of the broader patterns shown in Figure 31. And it is notable in this regard, that the UAE is also at the geographical center of what is currently one of the most intense areas of regional military tension—and whose stated ambitious nuclear plans are in any case somewhat performative. Likewise, North Korea is already a nuclear-armed state, which is not formally categorized as a regional military power. But this involves other well-known extraordinary circumstances, implicating arguably the single most acute military nuclear stand-off in the contemporary world. On the other hand, Germany is the only regional military power, which WNA acknowledges to be actively scaling back its civil nuclear programs. This is also a special case, in that the ‘Energiewende’ policy in Germany has been forced by globally distinctive social mobilization.726 In Japan, the current reigning back of plans for nuclear power conditioned by the even more unique political consequences of the Fukushima catastrophe, is not reflected in WNA projections.727 And here, civil-military links are evidently salient, for instance, in senior Liberal Democrat politician Shigeru Ishiba’s statement that “Japan should never let go of nuclear power plants. Because having nuclear power means that we can manufacture nuclear weapons within a certain period of time and it can be a deterrent”.728
The Case of the U.K.
The U.K. was one of the first developers of both nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power. With early civil nuclear facilities documented to have been central to military plutonium production729, joint civil-military nuclear ambitions are especially relevant in the U.K. Military nuclear standing is frequently emphasized as being central to elite British political identities on the world stage:730 suggestive of the cherished status of a country that “punches above its weight”;731 and indirectly linked to the “seat at the top table” of permanent membership of the UN Security Council.732
So, it is no surprise that the U.K. should currently be pursuing declared nuclear new-build commitments that are exceptional in Europe (and in proportion to its system, the largest in the world); and with the then-responsible minister insisting in 2016 that “nuclear power is what this Government is all about for the next twenty years”.733
It is long since the U.K. undertook any kind of full policy analysis systematically to justify its nuclear commitments. The U.K. Parliament’s National Audit Office (NAO) departed from normal procedure by explicitly criticizing in 2017 that Government, in its review of the proposed Hinkley Point C project, “has not formally reviewed and consulted on its published strategic case for nuclear power since the publication of the 2008 white paper”.734 And, in addition, this last attempt to justify the current nuclear program, was itself based on a consultation process that was successfully challenged by judicial review for being too cursory.735
Thus, the most recent major U.K. energy policy initiative that was not subject to this kind of general formal skepticism goes back even further, to 2003. And, based on a far more comprehensive analysis, the conclusion of this last fully-considered U.K. Government energy white paper was that nuclear power is “unattractive”.736 Openly unwelcome to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair737, it was this finding that was over-ridden by the cursory white paper of 2008 in a process acknowledged by Parliamentarians738 and nuclear proponents 739 alike, to have been extraordinarily secretive.
A question that arises unusually explicitly and specifically in the U.K. case, then, is what these powerful “strategic factors” might be, that have so emphatically trumped stated energy policy considerations?
Again, the NAO cast some light on this, observing in their 2008 report on the U.K. Trident nuclear weapons program that “[o]ne assumption of the future deterrent programme is that the United Kingdom submarine industry will be sustainable and that the costs of supporting it will not fall directly on the future deterrent programme”.740
There is one explanation that is notably consistent with both NAO’s 2008 Trident and 2017 Hinkley Point reports. This is, that the oddly-unspecified “unquantified strategic benefits” that the NAO observed in 2017 to be driving U.K. Government support for otherwise uneconomic civil nuclear power, relates directly to the military nuclear submarine capabilities that they assumed in 2008 to be underwritten from other sources.741
These official statements by the U.K.’s leading public audit body confirm a picture that is highly visible in defense debates, but remarkably undiscussed in energy policy. With heavily redacted documents released under freedom of information legislation expressing strong anxieties742, a host of other defense policy discussions clearly state that the U.K. nuclear ‘submarine industrial base’ would not be sustainable, if a decision were taken to discontinue civil nuclear power.743 Statements from U.K. submarine industry sources note incentives to “mask” the costs of this military program behind the related civilian industrial infrastructure.744 Submarine reactor manufacturer Rolls Royce recently dedicated a major report in large part to the argument that a program of submarine-derived small modular reactors should be adopted in U.K. energy policy in order to “relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability” on the military side.745
seek a recognisable career pathway between the civil and defence sectors to ease transfer between the two
These civil-military links are also highly visible in U.K. industrial strategy, with priority given to a nuclear ‘sector deal’ spanning both sectors together and with many new agencies and programs openly dedicated to achieving synergies between U.K. submarine and civil nuclear programs. The nuclear sector deal is particularly focused on facilitating ‘mobility’ between the civil and defense nuclear workforce as a key strategy to manage the skills challenge. It is stated in “The Nuclear Sector Deal”746 that “the sector is committed to increasing the opportunities for transferability between civil and defense industries and generally increasing mobility to ensure resources are positioned at required locations” and that 18 percent of projected skills gaps can be met by ‘transferability and mobility’. The document also states that the skills gap can be met through “greater alignment of the civil and defense sectors with increased proactive two-way transfer of people and knowledge. As the military service sector tends to be age and nationality limited, we propose that we actively seek a recognisable career pathway between the civil and defence sectors to ease transfer between the two”.
The Nuclear Skills Strategic Plan” outlines: “Demand for competent people is forecast to rise from 78,000 full time equivalent people (FTEs) in 2015 to 111,000 by 2021, requiring a total industry inflow of 9,000 per year” which includes both civil and defense activities. Precise numbers on defense requirements are not given in latest skills documentation and important caveats are required. One is that it is acknowledged that “in the civil sector, the new-build programme means that the main challenge is in the ‘generic skills’ element. For defence, and research and development, the challenge is more located in the area of subject matter experts”. While generic skills are not specific to nuclear, the defense industry has more requirement for nuclear-specific skills in the long term. Also the analysis of future skills “averages across the industry and will not reflect movement within the industry”.747
This recent emphasis on mobility came after earlier statements on the severe crisis in the nuclear submarine industry. As stated by Grimes et al: “Across the enterprise the availability of deep specialist expertise in key and suitably qualified staff appears to be at the bare minimum necessary to deliver the programme”.748 There are additional pressures on the defense nuclear program as most workers have to be British nationals for security reasons and for cuts MoD budgets contribute to pressures on the submarine industry.749
These included acknowledgements of overlaps and shared skills between defense and civil and the benefits of civil engagement for defense, as illustrated by Rolls Royce: “Skills are considered to be transferable between military propulsion and civil programmes”, where “a larger involvement in the broader [civil] industry will also have a spillover benefit to military capability through skill development and experience exchange750 as well as admissions that the decline of civil nuclear has exacerbated skills challenges related to defense.
As acknowledged by the Keep Our Future Afloat campaign (KOFAC), “the decline of the UK civil nuclear programme has forced the military nuclear programme, and in particular the nuclear submarine programme, to develop and fund its own expertise and personnel in order to remain operational”.751 Additionally, in terms of Research & Development (R&D) support, it has been noted that “the MOD’s [Ministry of Defence] programme had been underwritten by civil nuclear research that has over the years been dismantled and commercialised”, where the “(…) expertise these activities generated has atrophied”.752
Grimes et al, are providing specific recommendations for managing the capabilities crisis in the nuclear submarine industry through further engagement with the civil sector. This includes that “the programme seek imaginative methods to better engage with the emergent civil new-build programme on nuclear matters to the benefit of Defence”, that “the Research Programme Group establish a workstrand to look at leveraging to maximum effect civil nuclear investment”, and that “MOD revisit the possible option of utilising other nuclear facilities including those in the civil sector”.753
Stephen Lovegrove, current Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defense and former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Energy and Climate Change responsible for negotiating the Hinkley Point C contracts, stated under questioning by the U.K. Parliament Public Accounts Committee754: “We are completing the build of the nuclear submarines, which carry conventional weaponry. We have at some point to renew the warheads, so there is very definitely an opportunity here for the nation to grasp in terms of building up its nuclear skills. I do not think that that is going to happen by accident; it is going to require concerted Government action to make it happen.”755
It is these remarkable conjunctions that have helped lead to reports in the U.K.756 and international757 press, that what is underway in the U.K. is, in effect, an unacknowledged cross-subsidy (perhaps amounting to several tens of billions of pounds)758 away from electricity consumers and to the benefit of military nuclear interests. Whatever the actual figures may prove to be amidst many complexities and uncertainties, the prima facie evidence seems clear that future U.K. electricity prices are being raised significantly higher than would otherwise be the case, at least partly in order indirectly to support military nuclear infrastructures by enabling a flow of resources into joint civil-military nuclear engineering supply chains and wider shared provisions for nuclear skills, research, design and regulation.
The attraction of this strategy for the U.K. Government appears to lie in the triple aim of: (1) finding a means to cover the otherwise insupportable costs of this major military commitment; (2) whilst keeping the resulting expenditures away from inconvenient public scrutiny; and (3) entirely off the public books. But what is perhaps most remarkable, is that these evidently powerful pressures with apparently major impacts, remain entirely undiscussed anywhere in U.K. energy policy or related media debates.
Nuclear Power, Nuclear Weapons and Democracy759
Nuclear power is a controversial and expensive technology with a number of adverse wider characteristics, that is increasingly recognized to be growing obsolete by comparison with competing low-carbon energy technologies, yet which continues to receive intense continuing strong government support in several places around the world. The reasons for this are seriously under-documented and under-scrutinized in energy policy arenas. Given the volume, depth and ostensible rigor of detailed energy analysis around the world, this substantive gap in discussion is remarkable.760
Despite the strong qualitative evidence reviewed in this chapter, analysis of interdependencies, cross-subsidization and strategic complementarities between civil nuclear power and the military sector (especially the nuclear submarine industries), remains undiscussed. Firm quantitative evidence for such links remains lacking, because necessary disaggregated information on flows of revenue, capital, employment and skills are not in the public domain. Yet the secretive nature of the forces at work, is evidently helping prevent definitive conclusions over the scale of the associated impacts on military or energy strategies (see Figure 33).
Source: Robin Grimes et al, “Royal Navy Nuclear Reactor Test Facility Review” Ministry of Defence, 28 October 2014
What is urgently required in order to resolve this picture more clearly is the publication of currently missing crucial data concerning the nature and scale of the flows and interdependencies between civil and military nuclear industries, and a rigorous process of scrutiny involving probing interrogation, dedicated research and robust analysis.
A series of questions remain open. To what extent are current continuing commitments to nuclear power, in particular countries around the world, due to national attachments to parallel military nuclear infrastructures? What is the magnitude of public provision for a shared civil and military strategic base in education, skills, research and key industrial and supply-chain capabilities? How much of the costs of these shared underpinnings for military nuclear ambitions, are being concealed by otherwise uneconomic joint civil-military nuclear infrastructures? How much cheaper might low carbon electricity services be to consumers, if these military pressures for nuclear lock-in were removed, easing a shift to energy efficiency and competitive renewable energy? And if this lock-in is escaped, what opportunities are presented by the current demise of nuclear power, towards also reducing global exposures to military nuclear threats

Dr Phil Johnstone is a Research Fellow in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of
Sussex, U.K.. He has carried out research in a number of areas while at SPRU including the governance
of discontinuation, disruptive innovation in the energy sector, industrial policy, and
the role of war and the military in technological development. He has researched nuclear issues
for the past ten years, with a particular focus on the U.K.’s nuclear new-build program. He is
co-organizer of the ESRC seminar series ‘nuclear futures’ which focusses on nuclear waste in
the U.K., and along with colleagues, he has given evidence on nuclear matters to inquiries conducted
by the Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), The Welsh Affairs
Committee, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). He is a member of
the Sussex Energy Group (SEG) and was the Tyndall Centre coordinator for the University of
Sussex from 2014-2016.

Professor Andy Stirling is a Professor in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) and co-director of
the STEPS Centre at the University of Sussex. He has a background in the natural sciences, a
master’s degree in archaeology and social anthropology (Edinburgh) and a doctorate in science
and technology policy (Sussex). An interdisciplinary researcher on the politics of science
and technology, Andy formerly worked in the environment and peace movements and has also
collaborated with a range of governmental, business and civil society organizations. A fellow of
the U.K. Academy of Social Science, he has served on several U.K. and EU policy advisory committees
on issues around energy, chemicals, biotechnology, environment and science policy.