Saturday, 29 December 2018

Why the British atomic archives should not remain closed

Letter sent to The Guardian:

I agree with academic researcher Sue Rabbitt Roff ('Hiding Britain’s H-bomb secrets' letter, 27 December; that researchers into the UK’s nuclear history should be alarmed that the publicly-funded Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has ordered certain sensitive documents to be withheld from the regular release of official s documents (Guardian, 24 December;'British nuclear archive files withdrawn without explanation'; that always takes place in the final week of the year from the National Archives ( Guardian reports, 28 December).

A decade ago I undertook special research at the NA into the commitments made by the three supporting nuclear-weapons states (UK,USA, and Soviet Union) during the negotiating record of the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

A foreign office memorandum prepared in advance of the visit to London of the then Soviet premier, Alexei Kosygin, in February 1967, included the following final paragraph:

“We assume that the Soviet Union regard, as we do, the proposed review conference (for the NPT) as being an adequate assurance  to the non-nuclears that the military nuclear powers are serious about the need for action on nuclear disarmament.”

The NPT committed each of its signatories, inter alia, to “undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

In the fifty years since, the Soviet Union/Russia has participated successively in the SALT, START and INF nuclear disarmament negotiations. Meantime, the UK has not taken part in any multilateral or bilateral nuclear reduction or disarmament talks.

Future researchers may wish to find out from the atomic Archives why not. Will they be able to do so?

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