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myth of the peaceful atom

'Pro-nuclear environmentalists' in denial about power/weapons connections

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

It takes a moment to tell a lie but it can take much longer to deconstruct one. So it is with this deconstruction of claims by pro-nuclear propagandists that "nuclear energy prevents the spread of nuclear weapons" and that "peace is furthered when a nation embraces nuclear power".

As discussed in Nuclear Monitor #850, nuclear industry bodies (such as the US Nuclear Energy Institute) and supporters (such as former US energy secretary Ernest Moniz) are openly acknowledging the connections between nuclear power and weapons ‒ connections they have denied for decades.1 Those connections are evident in almost all of the weapons states, in numerous countries that have pursued but not built weapons, and in potential future weapons states such as Saudi Arabia.2

Ideally, acknowledgement of power/weapons connections would lead to redoubled efforts to build a firewall between civilian and military nuclear programs ‒ strengthened safeguards, curbs on enrichment and reprocessing, and so on. But that's not how this debate in playing out. Industry insiders and supporters drawing attention to the connections are quite comfortable about them ‒ they just want increased subsidies and support for their domestic civilian nuclear industry lest 'national security' and 'national defense' be undermined.

Some continue to deny the power/weapons connections even though the connections are plain for all to see and are now being acknowledged by a growing number of nuclear insiders and supporters. The silliest of the deniers are those who self-describe as 'pro-nuclear environmentalists'. One such person is Ben Heard ‒ a paid nuclear lobbyist in Australia whose so-called environment group 'Bright New World' accepts secret corporate donations.3,4

An article by Heard attacks the Australian Conservation Foundation for its failure to acknowledge the "obvious distinction" between nuclear power and weapons and for "co-opting disarmament … toward their ideological campaigns against peaceful science and technology".5

The Australian Conservation Foundation has actively supported the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons since ICAN was formed in Australia in 2007. ACF's nuclear-free campaigner Dave Sweeney was involved in the foundation of ICAN and has been on the ICAN Australia Board from 2007 to the present.

Heard's response is to note that the Nobel Committee "is well aware of the role of technology in driving peace" and that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. But the Nobel Committee's 2005 citation says nothing about nuclear power "driving peace" ‒ whatever that means ‒ and it doesn't endorse or criticize nuclear power.6

The citation singled out then IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei ‒ the Peace Prize was awarded "in two equal parts" to the IAEA and ElBaradei. The citation noted that ElBaradei "has stood out as an unafraid advocate of new measures to strengthen" the non-proliferation regime. During his tenure as IAEA Director General, ElBaradei was strikingly honest about the limitations of the so-called safeguards system. He noted that the IAEA's basic rights of inspection are "fairly limited", that the safeguards system suffers from "vulnerabilities" and "clearly needs reinforcement", that efforts to improve the system have been "half-hearted", and that the safeguards system operates on a "shoestring budget ... comparable to that of a local police department ".7

In his Nobel Lecture, ElBaradei said: "We must ... strengthen the verification system. IAEA inspections are the heart and soul of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. To be effective, it is essential that we are provided with the necessary authority, information, advanced technology, and resources. And our inspections must be backed by the UN Security Council, to be called on in cases of non-compliance."6

There's nothing about the limitations of safeguards in Heard's article. He has never said anything about the limitations let alone made the slightest contribution towards resolving them.

Far from endorsing Heard's claim about the "obvious" distinctions between nuclear power and weapons, ElBaradei noted in his Nobel Lecture that under the current system, any country has the right to develop operations for producing nuclear materials for civilian uses "but in doing so, it also masters the most difficult steps in making a nuclear bomb."8

Consumption and production of fissile material

Heard says the anti-nuclear movement "simply ignore that the US nuclear power sector was integral in the destruction of no less than 16,000 former Soviet nuclear warheads under a program known as 'Megatons to Megawatts'."5 That's another lie ‒ the anti-nuclear movement hasn't ignored the program.

Heard ignores the production of fissile material in civilian nuclear programs:

  • The amount of civilian plutonium (almost all of it produced in power reactors) grows at a rate of about 70 tonnes per year.9 That amount of reactor-grade, weapons-usable plutonium10 would suffice to build about 7,000 weapons.
  • As of January 2017, the global stockpile of separated civilian plutonium (i.e. separated from spent fuel by reprocessing) was about 290 tonnes (enough for about 29,000 weapons).11
  • A May 2015 report written for the International Panel on Fissile Materials found that as of the end of 2013, civilian stockpiles of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium amounted to over 50,000 weapons-equivalents.12 The weapons-equivalents figure jumps dramatically (to several hundred thousand) if plutonium in spent fuel is included.13

Nuclear power promotes peace?

Heard claims that nuclear power promotes peace and uses the two Koreas to illustrate his argument: "The South is a user and exporter of nuclear power, signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, and possesses zero nuclear warheads. The North has zero nuclear power reactors, is not a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, and is developing and testing nuclear weapons."5

Likewise, Michael Shellenberger from the pro-nuclear lobby group 'Environmental Progress' claims that: "One of FOE-Greenpeace's biggest lies about nuclear energy is that it leads to weapons. Korea demonstrates that the opposite is true: North Korea has a nuclear bomb and no nuclear energy, while South Korea has nuclear energy and no bomb."14

Heard and Shellenberger ignore the fact that North Korea uses what is calls an 'experimental power reactor' (based on the UK Magnox power reactor design) to produce plutonium for weapons.15 They ignore the fact that North Korea acquired enrichment technology from Pakistan's A.Q. Khan network, who stole the blueprints from URENCO, the consortium that provides enrichment services for the nuclear power industry.15 They ignore the fact that North Korea's reprocessing plant is based on the design of the Eurochemic plant in Belgium, which provided reprocessing services for the nuclear power industry.15

Heard and Shellenberger also ignore South Korea's history of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons, a history entwined with the country's development of nuclear power. For example, the nuclear power program provided (and still provides) a rationale for South Korea's pursuit of reprocessing technology.16

Nicholas Miller's article in International Security

Echoing Shellenberger's claim that "nuclear energy prevents the spread of nuclear weapons"17, Heard writes: "Peace is furthered when a nation embraces nuclear power, because it makes that nation empirically less likely to embark on a nuclear weapons program. That is the finding of a 2017 study published in the peer-reviewed journal International Security."5 That's a lie twice over. Firstly, it isn't true. Secondly, Heard's assertion isn't supported by the International Security journal article, written by Nicholas Miller from Dartmouth College.18

Miller's article does however downplay the power/weapons connections. He writes: "In contrast to the conventional wisdom, this article argues that the link between nuclear energy programs and proliferation is overstated. Although such programs increase the technical capacity of a state to build nuclear weapons, they also have important countervailing political effects that limit the odds of proliferation. Specifically, nuclear energy programs (1) increase the likelihood that a parallel nuclear weapons program is detected and attracts outside non-proliferation pressures, and (2) increase the costliness of nonproliferation sanctions."

However, much of the information in Miller's article undermines his argument. In Miller's own words, "more countries pursued nuclear weapons in the presence of a nuclear energy program than without one", "the annual probability of starting a weapons program is more than twice as high in countries with nuclear energy programs, if one defines an energy program as having an operating power reactor or one under construction", and countries that pursued nuclear weapons while they had a nuclear energy program were "marginally more likely" to acquire nuclear weapons (almost twice as likely if North Korea is considered to have had a nuclear energy program while it pursued weapons).

Miller notes that France, South Africa, India, and Pakistan all acquired nuclear weapons while their energy programs were ongoing, and he notes that Argentina, Brazil, India, Iran and Pakistan began pursuing nuclear weapons after a nuclear energy program had already been initiated.

Miller cites recent studies that find that "states are more likely to pursue or acquire nuclear weapons when they have greater numbers of peaceful nuclear cooperation agreements with other states (including agreements related to nuclear energy production), receive sensitive nuclear assistance, are recipients of technical aid on the fuel cycle from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), or have greater latent nuclear capacity (e.g., uranium deposits, nuclear scientists, and chemical engineers)."

Leaving aside some of Miller's questionable arguments, his article is a reasonable primer on the manifold and repeatedly-demonstrated connections between nuclear power and weapons.

Miller's focus is on the pursuit of nuclear weapons so he is silent about the ongoing connections between power and weapons in existing weapons states ‒ connections such as those loudly trumpeted by nuclear advocates in the US and the UK in their recent efforts to secure further support for ailing civilian nuclear industries1; or India's refusal to put much of its 'civilian' nuclear industry under IAEA safeguards.

Miller also has little to say about research reactor programs and their connections to both nuclear power and weapons.19 Yet that is an important part of the story. To give one example: India's first nuclear weapon test used plutonium produced in the CIRUS (Canada‒India-Reactor-United-States) research reactor and that plutonium was ostensibly separated for India's fast breeder power program.20

Downplaying the connections

Miller's article includes a reasonable account of the troubling connections between nuclear power and weapons ‒ so how does he downplay the connections? He conducts a quantitative analysis concerning nuclear energy programs (reactors under construction or operating) and the pursuit of weapons. In so doing, much relevant information is cast overboard, such as real or feigned interest in nuclear power facilitating the pursuit of weapons even if construction of power reactors never began.

Even so, much of his data contradicts his conclusions. His simple count of countries pursuing weapons with or without a nuclear energy program from 1954 to the present yields these results:

  • Nuclear energy program during pursuit of weapons: 10 countries (59%)
  • No nuclear energy program during pursuit of weapons: 7 countries (41%)

As discussed below, at least two countries listed in Miller's 'no nuclear energy program' category ‒ Australia and Iraq ‒ could be included in the other category in which case the 59:41 ratio becomes 71:29, a ratio of more than 2:1.

Another difficulty with Miller's quantitative analysis is that it yields contradictory and inexplicable results such as these:

1. The annual probability of starting a weapons program is more than twice as high in countries with an operating power reactor or one under construction (a statistically-significant finding).

2. The annual probability of starting a weapons program is somewhat lower in countries with operating power reactors compared to countries without them (a statistically non-significant finding).

So why does Miller conclude that "nuclear energy programs do not significantly increase the likelihood of proliferation"? Why does he privilege the second of those findings when only the first is statistically significant? Why privilege the finding that excludes countries with power reactors under construction (but not in operation) when the inclusion of such countries provides a fuller, more accurate assessment of the power/weapons connections? It seems he bases his conclusions on the findings he likes and downplays those he dislikes.

Miller produces a series of 'logistic regression models' to map the raw data against potentially confounding variables such as economic and industrial capacity. He concludes that "although statistical power may be an issue, the data at hand do not make a strong case for a large, positive effect of nuclear energy programs, as the conventional wisdom would predict." But within the findings, conventional wisdom can be found. The only statistically-significant finding arising from the models is a positive link between nuclear energy programs and the pursuit of weapons ‒ a problem Miller circumvents by momentarily adopting a stricter definition of statistical significance!

Countries that have built nuclear weapons

Miller finds that among 17 countries that pursued nuclear weapons from 1954 to the present (others put the number higher21), they were more likely to actually build weapons if they had a nuclear energy program (defined as a power reactor in operation or under construction). For countries with a nuclear energy program, 44% developed weapons (4 out of 9 countries); for countries without a nuclear energy program, 37.5% developed weapons (3 out of 8 countries).

Once again, there is a disconnect between Miller's findings and his conclusions. And the disconnect is greater if North Korea is considered to have had a nuclear energy program while it pursued weapons. Miller writes: "If one instead codes North Korea as pursuing nuclear weapons with an energy program, the acquisition rate for countries with energy programs would be 50 percent, versus 28.5 percent for countries without energy programs. This is a substantial difference in success rate, and it is in line with the conventional wisdom."

The Dartmouth College media release announcing the publication of Miller's article asserts that "countries that pursued nuclear weapons under the cover of an energy program have not been significantly more likely to acquire nuclear weapons, when compared to countries that seek nuclear weapons without an energy program."22 Yet Miller's own count finds an increase, rising to a near-doubling if North Korea is considered to have had a nuclear energy program. Once again it seems he is basing his conclusions on the findings he likes and downplaying those he doesn't.

Miller goes on to note that using different codings (country categorizations) "there is little support for the conventional wisdom" and he states that "the evidence that a nuclear energy program is associated with a higher success rate is inconsistent and sensitive at best."

All the logistic regression models in the world don't alter the fact that nuclear power/weapons connections are multifaceted, repeatedly demonstrated, disturbing and dangerous:23

  • Nuclear power programs facilitated the successful pursuit of weapons in four countries (France, India, Pakistan, South Africa) according to Miller (and North Korea could be added to that list) and have provided many other countries with a latent weapons capability.
  • Power programs have provided ongoing support for weapons programs to a greater or lesser degree in seven of the nine current weapons states (the exceptions being Israel and North Korea).
  • The direct use of power reactors to produce plutonium for weapons in all or all-but-one of the declared weapons states (and possibly other countries, e.g. India and Pakistan).
  • The use of power reactors to produce tritium for weapons in the US (and possibly other countries, e.g. India).
  • Power programs (or real or feigned interest in nuclear power) legitimizing enrichment and reprocessing programs that have fed proliferation.
  • Power programs (or real or feigned interest in nuclear power) legitimizing research (reactor) programs which can lead (and have led) to weapons proliferation.
  • And last but not least, the training of experts for nuclear power programs whose expertise can be (and has been) used in weapons programs.

As a counterfactual, how would nuclear weapons proliferation have unfolded if nuclear power had never existed? There would be far less fissile material in existence (several hundred thousand weapons-equivalents). Far fewer nuclear experts. The three pathways to weapons (power, research, or secret programs) would be reduced to two (and the remaining two pathways would be more difficult to pursue). There would be far fewer latent nuclear weapons states. There would be fewer nuclear weapons states. There would be fewer nuclear weapons.

Conversely, let's imagine a significant expansion of nuclear power. Former US Vice President Al Gore said during a 2006 interview: "For eight years in the White House, every weapons-proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a civilian reactor program. And if we ever got to the point where we wanted to use nuclear reactors to back out a lot of coal … then we'd have to put them in so many places we'd run that proliferation risk right off the reasonability scale. And we'd run short of uranium, unless they went to a breeder cycle or something like it, which would increase the risk of weapons-grade material being available."24

Errors and omissions

Miller's downplaying of the power/weapons connections is weaker still when his errors are corrected. He claims that Australia had no nuclear energy program while it pursued nuclear weapons. In fact, Australia's pursuit of weapons was intimately linked to the pursuit of nuclear power.25 For example, Prime Minister John Gorton pushed for a power reactor in the late 1960s and early '70s and later said: "We were interested in this thing because it could provide electricity to everybody and it could, if you decided later on, it could make an atomic bomb."26

If forced to put Iraq's weapons program into just one category, it would undoubtedly be classified as a secret program rather than one pursued under the cover of nuclear power or research. But therein lies a serious problem with Miller's quantitative analysis: numerous weapons programs defy a simple, singular classification. At various stages Iraq pursued all three pathways to weapons: a research reactor program (disrupted by repeated military strikes on its research reactors to prevent weapons proliferation), real or feigned interest in nuclear power, and a secret weapons program.27

Real or feigned interest in nuclear power provided the rationale to send hundreds of Iraqi scientists overseas for training and many of those scientists were put to work in the weapons program.27 According to Khidhir Hamza, a nuclear scientist involved in Iraq's weapons program: "Acquiring nuclear technology within the IAEA safeguards system was the first step in establishing the infrastructure necessary to develop nuclear weapons. In 1973, we decided to acquire a 40-megawatt research reactor, a fuel manufacturing plant, and nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, all under cover of acquiring the expertise needed to eventually build and operate nuclear power plants and produce and recycle nuclear fuel."27 (emphasis added)

Miller says Japan has not actively pursued nuclear weapons ‒ but Japan's reprocessing program suggests it has actively pursued (and achieved) a latent weapons capability. The reprocessing program provides Japan with separated, weapons-usable plutonium, and stockpiles could skyrocket if Rokkasho proceeds to operation. Rokkasho will also produce recycled uranium that could soften the blow in the event of Japan pursuing weapons and having uranium imports disrupted.

Miller says "there is strong reason to believe … that Japan's nuclear energy program has served as an additional brake on a nuclear weapons program" because the power program would likely be severely disrupted by nuclear trade sanctions in the event of Japan pursuing weapons. But he is silent about the implications of the US-India deal: based on that precedent, countries such as Japan and South Korea (i.e. US allies) might reasonably expect that sanctions resulting from the pursuit and acquisition of weapons would be manageable and short-lived.

One of the three 'policy implications' discussed in the conclusion to Miller's article is that "the United States should seek to revive its role as a nuclear supplier, because doing so would provide greater leverage over countries with nuclear energy programs that can be used to enforce nonproliferation". But the US has done nothing to curb Japan's reprocessing program and its stockpiling of separated plutonium. And the US-India deal has legitimized India's weapons program, worsened the South Asian nuclear arms race, legitimized nuclear trade with other non-NPT states (e.g. China's support for Pakistan's nuclear program), and created a precedent that could encourage other countries to pursue weapons.

Miller argues that the US should not insist that nuclear customer countries forego enrichment or reprocessing because that "gold standard" potentially reduces US leverage over other countries' nuclear programs. And why would the US want leverage? To stop countries pursuing enrichment or reprocessing, primarily. At worst, Miller's arguments are as silly and circular as those of Heard and Shellenberger.

More information: Nuclear Monitor #804, 28 May 2015, 'The myth of the peaceful atom',


1. Nuclear Monitor #850, 7 Sept 2017, 'Nuclear power, weapons and 'national security'',

2. Nuclear Monitor #854, 4 Dec 2017, 'Is Saudi Arabia going nuclear?',

3. Friends of the Earth, 'Ben Heard and the fake environment group 'Bright New World' that accepts secret corporate donations',


5. Ben Heard, 12 Dec 2017, 'Australian Conservation Foundation leverages peace prize against peaceful technology',

6. IAEA, 2005, '2005 Nobel Peace Prize',

7. The relevant articles and transcripts are no longer posted on the IAEA website but are available from

8. Mohamed ElBaradei, 10 Dec 2005, 'Nobel Lecture',

9. David Albright and Kimberly Kramer, 2005, 'Plutonium Watch: Tracking Plutonium Inventories',


11. International Panel on Fissile Materials, 'Fissile material stocks',

12. Zia Mian and Alexander Glaser, 2015, 'Global Fissile Material Report 2015: Nuclear Weapon and Fissile Material Stockpiles and Production', International Panel on Fissile Materials,

13. Institute for Science and International Security, 1 Jan 2005, 'Global Stocks of Nuclear Explosive Material – End 2003 (Updated 2005)', Chapters I and II,

14. Michael Shellenberger, 16 Oct 2017, 'Enemies of the Earth: Unmasking the Dirty War Against Clean Energy in South Korea by Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Greenpeace',

15. David Lowry, 26 July 2016, 'What Theresa May forgot: North Korea used British technology to build its nuclear bombs',

16. Nuclear Threat Initiative, 'South Korea',

17. Michael Shellenberger, 30 Oct 2017, 'Saving Power in Danger: Michael Shellenberger Keynote Address to IAEA',

18. Nicholas L. Miller, 2017, 'Why Nuclear Energy Programs Rarely Lead to Proliferation', International Security 42, No. 2, pp.40-77,

19. 'Research Reactors & Nuclear Weapons', 2002, Paper prepared for Medical Association for the Prevention of War',

20. International Panel on Fissile Materials, 2010, 'Fast Breeder Reactor Programs: History and Status',

21. Institute for Science and International Security, 'Nuclear Weapons Programs Worldwide: An Historical Overview', accessed 26 May 2015,

22. Dartmouth College, 6 Nov 2017, 'Nuclear energy programs do not increase likelihood of proliferation, Dartmouth study finds',

23. For references to literature on power/weapons connections, see and

24. David Roberts 10 May 2006, 'An interview with accidental movie star Al Gore',

25. Friends of the Earth Australia, 'The push for nuclear weapons in Australia 1950s-1970s',

26. Pilita Clark, 1 Jan 1999, "PM's Story: Very much alive… and unfazed", Sydney Morning Herald.

27. Khidhir Hamza, Sep/Oct 1998, 'Inside Saddam's Secret Nuclear Program', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 54, No. 5,

The myth of proliferation-resistant nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

One of the most significant nuclear developments of 2017 has been the open acknowledgement by some prominent nuclear insiders and advocates of the connections between nuclear power and weapons. That's a 180-degree about-face from the usual denial of the power-weapons connections. Those acknowledgements (covered in detail in Nuclear Monitor #8501) are most obvious in the US and the UK: the contribution of the civil nuclear industry to maintaining the weapons industry is being used as a justification to increase government support for the civil industry.2

There are still some hold-outs. Michael Shellenberger from the fake environment group 'Environmental Progress' claims that "one of FOE-Greenpeace's biggest lies about nuclear energy is that it leads to weapons"3 and ‒ to further emphasize his stupidity and dishonesty ‒ Shellenberger recently told an IAEA conference that "nuclear energy prevents the spread of nuclear weapons".4 Likewise, Ted Norhaus, another self-styled 'pro-nuclear environmentalist', argues that to conflate nuclear power with nuclear weapons is "extremely misleading" because they involve different physics, different technologies and different institutions, and because "nuclear weapons today involve fusing two atoms together in an uncontrolled explosion."5 But there is plenty of overlap between the physics, technologies and institutions of nuclear power generation and weapons production6; and all nuclear weapons are either based on fission or they use fission to trigger fusion.

Pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman has written an interesting piece about the efforts of disgraced former US National Security Advisor Mike Flynn to broker deals between nuclear power vendors and potential clients in the Middle East.7 ACU Strategic Partners, a consulting firm that Flynn worked for, claimed that it could address fears about nuclear proliferation in the Middle East by deploying a "proliferation resistant" light water reactor, but, as Yurman notes, "there is no such thing when it comes to "light water reactors" like the Russian 1000 MW VVER which is what they offer to export customers."7

There is no such thing as a proliferation-resistant light water reactor, period. And there is no such thing as a proliferation-proof nuclear fuel cycle. The UK Royal Society noted in a 2011 report: "There is no proliferation proof nuclear fuel cycle. The dual use risk of nuclear materials and technology and in civil and military applications cannot be eliminated."8

Earlier this year, Victor Gilinsky, Marvin Miller, and Harmon Hubbard updated on important 2004 report on the proliferation dangers of light water reactors.9 Here are the conclusions and recommendations of the updated report:


The Light Water Reactor (LWR), the standard power source for most nuclear power stations around the world and the likely design for future ones, is not nearly so "proliferation resistant" as it has been widely advertised to be. From a proliferation point of view the LWR is generally preferable to other types of power reactors but the differences are more blurred than was previously appreciated.

With today's technology small, difficult to find, clandestine enrichment facilities or reprocessing plants could provide the reactor's owners with militarily significant quantities of nuclear explosives.

We need therefore to revise the conventional wisdom that LWRs are a safe proposition for siting in just about any country so long as there are no accompanying commercial uranium enrichment facilities or reprocessing facilities.

The principal "front end" concern relates to gas centrifuge enrichment plants. It is now widely understood that even if such plants are safeguarded and designed to produce low enriched uranium (LEU) for LWR fuel, their owners could convert them quickly to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) for bombs. It is less appreciated that if the owners divert some of the LEU produced by the declared plant and used as feed for a clandestine enrichment plant, they can reduce the needed plant capacity by a factor of five. Moreover, such LEU feed need not rely on the existence of an LEU plant; it could come from processing the fuel pellets of a fresh LWR fuel reload. The possibility of using centrifuges to produce HEU for bombs has been enhanced by recent revelations regarding Pakistan's spread of this technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea, and possibly others, with the fabrication of parts in a number of other countries.

It is also widely understood that reprocessing plants that separate plutonium from LWR spent fuel for later use as fuel could also provide plutonium for bombs. What is less understood, and emphasized in this report, is that small, clandestine reprocessing plants could provide the reactor's owners with militarily significant quantities of nuclear explosives. Such technology is well within the capabilities of countries like North Korea or Iran.

Clandestine reprocessing is only half of the plutonium concern. The other is that contrary to conventional wisdom LWRs can be copious sources of near-weapons grade plutonium that can be used to make powerful nuclear weapons. The widely debated issue of the usability for weapons of plutonium from LWR fuel irradiated to its commercial limit has diverted attention from the capacity of an LWR to produce large quantities of near-weapons grade plutonium from partially irradiated spent fuel. The characteristics of bombs based on this material would not be significantly different than those based on weapons grade plutonium.


We need to reassess the role of LWRs in international programs: They are not for everyone and we should be cautious about promoting their construction in worrisome countries. This is not a benign technology. At a minimum we should not support such technology where it is not clearly economic.

Clandestine enrichment and reprocessing: The IAEA and national intelligence has constantly to be on the lookout for clandestine plants because they can rapidly change the security equation. There needs to be much closer accounting of LEU fuel in view of its significance as possible feed for clandestine enrichment.

IAEA inspection of LWRs: IAEA inspection activities for LWRs to check on fuel inventories and refueling need adjustment upward in countries of concern from the point of view of potential bomb-making to take account of possible undiscovered clandestine reprocessing. Because of inevitable IAEA resource limitations it is necessary for the agency to concentrate the inspection where they are most important. It would help to gain support for such a system if it were possible to develop some objective way of defining "countries of concern." The IAEA should take greater account of the presence of weapons-grade plutonium or near weapons-grade plutonium in spent fuel pools and storage in devising its inspections. At the very least, the Agency should press for wider acceptance of near-real time surveillance of light water reactor fresh and spent fuel storage areas.

Enforcement: The NPT members must enforce the IAEA inspection system. An important purpose of IAEA safeguards is to deter nuclear weapons activities ‒ of would-be nuclear weapon countries ‒ by the threat of early detection. This assumes there will be a strong reaction to such an early detection of illicit activity. If would-be bomb-makers conclude they have nothing to fear because the international community is not likely to react to their violations, the whole system of control falls apart.



2. Nuclear Monitor #850, 'Nuclear power, weapons and 'national security'', 7 Sept 2017,

3. Nuclear Monitor #852, 30 Oct 2017, 'Exposing the misinformation of Michael Shellenberger and 'Environmental Progress'',

4. Michael Shellenberger, 30 Oct 2017, 'Saving Power in Danger: Michael Shellenberger Keynote Address to IAEA',

5. Ted Norhaus, 14 May 2017, 'Time to stop confusing nuclear weapons with nuclear power',

6. Nuclear Monitor #804, 28 May 2015, 'The myth of the peaceful atom',

7. Dan Yurman, 10 Dec 2017, 'Flynn's Saudi Nuclear Deal; What do we know so far?',

8. UK Royal Society, 13 Oct 2011, 'Fuel cycle stewardship in a nuclear renaissance',

9. Victor Gilinsky, Marvin Miller, and Harmon Hubbard, March 2017, 'A Fresh Examination of the Proliferation Dangers of Light Water Reactors', Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, Working Paper 1701,

Is Saudi Arabia going nuclear?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

Saudi Arabia is taking active steps towards the construction of two power reactors. If built, they will be the country's first. The government agency in charge of the nuclear plans, the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), sent a Request for Information (RFI) to potential suppliers in October, marking the first step towards a formal tender process. KACARE hasn't commented on the RFI process, but three sources confirmed it to Reuters1 and Rosatom's Alexei Likhachev said the RFI was sent to "a parade of vendors prepared to build a major nuclear power plant".2

KACARE president Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani said in September: "We are carrying out feasibility studies, technically and economically to build those nuclear reactors ... in addition to detailed technical studies for the selection of the best locations."3 Maher al Odan from KACARE said the Kingdom hopes to award reactor construction contracts by the end of 2018.4

The Kingdom's nuclear program has been slowly taking shape over the past decade:5

  • In 2006, Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council announced the commissioning of a study on the development of nuclear power.
  • The Gulf Cooperation Council initiative stalled but in 2009 Saudi Arabia announced it was considering developing its own nuclear power program.
  • In April 2010, King Abdullah issued a royal decree stating that development of atomic energy is essential to meet the Kingdom's growing energy requirements.
  • In 2011, plans were announced for the construction of 16 power reactors, and WorleyParsons was commissioned to identify potential sites.6
  • Three sites were short-listed in 2013. An April 2013 timeline envisaged construction starting in 2016.6
  • The plan for 16 reactors was re-announced in September 2014, with a completion date of 2032.
  • In January 2015, the 2032 completion date was pushed back to 2040.
  • Korea Atomic Research Institute, and a subsidiary of South Korea's KEPCO, won contracts in 2015 and 2016 to carry out feasibility and planning studies.7
  • In July 2017, the Cabinet approved the establishment of a National Project for Atomic Energy.6

KACARE's website, which isn't updated as often as it should be, still promotes the pre-2015 plan to have 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity (16 reactors) in operation by 2032.8 Reuters says the construction of more reactors beyond the first two is a "longer-term" project9 while pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman says the larger 16-reactor project "was abandoned due to costs and complexity."10


Companies, utilities and consortia from several countries ‒ South Korea, China, France, Russia, Japan and the US ‒ are interested in constructions contracts and other work for a Saudi nuclear power program.11 Several countries have been working hard for some years to put themselves in prime position.6,11 Saudi Arabia has nuclear cooperation agreements with numerous countries including South Korea, China, France, Russia, Kazakhstan, Argentina, Finland, Hungary, and Indonesia.6,12

It's anyone's guess what sort of lobbying is going on to secure Saudi reactor contracts and what sort of horse-trading is going on. And it's impossible to know how widespread corruption in Saudi Arabia13 ‒ and current efforts to address endemic corruption, if that's an accurate way of characterizing the recent detention of hundreds of Saudis14 ‒ will shape the nuclear contracting process.

Two committees in the US House of Representatives are investigating efforts by former US National Security Advisor Mike Flynn to enlist Russia's Rosatom in a deal to deliver nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia.10 An analysis by ProPublica details the efforts of Flynn and others to broker nuclear deals between potential suppliers (US, European, Arab, Russian and Chinese companies) and potential buyers in the Middle East (Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia).


Saudi Arabia wants to diversify its energy sources ‒ hence its plans to introduce nuclear power and to expand renewables and energy efficiency programs. There is no serious pretence that reducing greenhouse emissions is a significant policy driver. On the contrary, one reason repeatedly advanced for the nuclear program is to increase fossil fuel exports, and tied in with that is a push to do more value-adding by operating more oil refineries rather than exporting crude oil.15 KACARE states that alternative energy sources will ensure "longer-term availability of hydrocarbons for export"16 and will facilitate the use of petroleum "for higher value purposes and export".17 Likewise, Prince Turki al-Faisal said in 2016 that "we need to conserve as much oil as possible for export and sale."15

In addition to its plans for two large reactors, Saudi Arabia is also exploring options for small modular reactors (SMRs). And again, reducing greenhouse emissions isn't the driving force: one of the reasons given by KACARE for the interest in SMRs is their use for process heat applications including in petrochemical plants.3,18 Saudi Arabia has been in discussion with Argentina (which is building a 25 MW SMR), China (which is building a small high temperature gas-cooled reactor) and South Korea (which has designed and licensed a small pressurized water reactor ‒ but doesn't plan to build any at home).6

Does nuclear make sense in the context of efforts to diversify energy supply? Perhaps ... assuming that the costs were in the same ball-park as the South Korean-led project to build four reactors in the United Arab Emirates (around US$20 billion ‒ though it is widely believed that the true cost of the project is higher). The nuclear program might also make some sense if numerous reactors are built; conversely, the significant start-up costs associated with establishing a nuclear workforce, a regulator and so on would make little sense if the program is limited to two reactors.

In an April 2015 paper, M.V. Ramana and Ali Ahmad compared electricity generation costs from nuclear reactors with natural gas, solar PV and concentrated solar power stations.19 They concluded that unless natural gas prices rise dramatically, that would remain the cheapest source of electricity generation, less than half as expensive as nuclear. Replacing oil based power plants with nuclear ‒ or natural gas ‒ would make economic sense.

Ramana and Ahmad write:19

"The real surprising result that came out of our analysis was that solar technologies are very competitive with nuclear reactors. The key point is that it would take at least a decade, quite possibly more, for a country like Saudi Arabia to generate its first unit of nuclear electricity, even if the decision were to be made tomorrow, and solar photovoltaic and concentrated solar technologies have both been experiencing dramatic declines in prices. Based on current trends, the cost of electricity from solar plants would become cheaper than from nuclear plants around the end of this decade or soon after in areas like the Middle East with ample sunshine. Nuclear reactors, in contrast, are not becoming cheaper. Some studies find evidence of "negative learning" wherein nuclear costs rise as more reactors are constructed."

The paper by Ramana and Ahmad was written less than three years ago but it is already out of date. They cite an estimate of US$11 billion for the two-reactor V.C. Summer project in South Carolina. But estimates for that project ‒ which was abandoned in mid-2017 ‒ rose to US$25 billion including interest, or US$18 billion excluding interest.20 Nor would nuclear power make economic sense if the reference point was the catastrophically over-budget EPR reactors being built in France or in Finland.

There is some dispute within Saudi Arabia about the economic viability of nuclear power. In May 2016, Ibrahim Babelli, acting deputy minister in the Ministry of Economy and Planning, said that not only was solar power cheaper, but it also lacked the security risks that come with nuclear power.21 Babelli said: "We have a God-given solution with solar, and with storage – especially CSP [concentrated solar power] with storage, that we can meet baseload demand. But we're only able to do that if we divorce our thinking and decision-making from what our international friends say because it's not for Saudi Arabia."

In May 2016, Saudi Arabia set a target of building an "initial" 9.5 GW of renewable power capacity by 2023, mostly solar and wind, as the "first stage" of a more ambitious program.22 As with the nuclear program, renewable energy targets have come and gone, they have been increased and decreased, brought forward and deferred ... all without a lot of action. But there has been some movement this year to promote the expansion of renewables.23-27 Thamer Al-Sharhan, managing director of ACWA, Saudi Arabia's leading renewable energy developer, said in January that he has heard a number of promising plans over the past six years that didn't materialize, but this time he has genuine optimism.26 Thirty renewable energy projects have been announced and work has begun on some of them.28

Saudi Arabia's first major tender for solar power (300 MW) has recently been completed. The lowest bid was just US1.79c/kWh or US$17.9/MWh – with no subsidies. Six of the seven lowest bidders offered prices below $US30/MWh. Giles Parkinson wrote in RenewEconomy: "The stunning offer ... represents a significant fall of 75 per cent in costs below those considered 'not credible' less than two years ago."29 Ironically, the lowest bid was from French utility EDF and UAE-based Mascar. EDF will be paid a guaranteed US$122.7/MWh for power from the Hinkley Point reactors it is building in the UK ‒ almost seven times greater than its solar bid.

A weapons agenda?

It is no secret that Saudi Arabia is leaving open the option of building nuclear weapons. For example:

  • In 2009, according to former senior US diplomat Dennis Ross, King Abdullah told him: "If they [Iran] get nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons."30
  • In 2011, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, a former long-term head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency, said: "It is in our interest that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon, for their doing so would compel Saudi Arabia ... to pursue policies that could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences."31
  • Nawaf Obaid from the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, and Special Counselor to Turki Al-Faisal, said in December 2013: "But what is clear, and here there should be no room for misinterpretation or misunderstanding, is that if the Iranians are allowed to keep "an enrichment capability" that will over the medium- to long-term make them a de facto nuclear power, then Saudi Arabia, in keeping with its new emerging strategic doctrine, will have no choice but to go nuclear as well."32
  • In April 2014, Turki al-Faisal said: "Preserving our regional security requires that we, as a Gulf grouping, work to create a real balance of forces with [Iran], including in nuclear know-how."33
  • In a May 2014 paper, Nawaf Obaid wrote: "Of course, if Iran gets nuclear weapons (with Israel already having a nuclear arsenal), KSA will be forced to follow suit. Thus, KSA should explore its nuclear provision options in order to prepare for a very likely nuclear Iran in the medium-to-long term. ... If such a scenario occurs, KSA will initiate a domestic nuclear weapons program within a yet to be specified time-period to counter Iran's acquisition. A credible nuclear strategy would mandate that a rapid nuclear deterrent be obtained in the short term and that the establishment of an indigenous nuclear weapons program take shape over the medium- to long-term."34
  • In May 2015, Turki al-Faisal threatened to match Iran's nuclear program: "Whatever the Iranians have, we will have too."35
  • In January 2016, Turki al-Faisal said: "In a speech I gave four years ago in the kingdom and subsequently reiterated, I said that should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) must look at all the available options to meet the potential threat that will come from Iran – including the acquisition of nuclear weapons. I don't think we should close the door to ourselves before we see what is going to happen with Iran. And if that means that we go to develop nuclear weapons, then that is a choice that will have to be made by the GCC leadership, as I recommend, to meet that challenge."15
  • In June 2016, the Saudi ambassador to the UK, Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf, said the kingdom was keeping "all options ... on the table" in a confrontation with Iran.36

Regardless of intent, a nuclear power program would bring Saudi Arabia far closer to a weapons capability. The reactor-grade plutonium produced in the normal course of operation of a reactor can be used in weapons, or reactors can be operated on a short irradiation cycle to produce weapon-grade plutonium. In addition, a nuclear power program would necessarily entail the development of significant nuclear science and engineering expertise which could be redeployed to a weapons program. A nuclear power program could justify the acquisition of other technologies − such as enrichment and reprocessing technology, and research reactors − which might be put to use in a weapons program. (Argentina's INVAP is building a very low power research reactor in Saudi Arabia37 and an October 2017 agreement between KACARE and Russia's Rosatom envisages construction of another research reactor in the Kingdom.6)

There is a long-running debate about whether a nuclear power program or a nuclear research reactor program makes more sense for a would-be weapons state. Power reactors produce large amounts of fissile material in a short space of time and they can more easily be used to justify the development of enrichment technology or a large-scale reprocessing capability ... but nuclear power programs are very expensive. Research reactor programs are relatively cheap, and they often involve a small-scale reprocessing capability (hot cells) ... but the fissile material production rate is generally low. That debate may need reframing if small modular reactors are developed ‒ they might be the technology of choice for the modern proliferator.38

Most likely, Riyadh seeks to develop a latent nuclear weapons capability under cover of a peaceful program, but dedicated pursuit of nuclear weapons would need to weighed against potential problems such as worsening Saudi Arabia's security environment (e.g. by encouraging other states to build nuclear weapons), rupturing strategic ties with the US, damaging the country's international reputation and making the Kingdom the target of sanctions.39

A March 2017 analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security states that there is "little reason to doubt that Saudi Arabia will more actively seek nuclear weapons capabilities", motivated by Iran's nuclear program and the limitations of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between the P5+1 and Iran.40 It further states that "Saudi Arabia now has both a high disincentive to pursue nuclear weapons in the short term and a high motivation to pursue them over the long term".

Clearly there is some interest in developing a latent or threshold weapons capability. But why would senior people in the Saudi regime say so openly? One answer is that the regime may be seeking to leverage formal defense commitments from the US, and greater access to conventional weapon systems such as the F-35 advanced fighter.41 The Trump administration is willing to expand conventional arms sales to Saudi Arabia42 ‒ but there's no evidence and little likelihood that the administration is motivated by a desire to stop Saudi Arabia developing nuclear weapons. Washington has reportedly rebuffed the formal defense pact sought by Saudi Arabia. Writing in The Nonproliferation Review, Tristan Volpe says that the threat to build nuclear weapons lacks plausibility given the rudimentary state of Saudi Arabia's nuclear industry.43 If that's the case, the threat will presumably be taken more seriously if and when Saudi Arabia has power reactors and a small army of trained nuclear experts.

Developing threshold capabilities

Earlier this year, KACARE president Hashim Bin Abdullah Yamani said Saudi Arabia is committed to international conventions and treaties as well as the guidance provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency.44 Such claims would be more compelling and comforting if they were true.

There are numerous indications that Saudi Arabia is steering its nuclear program in such a way as to lower the barriers to weapons production, and no contrary indications:

  • Saudi Arabia seems to be seeking to develop the capacity to build its own reactors.
  • It is working to deepen and broaden its domestic nuclear expertise.
  • As of July 2017, 183 countries had signed and 166 countries had ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; Saudi Arabia has not signed or ratified the treaty.52
  • It does not have an Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, which would allow for more intrusive inspections.
  • It is refusing to follow the UAE's lead and forego the option of developing enrichment or reprocessing technology.
  • It is seeking to develop its own uranium reserves despite the existence of plentiful, cheap uranium on the international market.

At least two nuclear cooperation agreements ‒ with South Korea and China ‒ contain language about technology transfer suggesting Riyadh may be seeking to develop the capacity to build reactors. The agreement with South Korea concerning 'SMART' SMRs envisages significant technology transfer such as, in the words of the World Nuclear Association, "a partnership to establish knowledge infrastructure in SMART technology fields, such as designing and building the reactors".6 Likewise, a 2017 China / Saudi agreement envisages "cooperation in intellectual property and the development of a domestic industrial supply chain for HTGRs [high-temperature gas-cooled reactors] built in Saudi Arabia."45

The March 2017 analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security states: "Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in developing an indigenous capability to manufacture nuclear reactors. KA.CARE, the national agency at the forefront of Saudi Arabia's nuclear agenda, has identified several steps within the nuclear fuel cycle as having high potential for local manufacturing, including fuel fabrication, processing, and enrichment. Going beyond the import of technologies, Saudi Arabia appears to have intentions to acquire intellectual property rights and become an exporter of small modular reactors (SMRs)."40

Saudi Arabia aims to train a largely local workforce to run its nuclear plants according to Noura Youssef Mansouri, a Saudi energy expert and a manager with Areva in Riyadh.46 The Institute for Science and International Security report states: "Overlooked by many experts evaluating Saudi Arabia's nuclear future is the fact that the country's nuclear workforce is increasing at a rapid pace in both quality and quantity. The academic nuclear engineering sector is growing substantially, constantly launching new graduate programs and expanding Saudi Arabia's five nuclear research centers."40

Prince Turki al-Faisal has clearly linked the build-up of nuclear expertise under the civil nuclear program with the desire to move towards a weapons capability. Following the July 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, al-Faisal said "we have no illusions about our capabilities ... so that's why we began a very extensive training and skills acquisition program", and he noted that the 15-year sunset clause in the Iran deal was a key reason why "the Kingdom's program for capacity building on the issue of nuclear energy is so vital and necessary and important."15

KACARE has that said the country's intention is to oversee a large proportion of the fuel cycle domestically from the outset and to be 65% self-reliant by 2032. Nick Butler commented in the Financial Times: "Such an aspiration is valid under the terms of the Non Proliferation Treaty but will inevitably provoke scrutiny. The decision contrasts with the choice by the UAE ‒ another state developing nuclear power capacity ‒ to buy from outside rather than seeking a fuel cycle capability of its own."47

Saudi Arabia is seeking "self-sufficiency in producing nuclear fuel" according to Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, head of KACARE.50 That includes exploitation of domestic uranium reserves. "We utilize the uranium ore that has been proven to be economically efficient," Yamani said.50

But exploitation of Saudi Arabia's uranium reserves ‒ which KACARE estimates at about 60,000 tonnes50 ‒ is the exact opposite of economic efficiency. It makes no economic sense whatsoever to be starting up a uranium industry from scratch when uranium is plentiful and cheap on the international market, with no likelihood of that situation changing in the foreseeable future.

Of course, "self-sufficiency in producing nuclear fuel" makes sense if the aim is to develop a threshold nuclear weapons capability.

Sensitive nuclear technologies

In 2008, Saudi Arabia and the US signed a 'Memorandum of Understanding on Nuclear Energy Cooperation' in which Saudi Arabia stated its intent to rely on international markets for nuclear fuel and to not pursue sensitive nuclear technologies (enrichment and reprocessing).48 But a formal agreement between the two countries has not proceeded because of Saudi Arabia's unwillingness to forego enrichment and reprocessing.49

There is no indication that any other potential supplier states will insist on Saudi Arabia foregoing enrichment and reprocessing.

Saudi Arabia has commissioned at least one feasibility study on its potential involvement in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle; the engineering consulting firm found that mining and enriching domestic uranium deposits were among the feasible options.40

The primary purpose of the IAEA's low-enriched uranium bank ‒ opened this year in the city of Oskemen in Kazakhstan ‒ is to limit the spread of enrichment technology.51 But it won't stop countries intent on developing nuclear weapons, or a threshold weapons capability, from pursuing enrichment or refusing to forego the option of pursuing enrichment.


Saudi Arabia concluded a 'Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement' with the IAEA in 2009. But Riyadh only agreed to an earlier version of the 'Small Quantities Protocol' (SQP) and has yet to accept the modified SQP adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors in 2005. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has conspicuously failed to sign an Additional Protocol which would allow for more intrusive and wide-ranging IAEA inspections.53

Saudi Arabia, under its current SQP obligations, could secretly build enrichment technology and need only tell the IAEA 180 days before introducing nuclear material − R&D, mechanical testing of centrifuges, and testing with surrogate materials, need not be revealed.54

Canadian officials have expressed concerns about the potential for Saudi Arabia to pursue nuclear weapons. "Minimal safeguards are in place in SA [Saudi Arabia] to verify peaceful uses of nuclear energy ... and it has refused to accept strengthened safeguards," officials said in an assessment prepared for Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister in March 2012. "Many observers question SA's nuclear intentions, especially if Iran were to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. As a result, SA does not meet Canada's requirements for nuclear cooperation."55

So will any suppliers insist on an Additional Protocol being in force as a precondition of nuclear supply? Not likely. The formal policy of Australia ‒ a potential uranium supplier ‒ is that customer countries must have an Additional Protocol in force. But Australia has a long history of putting uranium sales first and proliferation concerns last, so the policy might be waived ‒ just as Australia's policy of refusing sales to non-NPT states was waived for India. Or Saudi Arabia might do what India and others have done ‒ negotiate an Additional Protocol that is so weak it isn't worth the paper it is written on.

Proliferation in the Middle East

Iran's nuclear program was in part a response to those of Israel and Iraq. Saudi Arabia's program is motivated in part by those of its regional rivals. The UAE's agreement to forego enrichment and reprocessing could have tempered proliferation risks in the Middle East. But the UAE agreement is shaping up as an exception rather than the new norm ‒ such that the UAE itself is wavering on its commitment to forego enrichment and reprocessing.40,49

A Saudi Arabian nuclear program without a binding commitment to forego enrichment and reprocessing will further fuel regional proliferation risks. The Institute for Science and International Security states:56

"In the Middle East, the perceived strategic, political, and military advantages derived from having the ability to enrich nuclear fuel to weaponization levels or to separate plutonium will be too strong for many governments to resist, even in the absence of a full-blown nuclear weapons effort. This dynamic will severely challenge global nonproliferation regimes and agreements as more and more countries strive, overtly or covertly, to become members of "nuclear fuel club," or on the threshold of building nuclear weapons.

"The global community should anticipate a dramatic increase in state-sponsored nuclear proliferation activities, regardless of the fate of the JCPOA. Efforts to constrain such aspirations are critical. The net result of these events is that the world will soon face a greater proliferation danger from Iran and the spread of sensitive technologies in the Middle East may be stimulated by this new, dangerous norm legitimizing enrichment almost anywhere. The policy community must identify threats to the global export control regime and enact broader counterproliferation efforts to mitigate damages."

Export controls and broader counterproliferation efforts are indeed a must in the Middle East. But to date, all indications are that they will run a poor second to efforts to secure lucrative nuclear contracts.

Military conflict

Military conflict has been a recurring feature of Middle Eastern politics for decades and it isn't difficult to imagine military conflicts complicating and compromising nuclear power plants and associated facilities such as spent fuel stores. Since 2015, Saudi forces have intercepted missile attacks from Yemen on several occasions, including a missile attack on King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh in November 2017. "All airports, ports, border crossings and areas of any importance to Saudi Arabia and the UAE will be a direct target of our weapons, which is a legitimate right," the Houthi political office said in a statement on 7 November 2017.57

On 6 November 2017, the New York Times reported on the intercepted missile attack on the Riyadh airport: "Saudi Arabia charged Monday that a missile fired at its capital from Yemen over the weekend was an "act of war" by Iran, in the sharpest escalation in nearly three decades of mounting hostility between the two regional rivals. "We see this as an act of war," the Saudi foreign minister, Adel Jubair, said in an interview on CNN. "Iran cannot lob missiles at Saudi cities and towns and expect us not to take steps." ... The accusations raise the threat of a direct military clash between the two regional heavyweights at a time when they are already fighting proxy wars in Yemen and Syria, as well as battles for political power in Iraq and Lebanon. By the end of the day Monday, a Saudi minister was accusing Lebanon of declaring war against Saudi Arabia as well."58

Prince Turki al-Faisal said in 2016 that Saudi Arabia has "no illusions" about its limited nuclear security capabilities. "We know we have few capabilities in terms of human resources, so that's why we began a very extensive training and skills acquisition program," he said.15

A number of Middle Eastern countries (and the US) have developed their own response to the limitations of the IAEA safeguards system: bombing nuclear facilities suspected of being involved in covert weapons programs. Examples include the destruction of research reactors in Iraq by Israel and the US; Iran's attempts to strike nuclear facilities in Iraq during the 1980−88 war (and vice versa); Iraq's attempted strikes on Israel's nuclear facilities; and Israel's bombing of a suspected nuclear reactor site in Syria in 2007.

Most of the above-mentioned attacks were directed at research reactors capable of producing plutonium for weapons, while Iraq attacked the partially-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran in 1987. Israel has threatened to strike nuclear facilities in Iran in recent years. According to a cable released by Wikileaks, King Abdullah urged the US in 2008 to launch military strikes on Iran's nuclear program to "cut off the head of the snake".59

In time, nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia might be the targets of military strikes, either to prevent their use in a weapons program or simply as an act of war or terrorism.

Bennett Ramberg, a policy analyst in the US State Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs under President George H.W. Bush, wrote in 2014:60

"[W]arfare is rife with accidents and human error, and such an event involving a nuclear plant could cause a meltdown. A loss of off-site power, for example, could be an issue of serious concern. Although nuclear plants are copious producers of electricity, they also require electrical power from other sources to operate. Without incoming energy, cooling pumps will cease functioning and the flow of water that carries heat away from the reactor core ‒ required even when the reactor is in shutdown mode ‒ will stop.

"To meet that risk, nuclear plants maintain large emergency diesel generators, which can operate for days ‒ until their fuel runs out. The reactor meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power station in 2011 demonstrated what happens when primary and emergency operating power are cut.

"Such vulnerabilities raise troubling questions in the event of a war. Fighting could disrupt off-site power plants or transmission lines servicing the reactor, and could also prevent diesel fuel from reaching the plant to replenish standby generators. Operators could abandon their posts should violence encroach.

"Moreover, combatants could invade nuclear plants and threaten sabotage to release radioactive elements to intimidate their opponents. Others might take refuge there, creating a dangerous standoff. A failure of military command and control or the fog of war could bring plants under bombardment.

"Serious radiological contamination could result in each of these scenarios. And, though no one stands to gain from a radioactive release, if war breaks out, we must anticipate the unexpected. ...

"Wartime conditions would prevent emergency crews from getting to an affected plant to contain radiological releases should reactor containments fail. And, with government services shut down in the midst of fighting, civilians attempting to escape radioactive contamination would not know what to do or where to go to protect themselves."


1. Sylvia Westall and Reem Shamseddine / Reuters, 31 Oct 2017, 'UPDATE 3-Saudi Arabia takes first step towards nuclear plant tender – sources',

2. Artiom Korotaev / TASS, 5 Oct 2017, 'Russia, Saudi Arabia may develop nuclear cooperation',

3. Reuters, 18 Sept 2017, 'Saudi Arabia says still examining options for nuclear power plants',

4. Reuters, 11 Oct 2017, 'Saudi Arabia to award nuclear reactor contract by end 2018 – official',

5. Nuclear Monitor #791, 18 Sept 2014,

6. World Nuclear Association, 'Nuclear Power in Saudi Arabia', Updated October 2017,

7. 10 June 2016, 'KEPCO E&C secures $55 mn project on pre-project safety test on Saudi’s nuclear plant',

8. KACARE, accessed 11 Nov 2017,

9. Reem Shamseddine and Jane Chung, 14 Sept 2017, 'Exclusive: Saudi Arabia plans to launch nuclear power tender next month – sources',

10. Dan Yurman, 17 Sept 2017, 'Saudi Arabia To Release RFI for 2.8 GWe of Nuclear Power',

11. Ghazala Yasmin Jalil, 17 Nov 2017, 'Saudi Arabia's Nuclear Power Ambitions',

12. World Nuclear Association, 26 Oct 2016, 'Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia agree to nuclear cooperation',



15. Dan Drollette Jr, 2016, 'View from the inside: Prince Turki al-Faisal on Saudi Arabia, nuclear energy and weapons, and Middle East politics', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Volume 72, Issue 1,

16. KACARE,, accessed 11 Nov 2017

17. KACARE, accessed 11 Nov 2017, 'Saudi National Atomic Energy Project SNAEP',

18. KACARE, 'Saudi National Atomic Energy Project SNAEP',, accessed 11 Nov 2017

19. M. V. Ramana and Ali Ahmad, April 2015, 'Saudi Arabia’s Expensive Quest for Nuclear Power',

20. John Downey, 22 Aug 2017, 'Senators told saving V.C. Summer project could take 'a miracle'',

21. LeAnne Graves, 25 May 2016, 'Saudi minister prefers solar potential over nuclear energy',

22. Moritz Borgmann, 11 May 2016, 'Saudi Arabia’s amazing new renewables target: 9.5GW by 2023',

23. National Renewable Energy Program (NREP),

24. Renewable Energy Project Development Office,

25. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 22 Feb 2017, 'Saudi Arabia makes first steps in 10GW renewable energy rollout',

26. Ilias Tsagas, 18 Jan 2017, 'Saudi Arabia to focus on solar, wind in $US50bn clean energy plan',

27. Neha Bhatia, 1 Oct 2017, 'Saudi eyes international support for nuclear project plans',

28. 18 April 2017, Riyadh Reveals 30 Projects to Produce Renewable Energy',

29. Giles Parkinson, 5 Oct 2017, 'Stunning new low for solar PV as even IEA hails "age of solar"',

30. Chemi Shalev, 30 May 2012, 'Dennis Ross: Saudi King Vowed to Obtain Nuclear Bomb After Iran',

31. Ali Ahmad, 17 Dec 2013, 'The Saudi proliferation question', Bulletin of Atomic Scientists,

32. Nawaf Obaid, 3 Dec 2013, 'The Iran deal: a view from Saudi Arabia',

33. 24 April 2014, 'Saudi Prince Urges Mideast Counterbalance to Iran's 'Nuclear Know-How'',

34. Nawaf Obaid, 27 May 2014, 'A Saudi Arabian Defense Doctrine',

35. David E. Sanger, 13 May 2015, 'Saudi Arabia Promises to Match Iran in Nuclear Capability,' New York Times,

36. Nawaf Obaid, 29 June 2015, 'Saudi Arabia is preparing itself in case Iran develops nuclear weapons',

37. Juan Pablo Ordoñez (INVAP, Argentina), 2013,

38. For a discussion on the proliferation potential of SMRs, see M.V. Ramana, Feb 2014, 'Resource Requirements and Proliferation Risks Associated with Small Modular Reactors', Conference Paper: American Association for the Advancement of Science 2015 Annual Meeting,

39. Colin H. Kahl, Melissa G. Dalton, and Matthew Irvine, "Atomic Kingdom: If Iran Builds the Bomb, Will Saudi Arabia Be Next?" Center for New American Security, February 2013,

40. Sarah Burkhard, Erica Wenig, David Albright, and Andrea Stricker, 30 March 2017, 'Saudi Arabia's Nuclear Ambitions and Proliferation Risks',

41. Tristan A. Volpe, 10 March 2017, 'Atomic inducements: the case for "buying out" nuclear latency', The Nonproliferation Review,

42. '2017 United States–Saudi Arabia arms deal', accessed 22 Nov 2017,

43. Tristan A. Volpe, 10 March 2017, 'Atomic inducements: the case for "buying out" nuclear latency', The Nonproliferation Review,

See also Colin H. Kahl, Melissa G. Dalton, and Matthew Irvine, "Atomic Kingdom: If Iran Builds the Bomb, Will Saudi Arabia Be Next?" Center for New American Security, February 2013,

44. Saudi Gazette report, July/Aug 2017, 'Atomic Project will optimize use of energy sources: Yamani',

45. Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim, 21 March 2017, 'King Salman's Visit Deepens Sino-Saudi Cooperation',

46. Brooke Anderson, 15 Sept 2017, 'Saudis Make Push for Nuclear Energy',

47. Nick Butler, 15 Feb 2015, 'Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions',

48. US State Department, 16 May 2008, 'U.S.-Saudi Arabia Memorandum of Understanding on Nuclear Energy Cooperation',

49. Yoel Guzansky, 19 Feb 2017, 'The UAE's Nuclear Push and the Potential Fallout for the Middle East',

50. Times of Israel, 1 Nov 2017, 'Oil-rich Saudi Arabia plans dramatic shift to nuclear power',

51. Reuters, 29 Aug 2017, 'UN Nuclear Watchdog Opens Uranium Bank in Kazakhstan',

52. Arms Control Association, updated July 2017, 'The Status of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Signatories and Ratifiers',

53. IAEA, 'Status of the Additional Protocol ‒ Status as of 7 July 2017',

54. Olli Heinonen and Simon Henderson, 27 March 2014, 'Nuclear Kingdom: Saudi Arabia's Atomic Ambitions',

55. Nuclear Threat Initiative, 29 Jan 2013, 'Saudi Atomic Aims Worry Canada',

56. David Albright, Andrea Stricker, Sarah Burkhard, and Erica Wenig, 12 Sept 2017, 'Strengthening the Counter-Illicit Nuclear Trade Regime in the Face of New Threats: A Two-Year Review of Proliferation Threats Associated with the Middle East',

57. Christopher M. Blanchard, 14 Nov 2017, 'Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations', Congressional Research Service,

58. New York Times, 6 Nov 2017, 'Saudi Arabia Charges Iran With 'Act of War,' Raising Threat of Military Clash',

59. The Jerusalem Post, 28 Nov 2010, 'Leak: 'Saudi King on Iran: Cut Off the Head of the Snake',

60. Bennett Ramberg, 16 April 2014, 'The Chernobyl factor in the Ukraine crisis',

Australia's dangerous uranium deal with India

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Dave Sweeney ‒ nuclear free campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Late on the last night of the last sitting of Federal Parliament for 2017, Australia's two major parties passed a new law that is civil by name, but it is desperately uncivil in nature.

The Indian Civil Nuclear Transfers Act1 exists to provide certainty to Australian uranium producers who want to sell to India. In 2015, a detailed investigation by the Federal Parliament's treaties committee found there were serious and unresolved nuclear safety, security and governance issues with the proposed sales plan.2

The treaties committee also found a high level of legal uncertainty. Australian National University professor of international law, Don Rothwell, said the plan was in conflict with international treaty provisions, most notably the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty.3 Former Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office Director-General, John Carlson, said the plan was in conflict with Australian domestic safeguards legislation requiring the tracking of Australian uranium (and its by-products) overseas.

Given the severity of the inconsistencies and the significance of the issues involved, the government-controlled treaties committee took the unusual step of voting against the clear direction of the prime minister and foreign affairs minister and recommended that the Indian sales deal not be advanced unless several outstanding issues were addressed.5

This decision was welcomed by many. But not by Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop. A terse response to a measured and bipartisan report said the government was "satisfied" that steps had been taken to address each condition, and did not agree that exports to India should be deferred.6

The commercial interests of an underperforming industrial sector were given priority above parliamentary process and evidence-based, prudent public policy. But this favoritism was not enough to paper the deep cracks in this dangerous plan and now the government has rushed through the new laws to close the door on legal challenge and scrutiny.

The new law protects uranium mining companies in Australia from domestic legal action that challenges the consistency of the safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency in India and Australia's international non-proliferation obligations. It also protects any future bilateral trade in other nuclear-related material or items for civil use.

A recent truncated review of the new law said the bill "provides the certainty required to give effect to the Australia-India Agreement".7 So Australian uranium miners, who supplied the product that directly fuelled Fukushima8, are now legally covered from any challenge over a highly contested plan to sell to India.

This move highlights the extent and the risks of the Australian government's preoccupation with ending civil society access to legal recourse. Further, fast-tracking legal favors to provide certainty to the uranium industry simply highlights how profoundly uncertain this industry is. Following Fukushima, the global uranium market has crashed, as has the value of uranium stocks. Prices, profits and employment numbers have gone south. IBIS World's March 2015 market report said only 987 people are employed in Australia's uranium industry.9 Few jobs and dollars, considerable damage at home and escalating risk abroad.

The fragile economics of the uranium sector make it understandable that the industry is pushing for every potential market but fail to explain why our federal government is so intent on trying to pick winners with a sector that is clearly losing. Sadly, and unreasonably, the India uranium deal has become seen as a litmus test for bilateral relations.

Talk of a massive surge in exports is fanciful, and promoting Australian uranium as the answer to Indian energy poverty is more convenient than credible. Political proponents of the trade are driven less by substance than style ‒ the symbolism of Australia and India on the same page and open for business.

In a telling reference, a recent review of the new law highlighted the importance of the "foreign policy backdrop to Australia's nuclear trade with India".10 Sending political signals through trade is not unusual but to do so by ignoring substantive warning signals is unwise. When those warnings and that trade relate to nuclear materials, it is deeply irresponsible.

Buttressing flawed trade deals with bolt-on legislative exemptions is poor policy and practice and while all trades have trade-offs, this one risks far too much.












Submarines a crucial missing piece in the British nuclear power jigsaw

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Phil Johnstone ‒ University of Sussex

Why has Hinkley Point C been approved, despite huge costs and public outcry? Dr Phil Johnstone summarizes a new report, 'Understanding the Intensity of UK Policy Commitments to Nuclear Power,' raising questions about British transparency and democracy.

As Hinkley Point C received the green light to go ahead, research published by the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex shows how intense British Government attachments to nuclear submarines help drive a strong bias in UK energy policy in favour of nuclear power.

This is despite nuclear power being recognised in the Government's own detailed analyses to be expensive and otherwise "unattractive" compared to other low carbon options.

The report ‒ 'Understanding the Intensity of UK Policy Commitments to Nuclear Power' ‒ documents strongly-held views in UK defence policy, that nuclear-propelled submarines form a crucial military capability. Yet these are arguably the most complex engineered artefacts in the world, not easy for a country with a declining manufacturing base to build and maintain.

On the military side, we found strong fears that without continued commitment to civil nuclear power, the UK would be unable to sustain the industrial capabilities necessary to build nuclear submarines.

"We systematically examined a range of different possible reasons for official UK attachments to nuclear power", said report co-author Emily Cox. "None of these are satisfactory to explain the intensity of support for nuclear power maintained by a variety of UK Governments. It seems that pressures to continue to build nuclear submarines form a crucial missing piece in the jigsaw."

"The Government's own data shows the UK to be blessed with abundant, secure and competitive renewable energy resources", said report co-author Professor Andy Stirling, "in a world turning much more to renewables than nuclear power, Britain might be expected to be taking a lead in these new technologies".

Yet a greater priority in UK policy making appears to lie in maintaining 'nuclear submarine capabilities'. Parliamentary Select Committee Reports and many other policy documents on the military side reveal intense pressures for strong Government support for skills and training, design and manufacturing and research and regulatory capabilities linking with the civil nuclear industry.

The report shows that these military pressures reached a peak in the crucial period 2003-2006 – with many new policy measures following on since then spanning civil and military sectors. During that same period, UK energy policy underwent a dramatic U-turn that has remained unexplained until now – from a view of nuclear power as "unattractive", to a commitment to a "nuclear renaissance".

What this research suggests is that British low carbon energy strategies are more expensive than they need to be, in order to maintain UK military nuclear infrastructures. And without assuming the continuation of an extremely expensive UK civil nuclear industry, it is possible that the costs of Trident would be significantly greater.

The report illuminates many important cross-overs between UK submarine and civil nuclear supply chains. One defence policy document even considers the possibility to 'mask' some of the costs of nuclear submarine capabilities, behind spending on civil nuclear power.

"What is remarkable about this pressure for a nuclear bias", said Andy Stirling, "is that it is well documented on the military side, yet remains completely unacknowledged anywhere in official UK energy policy documentation. This raises serious questions about the transparency and accountability of decision making in this area – and the quality of British democracy in this regard".

The report ‒'Understanding the Intensity of UK Policy Commitments to Nuclear Power' ‒ is posted at or direct download:

This article was originally published on the University of Sussex website.

The myth of the peaceful atom

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

The greatest risks associated with the nuclear fuel cycle are weapons proliferation and related risks such as military strikes on nuclear plants. The nuclear industry and its supporters have developed an elaborate set of tactics and myths to trivialize the proliferation risks.

1. Ignore the proliferation problem.

Often, nuclear proponents simply ignore the proliferation problem. For example, academics Barry Brook and Corey Bradshaw, writing in the Conservation Biology journal last year, rank power sources according to seven criteria: greenhouse emissions, cost, dispatchability, land use, safety, solid waste, and radiotoxic waste.[1] Nuclear weapons proliferation is excluded from the analysis.

2. Define the problem out of existence.

Academic Andrew O'Neil states: "There is simply no historical evidence to support the proposition that civilian nuclear reactor programs fuel weapons proliferation. ... All nuclear weapons states acquired their arsenals through purpose-built military facilities, not as a by-product of civilian reactors."[2]

Numerous examples illustrating the fallacy of O'Neil's claims are listed below. Suffice it here to note one example:

  • India's first nuclear weapon test used plutonium produced in the CIRUS research reactor;
  • the plutonium produced in CIRUS was ostensibly separated for India's fast breeder nuclear power program[3]; and
  • India refuses to place numerous reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and there can be only one explanation: India uses (or plans to use) those reactors to produce materials for nuclear weapons.

O'Neil reduces the debate to a reductio ad absurdum: all facilities and materials used in military programs are, by definition, military facilities and materials; and anyone suggesting otherwise is, by definition, indulging in anti-nuclear scuttlebutt. Q.E.D.

3. Trivialize the proliferation problem.

According to Ian Hore-Lacy from the World Nuclear Association: "Happily, proliferation is only a fraction of what had been feared when the NPT was set up ..."[4] The 'nuclearradiophobia' blog states that "37 countries that have the infrastructure and capability to build nuclear weapons if they wanted" but "only nine of these countries have nuclear weapons".[5] There are a "mere nine nuclear weapons states" according to Andrew O'Neil.[6]

However proliferation is a huge problem. The 16,000 (or so) weapons held by weapons states have the potential to kill billions of people. Moreover, even a limited exchange of some dozens of weapons could cause catastrophic climate change.[7] Academic Alan Robock wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: "As recent work ... has shown, we now understand that the atmospheric effects of a nuclear war would last for at least a decade − more than proving the nuclear winter theory of the 1980s correct. By our calculations, a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan using less than 0.3% of the current global arsenal would produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history and global ozone depletion equal in size to the current hole in the ozone, only spread out globally."[8]

The 'modernization' programs of the nuclear weapons states pose major risks (and opportunity costs) and weaken the disarmament/non-proliferation regime.[9]

The number of nuclear weapons-armed states has increased from five to nine since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was established. The eroding disarmament/non-proliferation regime coupled with (slowly) expanding nuclear capacity (from civil nuclear programs) creates the potential for significant horizontal proliferation. The UN Secretary-General's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change noted in 2004: "We are approaching a point at which the erosion of the non-proliferation regime could become irreversible and result in a cascade of proliferation."[10]

Nuclear advocate Geoff Russell states that we have been 100% successful at preventing further use of nuclear weapons since World War II and that a "rational person would conclude that preventing nuclear wars and nuclear weapons proliferation is actually pretty easy, otherwise we wouldn't have been so good at it." He further notes that "ladders are more dangerous than nuclear electricity plants, and cars are more dangerous than ladders."[11]

So perhaps ladders and cars should be classified as Weapons of Mass Destruction? Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive potential − even more destructive than ladders. As former US Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara said: "In conventional war, mistakes cost lives, sometimes thousands of lives. However, if mistakes were to affect decisions relating to the use of nuclear forces, there would be no learning curve. They would result in the destruction of nations."[12]

Russell states: "The proliferation argument isn't actually an argument at all. It's just a trigger word, brilliantly branded to evoke fear and trump rational discussion." One of the rabidly anti-nuclear organisations evoking fear and trumping rational discussion is the US State Department, which noted in a 2008 report that the "rise in nuclear power worldwide … inevitably increases the risks of proliferation".[13] And the anti-nuclear ideologues at the US National Intelligence Council argued in a 2008 report that the "spread of nuclear technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorist groups."[14]

An honorary mention for trivializing nuclear weapons goes to French diplomat Jacques Le Blanc, who said, when justifying weapons tests in the Pacific in 1995: "I do not like this word bomb. It is not a bomb; it is a device which is exploding."[15]

And an honorary mention goes to the Indian government, which insisted that its 1974 'Smiling Buddha' bomb test was a 'peaceful nuclear explosive'.

4. Pay lip service to proliferation problems.

Often nuclear proponents pay lip service to the problems of proliferation and the contribution of civil programs to proliferation risks.

For example, US President Obama cautioned at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul: "We simply can't go on accumulating huge amounts of the very material, like separated plutonium, that we're trying to keep away from terrorists."[16]

So what's being done about the problem of growing stockpiles of separated plutonium? Nothing. All that would need to be done to address the problem of growing stockpiles of separated/unirradiated plutonium would be to slow or suspend reprocessing until the stockpile is drawn down.

The US could (but doesn't) take concrete steps to curb the separation and stockpiling of plutonium − it has the authority to disallow separation and stockpiling of US-obligated plutonium, i.e. plutonium produced from nuclear materials originally mined or processed in the US.

5. Warped priorities.

The April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington issued a communiqué expressing the resolve of the 47 participating nations to strengthen nuclear security and thus reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism. But there's a caveat in the communiqué. It calls on nations to "support the implementation of strong nuclear security practices that will not infringe upon the rights of States to develop and utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes ..."[17]

The Nuclear Security Summit got it the wrong way around: surely preventing nuclear terrorism comes first and peaceful nuclear development is a subordinate right − assuming it's a right at all.

The NPT has a similar caveat: "Nothing in this 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 ..."[18]

Current priorities need to be reversed. Victor Gilinsky, a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, states: "Security should come first − not as an afterthought. We should support as much nuclear power as is consistent with international security; not as much security as the spread of nuclear power will allow."[19]

6. Fissile material is scarce?

Academic nincompoops Haydon Manning and Andrew O'Neil state that "the core ingredients of weapons-grade fissile material (i.e. highly enriched uranium and plutonium) are scarce internationally ..."[20]

A May 2015 report written by Zia Mian and Alexander Glaser for the International Panel on Fissile Materials provides details on stockpiles of fissile materials as of the end of 2013:

  • Highly enriched uranium (HEU): 1,345 tons (936 tons military; 290 tons naval; 57 tons 'excess'; 61 tons civilian) − enough for 89,700 weapons (assuming 15 kg HEU/weapon).
  • Plutonium: 498 tons (142 tons military; 89 tons 'excess'; 267 tons civilian) − enough for 129,700 weapons (assuming 3 kg of weapon grade plutonium or 5 kg of reactor grade plutonium per weapon).[21]

Mian and Glaser state that the global stockpile of fissile material contains more than 200,000 weapon-equivalents (219,400 using the above figures). The civilian stockpiles contain 57,070 weapons-equivalents: 61 tons of highly enriched uranium (4,070 weapons), and 267 tons of (separated) plutonium (53,000 weapons).

The figures are greater if plutonium in spent fuel is included. A 2005 report by the Institute for Science and International Security found that nuclear stockpiles contained over 300,000 weapon-equivalents:

  • 1,830 tonnes of plutonium in 35 countries at the end of 2003, enough to make 225,000 nuclear bombs (assuming 8 kg/weapon), with civil plutonium stockpiles increasing by 70 tonnes per year. The figure for power and research reactor programs was 1,570 tonnes or 196,250 weapon-equivalents.
  • 1,900 tonnes highly enriched uranium in more than 50 countries, enough for over 75,000 weapons (assuming 25 kg/weapon).
  • more than 140 tonnes of neptunium-237 and americium in 32 countries, enough for 5,000 weapons.[22]

7. Nuclear power is not a proliferation problem?

Academic 'Research Fellow' Martin Boland states: "Historically, if a country wants to produce a nuclear bomb, they build reactors especially for the job of making plutonium, and ignore civilian power stations."[23]

John Carlson, former head of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office, states: "I have pointed out on numerous occasions that nuclear power as such is not a proliferation problem – rather the problem is with the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies ..."[24]

Such arguments are false and disingenuous, for several reasons.

Firstly, power reactors have been used directly in weapons programs:

  • India refuses to place numerous power reactors under safeguards[25] and presumably uses (or plans to use) them for weapons production.
  • The US has long used a power reactor to produce tritium for use in nuclear weapons.[26] And proponents of a 'Safe Modular Underground Reactor' proposed for South Carolina were kindly offering the reactor to produce tritium for weapons.[27]
  • The 1962 test of sub-weapon-grade plutonium by the US may have used plutonium from a power reactor.
  • The US operated at least one dual-use reactor (the Hanford 'N' reactor) to generate power and to produce plutonium for weapons.[28]
  • Russia operated dual-use reactors to generate power and to produce plutonium for weapons.[29]
  • Magnox reactors in the UK were used to generate power and to produce plutonium for weapons.[30]
  • In France, the military and civilian uses of nuclear energy are "intimately linked".[31] France used the Phénix fast neutron power reactor to produce plutonium for weapons[32] and possibly other power reactors for the same purpose.
  • North Korea has tested weapons using plutonium produced in its 'Experimental Power Reactor'.
  • Pakistan may be using power reactor/s in support of its nuclear weapons program.

Secondly, separating enrichment and reprocessing on the one hand, and reactors on the other, misses the point that the purpose of enrichment is to produce fuel for reactors, and reactors are the only source of materials for reprocessing plants. Nuclear power programs provide cover and legitimacy for the acquisition of enrichment and reprocessing technology.

Similarly, one of the main justifications for the development of research and training reactors is, as the name suggests, research and training towards the development of nuclear power. Research reactors have been the plutonium source for weapons in India and Israel. Small amounts of plutonium have been produced in research reactors then separated from irradiated materials in a number of countries suspected of or known to be interested in the development of a nuclear weapons capability − including Iraq, Iran, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, Yugoslavia, and possibly Romania.[33] There is little pretence that Pakistan's unsafeguarded Khushab reactors are anything other than military reactors, but the 50 MWt Khushab reactor has been described as a 'multipurpose' reactor.[34]

Nuclear power programs can facilitate weapons programs even if power reactors are not actually built. Iraq provides a clear illustration of this point. While Iraq's nuclear research program provided much cover for the weapons program from the 1970s until 1991, stated interest in developing nuclear power was also significant. Iraq pursued a 'shop till you drop' program of acquiring dual-use technology, with much of the shopping done openly and justified by nuclear power ambitions.[35]

According to Khidhir Hamza, a senior nuclear scientist involved in Iraq's weapons program: "Acquiring nuclear technology within the IAEA safeguards system was the first step in establishing the infrastructure necessary to develop nuclear weapons. In 1973, we decided to acquire a 40-megawatt research reactor, a fuel manufacturing plant, and nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, all under cover of acquiring the expertise needed to eventually build and operate nuclear power plants and produce and recycle nuclear fuel. Our hidden agenda was to clandestinely develop the expertise and infrastructure needed to produce weapon-grade plutonium."[36]

In addition to material contributions for weapons programs, civil nuclear programs can provide the necessary expertise. Ian Jackson discusses the overlap: "The physics of nuclear weapons is really a specialized sub-set of general nuclear physics, and there are many theoretical overlaps between reactor and weapon design. ... Indeed, when I myself changed career from working at Britain's civilian Atomic Energy Research Establishment (Harwell) to inspecting the military AWE Aldermaston nearly a decade later, I was surprised at the technical similarity of energy and bomb research. The career transition was relatively straightforward, perhaps signalling the intellectual difficulty of separating nuclear energy technology from that of nuclear weapons."[37]

Civil nuclear programs can provide political impetus for weapons programs. In Australia, for example, the most influential proponent of the push for nuclear weapons in the 1960s was Philip Baxter, head of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.[38]

Alternatively, the military can co-opt civil nuclear programs. Academic Saleem Ali discusses the case of Pakistan: "Nuclear capability seems to have a seductive appeal towards weaponization in countries that exist in conflict zones. Aspiring nuclear power states should consider this danger of the military co-opting any nuclear agenda, as happened in Pakistan despite the pioneering work of well-intentioned scientists and nuclear energy advocates like Salam."[39]

8. In some weapons states, nuclear power is insignificant or non-existent.

John Carlson, then head of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, claimed that "... in some of the countries having nuclear weapons, nuclear power remains insignificant or non-existent."[40]

This attempt to absolve nuclear power from proliferation problems ignores the direct use of power reactors to produce material for weapons, and the use of power programs to justify development of other facilities used in weapons programs (enrichment and reprocessing plants, and research and training reactors).

Of the 10 states that have produced nuclear weapons, eight have power reactors and North Korea has an 'Experimental Power Reactor'. The nine current weapons states account for 59% of the world's 'operable' reactors as of May 2015 (257/437).[41]

9. Weapons first, power later.

Academic 'Research Fellow' Martin Boland claims that "no country has developed indigenous nuclear weapons after deploying civilian nuclear power stations.[42] Likewise, John Carlson says: "If we look to the history of nuclear weapons development, we can see that those countries with nuclear weapons developed them before they developed nuclear power programs."[43]

Those claims are partly true, partly false and partly misleading. In some cases, reactors preceded weapons. India had three power reactors operating before its 1974 weapons test.[44] Pakistan had one power reactor operating before it developed weapons.[45] North Korea's 'Experimental Power Reactor' preceded its weapons program − and has been used to produce plutonium for weapons.

In some other countries, weapons programs did indeed predate the development of nuclear power − but power programs have still contributed to weapons production. Examples include the operation of dual-use power/plutonium reactors in the UK, US, France and Russia (see #7 above).

10. Weapons proliferation is a problem with or without nuclear power.

Academics Brook and Bradshaw state: "Nuclear weapons proliferation is a complex political issue, with or without commercial nuclear power plants ..."[46]

True, but civil nuclear programs are a significant part of the proliferation. Five of the 10 states that have built weapons did so with significant technical and material input and/or political cover from civil programs (or ostensibly civil programs) − South Africa, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea.

The use of civil nuclear facilities and materials for weapons research or weapons programs has been commonplace. It has occurred in the following countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, North Korea, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, UK, US, and Yugoslavia.[47]

Overall, civil nuclear facilities and materials have been used for weapons R&D in over one-third of all the countries with a nuclear industry of any significance, i.e. with power and/or research reactors. The Institute for Science and International Security collates information on nuclear programs and concludes that about 30 countries have sought nuclear weapons and 10 succeeded – a similar strike rate of one-in-three.[48]

Former IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei noted: "If a country with a full nuclear fuel cycle decides to break away from its non-proliferation commitments, a nuclear weapon could be only months away. In such cases, we are only as secure as the outbreak of the next major crisis. In today's environment, this margin of security is simply untenable."[49]

11. Climate change is more important than nuclear weapons proliferation?

Even if we accept the proposition that climate change is a graver threat than nuclear weapons proliferation, that's hardly an argument for ignoring weapons proliferation. In any case, both problems are profound. And the problems are linked because of the potential for nuclear warfare to cause catastrophic climate change (see #3 above).

Academic Mark Diesendorf states: "On top of the perennial challenges of global poverty and injustice, the two biggest threats facing human civilisation in the 21st century are climate change and nuclear war. It would be absurd to respond to one by increasing the risks of the other. Yet that is what nuclear power does."[50]

Likewise, former US Vice President Al Gore said: "For eight years in the White House, every weapons-proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a civilian reactor program. And if we ever got to the point where we wanted to use nuclear reactors to back out a lot of coal ... then we'd have to put them in so many places we'd run that proliferation risk right off the reasonability scale."[51]

A 2010 editorial in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists noted: "As we see it, however, the world is not now safe for a rapid global expansion of nuclear energy. Such an expansion carries with it a high risk of misusing uranium enrichment plants and separated plutonium to create bombs. The use of nuclear devices is still a very dangerous possibility in a world where Russian and U.S. ballistic missiles are on hair trigger and long-standing conflicts between countries and among peoples too often escalate into military actions. As two of our board members have pointed out, 'Nuclear war is a terrible trade for slowing the pace of climate change.'"[52]

12. Nuclear capable countries account for a large majority of greenhouse emissions.

Academics Brook and Bradshaw state that countries with nuclear power reactors account 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the figure rises to over 90% including those nations that are actively planning nuclear deployment or already have research reactors. They conclude: "As a consequence, displacement of fossil fuels by an expanding nuclear-energy sector would not lead to a large increase in the number of countries with access to nuclear resources and expertise."[53]

Likewise, Geoff Russell argues: "Over 90 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions come from countries which already have nuclear reactors. So these are the countries where the most reactors are needed. How is having more reactors, particularly electricity reactors, going to make any of these countries more likely to build nuclear weapons? It isn't."[54]

The premise is correct − countries operating reactors account for a large majority of greenhouse emissions. But even by the most expansive estimate − Brook's[55] − less than one-third of all countries have some sort of weapons capability (they possess weapons, are allied to a weapons state, or they operate power and/or research reactors). So Brook and Bradshaw's conclusion − that nuclear power expansion "would not lead to a large increase in the number of countries with access to nuclear resources and expertise" − is nonsense.

There is another thread to the Brook/Bradshaw argument. It is true that the expansion of nuclear power in countries which already operate reactors is of little of no proliferation significance. It is of still less significance in countries with both nuclear power and weapons. Incremental growth of nuclear power in the US, for example, is of no proliferation significance. That said, US civil nuclear policies can (and do) have profound proliferation significance. The US-led push to allow nuclear trade with India has dealt a cruel blow to the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture and to the NPT in particular. And the US government's willingness to conclude bilateral nuclear trade agreements without prohibitions on the development of enrichment and reprocessing is problematic (and conversely, the agreement with the United Arab Emirates, which does prohibit enrichment and reprocessing in the UAE, is helpful).

13. The weapons genie is out of the bottle.

Some nuclear advocates claim that the weapons 'genie is out of the bottle' and that we therefore need not concern ourselves about the proliferation risks associated with an expansion of nuclear power.[56]

However, of the world's 194 countries, 10 have produced weapons − just under 5%.

About 45 countries (about one-quarter of all nations) have the capacity to produce significant quantities of fissile material for nuclear weapons − they have power reactors, medium- to large-sized research reactors, enrichment and/or reprocessing technology.

The weapons genie is only part way out of the bottle. And a large majority of the countries that have the capacity to produce significant quantities of fissile material have that capacity from their civil programs −  so the 'genie' argument is circular and disingenuous.

14. Reactor grade plutonium can't be used for weapons?

Some nuclear advocates claim that the 'reactor grade' plutonium routinely produced in power reactors cannot be used in weapons. For example Barry Brook claims that "plutonium that comes out of reactors ... is contaminated with different isotopes of plutonium which means that even if you had all of the facilities available to you that the Manhattan bomb designers had, you still wouldn't be able to use it to create a nuclear bomb."[57]

In fact, the 'reactor grade' plutonium produced during routine operation of a power reactor is not ideal for weapons, but can be used nonetheless.[58]

The US government has acknowledged that a successful test using reactor grade plutonium was carried out at the Nevada Test Site in 1962. The exact isotopic composition of the plutonium used in the 1962 test remains classified. It has been suggested that because of changing classification systems, the plutonium may have been fuel grade plutonium using current classifications; in any case it was certainly sub-weapon grade.

India Today reported that one or more of the 1998 tests in India used reactor grade plutonium[59] and the UK and North Korea may have tested bombs using reactor grade or fuel grade plutonium.[60]

The problem is exacerbated by the separation and stockpiling of plutonium produced in power reactors, such that it can be used directly in weapons. Stockpiles of separated civil plutonium amounted to 267 tons as of the end of 2013.[61]

Moreover it is possible to operate power reactors on a short cycle to produce weapon grade plutonium. A typical reactor (1,000 MWe) could produce around 200 kg of weapon grade plutonium annually − enough for 50 weapons.[62]

15. Specious parallels with other dual-use materials.

Nuclear proponents sometimes downplay the significance of the dual-use capabilities of nuclear facilities and materials by noting the dual-use capabilities of many non-nuclear materials. For example, steel has a myriad of military and civil uses, and planes can be used as missiles.

Such arguments overlook the problem that nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive potential.

Such arguments ignore the fact that there are typically a myriad of pathways to the production of conventional, chemical and biological weapons, whereas for nuclear weapons the are just a couple of fundamental choices − pursuit of highly-enriched uranium and/or plutonium, and the choice between a dedicated (sometimes secret) weapons program or the pursuit of weapons under cover of a peaceful program.

There is also a 'straw man' character to the arguments. Banning steel because of its military uses would be impossible, it would result in nothing more than the substitution of other metals (or materials) to replace steel, and overall it would do far more harm than good. Banning planes because of their potential use as missiles would be just as silly.

Another 'straw man' element to the argument is the assumption that nuclear power must either be supported or banned. That assumption ignores the potential to reduce proliferation risks in a myriad of ways (see #16 below).

16. Determined proliferators can't be stopped ... so there's no point trying.

Nuclear weapons proliferation can be stopped or curbed by the following means (among others):

  • Bilateral (e.g. Argentina-Brazil), multilateral (e.g. weapons free zones) and international agreements (e.g. the NPT).
  • The detection of a weapons program (by the IAEA or others) followed by action to stop the program.
  • Preventing the spread of 'sensitive nuclear technologies' (enrichment and reprocessing) and tightening control of existing enrichment and reprocessing plants.
  • Replacing highly enriched uranium fuel or targets with low-enriched uranium in research reactors.
  • Technology choices (e.g. preventing or prohibiting the development of laser enrichment technology).
  • Security assurances.
  • Unilateral pressure (e.g. the US has pressured a number of countries to stop their pursuit of a weapons capability, e.g. Taiwan and South Korea).

Weapons proliferation can also be reversed:

  • South Africa dismantled its nuclear weapons.
  • Three ex-Soviet states gave up their weapons in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union − Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.
  • Many countries have gone some way down the path towards developing a nuclear weapons capability but have abandoned those efforts.[63]

17. Strict safeguards prevent the misuse of the peaceful atom?

Ian Hore-Lacy from the World Nuclear Association states: "The international safeguards regime is perhaps the main success story of UN Agencies ..."[64]

But there are countless problems with the safeguards system.[65] In articles and speeches during his tenure as IAEA Director General from 1997− 2009, Dr. Mohamed El Baradei said that the Agency's basic rights of inspection are "fairly limited", that the safeguards system suffers from "vulnerabilities" and "clearly needs reinforcement", that efforts to improve the system have been "half-hearted", and that the safeguards system operates on a "shoestring budget ... comparable to that of a local police department".

Nuclear advocates sometimes imagine that a robust safeguards system exists and conflate their imagination with reality. Brook and Bradshaw claim that nuclear weapons proliferation "is under strong international oversight".[66] Strangely, they cite a book by Tom Blees in support of that statement.[67] But Blees doesn't argue that the nuclear industry is subject to strong international oversight − he argues that "fissile material should all be subject to rigorous international oversight" (emphasis added).[68] He argues for the establishment of an international strike force on full standby to attend promptly to attempts to misuse or divert nuclear materials, and he argues for radical social engineering to accommodate nuclear power including international control and a ban on private sector involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle.[69]

Imagining a rigorous safeguards system and radical social engineering is one thing; bringing it into existence is quite another.

Problems with safeguards include:

  • Chronic under-resourcing. El Baradei told the IAEA Board of Governors in 2009: "I would be misleading world public opinion to create an impression that we are doing what we are supposed to do, when we know that we don't have the money to do it."[70]
  • Issues relating to national sovereignty and commercial confidentiality adversely impact on safeguards.
  • the inevitability of accounting discrepancies.
  • Incorrect/outdated assumptions about the amount of fissile material required to build a weapon.
  • The fact that, the IAEA has no mandate to prevent the misuse of civil nuclear facilities and materials − at best it can detect misuse/diversion and handball the problem to the UN Security Council. As the IAEA states: "It is clear that no international safeguards system can physically prevent diversion or the setting up of an undeclared or clandestine nuclear programme."[71]
  • The resolution of suspected misuse/diversion is secretive and protracted, and double-standards are evident in responses to suspected breaches;
  • Countries that have breached their safeguards obligations can simply withdraw from the NPT and pursue a weapons program, as North Korea has done;
  • Safeguards are shrouded in secrecy − for example the IAEA used to publish aggregate data on the number of inspections in India, Israel and Pakistan, but even that nearly worthless information is no longer publicly available.

A very different take on the argument comes from Manning and O'Neil.[72] They argue that the NPT is in "terminal decline" and isn't worth preserving. That argument is used to justify further weakening the NPT by opening up nuclear trade with India, a weapons state outside the NPT.

So the safeguards / non-proliferation regime is robust and we should therefore support nuclear power; or the regime is bust and we should therefore support nuclear power. Take your pick.

18. New reactors types are proliferation-proof?

Advocates of every conceivable type of reactor claim that their preferred reactor type is proliferation-proof or proliferation-resistant.

For example, a thorium enthusiast claims that thorium is "thoroughly useless for making nuclear weapons."[73] But the proliferation risks associated with thorium fuel cycles can be as bad as − or worse than − the risks associated with conventional uranium reactor technology.[74]

An enthusiast of integral fast reactors (IFR) claims they "cannot be used to generate weapons-grade material."[75] But IFRs can be used to produce plutonium for weapons.[76] Dr George Stanford, who worked on an IFR R&D program in the US, notes that proliferators "could do [with IFRs] what they could do with any other reactor − operate it on a special cycle to produce good quality weapons material."[77]

Nuclear advocates frequently make statements which are true, but misleading. For example, thorium itself is not a proliferation risk, but the uranium-233 that is produced when thorium is irradiated can be (and has been) used in weapons. And strictly speaking, it is true that IFRs "cannot be used to generate weapons-grade material" − because IFRs don't exist. And neither new or old reactor types can produce weapon grade plutonium or weapons-useable plutonium in the sense that plutonium cannot be used in weapons until it is separated from materials irradiated in a reactor, by reprocessing.

Fusion illustrates how difficult it is to disentangle the peaceful atom from its siamese twin, the military atom. Fusion has yet to generate a single Watt of useful electricity but it has already contributed to proliferation problems. According to Khidhir Hamza, a senior nuclear scientist involved in Iraq's weapons program in the 1980s: "Iraq took full advantage of the IAEA's recommendation in the mid 1980s to start a plasma physics program for "peaceful" fusion research. We thought that buying a plasma focus device ... would provide an excellent cover for buying and learning about fast electronics technology, which could be used to trigger atomic bombs."[78]

All existing and proposed reactor types and nuclear fuel cycles pose proliferation risks. The UK Royal Society notes: "There is no proliferation proof nuclear fuel cycle. The dual use risk of nuclear materials and technology and in civil and military applications cannot be eliminated."[79]

Likewise, John Carlson, former Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, notes that "no presently known nuclear fuel cycle is completely proliferation proof".[80]

Proponents of new reactor types claim that proliferation-resistance is an important driver of technological innovation. There is no evidence to support the claim. Moreover, precious few nuclear industry insiders or nuclear advocates show the slightest concern about proliferation problems such as growing stockpiles of separated civil plutonium, or the inadequate safeguards system, or the troubling implications of opening up civil nuclear trade with non-NPT states such as India.

Climate scientist James Hansen states: "Nuclear reactors can also be made more resistant to weapons proliferation than today's reactors."[81] But are new reactors being made more resistant to weapons proliferation than today's reactors? In a word: No.

Hansen claims that "modern nuclear technology can reduce proliferation risks and solve the waste disposal problem by burning current waste and using fuel more efficiently."[82] That's absolutely true. And it's equally true that modern (Generation IV) technology could worsen proliferation problems. For example, India plans to produce weapons-grade plutonium in fast breeder reactors for use as driver fuel in thorium reactors.[83] Compared to conventional uranium reactors, India's plan is far worse on both proliferation and security grounds.

In a 2013 article, Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen wave away the proliferation problem with the assertion that they have "discussed it in some detail elsewhere".[84] But the paper they cite[85] barely touches upon the proliferation problem and what it does say is mostly rubbish:

  • It falsely claim that thorium-based fuel cycles are "inherently proliferation-resistant".
  • It claims that integral fast reactors "could be inherently free from the risk of proliferation". At best, integral fast reactors could reduce proliferation risks; they could never be "inherently free" from proliferation risks.
  • And it states that if "designed properly", breeder reactors would generate "nothing suitable for weapons". India's Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor will be the next fast neutron reactor to begin operation (scheduled for September 2015). It will be ideal for producing weapon grade plutonium for India's weapons program, and it will likely be used for that purpose since India is refusing to place it under safeguards.[86]

Hansen and his colleagues argue that "modern nuclear technology can reduce proliferation risks".[87] India's Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor is modern − but it will exacerbate, not reduce, proliferation risks.


[1] B. Brook, and C. Bradshaw, 2014, 'Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation', Conservation Biology,

[2] Andrew O'Neil, 18 Sep 2010, 'Nuclear power plants are not bomb factories', The Australian,

[3] International Panel on Fissile Materials, 2010, 'Fast Breeder Reactor Programs: History and Status',

[4] Ian Hore-Lacy, 2000, "The Future of Nuclear Energy", paper presented at the Royal College of Physicians Conference, Adelaide, 4 May 2000, available from

[6] Andrew O'Neil, 18 Sep 2010, 'Nuclear power plants are not bomb factories', The Australian,

[8] Alan Robock, 14 Aug 2008, 'We should really worry about nuclear winter', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,

See also: Alan Robock, et al., 2007, 'Climatic consequences of regional nuclear conflicts', Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 7, pp.2003–2012,

[9] John Mecklin, 24 March 2015, 'Disarm and Modernize',

[10] UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, 30 Nov 2004, 'A more secure world: Our shared responsibility. Report to the Secretary-General', p.39,

[11] Geoff Russell, 2014, 'GreenJacked! The misdirection of environmental action on climate change', chapter 14, ISBN: 9-780980-656114

[12] Robert MacNamara, Oct 2009, 'Apocalypse Soon',

[13] Quoted in Sue Wareham, 6 Aug 2009, 'The terror of Hiroshima',

[14] US National Intelligence Council, 2008, "Global Trends 2025 – a Transformed World",

[16] 26 Mar 2012, 'Remarks by President Obama at Hankuk University',

[17] 13 April 2010, 'Communiqué of the Washington Nuclear Security Summit',

[19] Victor Gilinsky, 'A call to resist the nuclear revival', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 27 Jan 2009,

[20] Haydon Manning and Andrew O'Neil, 2007, 'Australia's Nuclear Horizon: Moving Beyond the Drumbeat of Risk Inflation', Australian Journal of Political Science, 42:4, 563-578, or

[21] Zia Mian and Alexander Glaser, 2015, 'Global Fissile Material Report 2015: Nuclear Weapon and Fissile Material Stockpiles and Production', International Panel on Fissile Materials,

[22] Institute for Science and International Security, 1 Jan 2005, 'Global Stocks of Nuclear Explosive Material – End 2003 (Updated 2005)', Chapters I and II,

Rob Edwards, 7 Sep 2005, 'Nuclear stockpiles could create 300,000 bombs', New Scientist,

[23] Martin Boland, 30 Dec 2013, 'Debunking myths on nuclear power (it's not for making bombs)',

[24] John Carlson, 27 Nov 2006, supplementary submission 30.2 to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Inquiry into Uranium Sales To China,

[25] John Carlson, 15 April 2015, submission to Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Parliament of Australia,

[26] US Government Accountability Office, Oct 2010, 'National Nuclear Security Administration Needs to Ensure Continued Availability of Tritium for the Weapons Stockpile',

[27] Thomas Clements, 2012, 'Documents Reveal Time-line and Plans for “Small Modular Reactors” (SMRs) at the Savannah River Site (SRS) Unrealistic and Promise no Funding',

[28] Patrick Marshall, 4 Feb 2014, 'Hanford's N Reactor', Essay 10702,

[29] Mark A. Prelas and Michael Peck, 12 Jan 2005, 'Nonproliferation Issues For Weapons of Mass Destruction', CRC Press, pp.88-89,

[31] Patrice Bouveret, Bruno Barrillot, and Dominique Lalanne, Jan/Feb 2013, 'Nuclear chromosomes: The national security implications of a French nuclear exit', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 69: 11-17,

[32] Mycle Schneider, 2009, 'Fast Breeder Reactors in France', Science and Global Security, 17:36–53,

[33] Friends of the Earth, Australia, 'Research reactors and weapons proliferation',

[34] World Nuclear Association, 'Nuclear Power in Pakistan', Updated April 2015,

[35] David Albright and Mark Hibbs, April 1992, 'Iraq's shop-yill-you-drop nuclear program', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 48, No. 3,

[36] Khidhir Hamza, Sep/Oct 1998, 'Inside Saddam's Secret Nuclear Program', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 54, No. 5,

[37] Ian Jackson, 2009, 'Nuclear energy and proliferation risks: myths and realities in the Persian Gulf', International Affairs, 85:6, pp.1157–1172, or

[38] Friends of the Earth, Australia, 'The push for nuclear weapons in Australia 1950s-1970s',

[39] Saleem Ali, 18 May 2015, 'Power and peace: how nations can go nuclear without weapons',

[40] Carlson, John, 2000, "Nuclear Energy and Non-proliferation – Issues and Challenges: An Australian Perspective", Paper prepared for JAIF Symposium on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and Non-Proliferation, Tokyo, 9-10 March 2000.

[42] Martin Boland, 30 Dec 2013, 'Debunking myths on nuclear power (it's not for making bombs)',

[43] John Carlson, 2000, "Nuclear Energy and Non-proliferation – Issues and Challenges: An Australian Perspective", Paper prepared for JAIF Symposium on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and Non-Proliferation, Tokyo, 9-10 March 2000.

[46] B. Brook, and C. Bradshaw, 2014, 'Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation', Conservation Biology,

[47] Friends of the Earth, Australia, 'Case Studies: Civil Nuclear Programs and Weapons Proliferation',

[48] Institute for Science and International Security, 'Nuclear Weapons Programs Worldwide: An Historical Overview', accessed 26 May 2015,

[49] Mohamed El Baradei, 6 Dec 2005, 'Reflections on Nuclear Challenges Today',

[50] Mark Diesendorf, 14 Oct 2009, 'Need energy? Forget nuclear and go natural',

[51] Quoted in David Roberts, 9 May 2006, 'An interview with accidental movie star Al Gore',

[52] Editorial − Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 14 Jan 2010, 'It is 6 minutes to midnight',

[53] B. Brook, and C. Bradshaw, 2014, 'Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation', Conservation Biology,

[54] Geoff Russell, 2014, 'GreenJacked! The misdirection of environmental action on climate change', chapter 14, ISBN: 9-780980-656114

[55] Barry Brook, 6 Nov 2009, 'Carbon emissions and nuclear capable countries',

[56] Barry Brook, 6 Nov 2009, 'Carbon emissions and nuclear capable countries',

[57] ABC, 17 May 2010, 'Does Being Green mean Going Nuclear?',

[58] 'Can 'reactor grade' plutonium be used in nuclear weapons?', 6 June 2014, Nuclear Monitor #787,

[59] Anon., October 10, 1998, "The H-Bomb", India Today.

[60] Jackson, Ian, 2009, 'Nuclear energy and proliferation risks: myths and realities in the Persian Gulf', International Affairs 85:6, pp.1157–1172, or

[61] Zia Mian and Alexander Glaser, 2015, 'Global Fissile Material Report 2015: Nuclear Weapon and Fissile Material Stockpiles and Production', International Panel on Fissile Materials,

[62] Victor Gilinsky with Marvin Miller and Harmon Hubbard, 22 Oct 2004, 'A Fresh Examination of the Proliferation Dangers of Light Water Reactors',

See also Zia Mian and M. V. Ramana, Jan/Feb 2006, 'Wrong Ends, Means, and Needs: Behind the U.S. Nuclear Deal With India', Arms Control Today,

[63] Friends of the Earth, Australia, 'Case Studies: Civil Nuclear Programs and Weapons Proliferation',

[64] Ian Hore-Lacy, 2000, "The Future of Nuclear Energy", paper presented at the Royal College of Physicians Conference, Adelaide, 4 May 2000, available from

[65] For information on safeguards see the papers listed at

[66] B. Brook, and C. Bradshaw, 2014, 'Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation', Conservation Biology,

[67] Tom Blees, 'Prescription for the Planet',

[69] Tom Blees, 'Prescription for the Planet',

[70] Mohamed El Baradei, 16 June 2009, 'Director General's Intervention on Budget at IAEA Board of Governors',

[71] IAEA, 1993, Against the Spread of Nuclear Weapons: IAEA Safeguards in the 1990s.

[72] Haydon Manning and Andrew O'Neil, 26 May 2006, 'Smart moves',

[73] Tim Dean, 16 March 2011, 'The greener nuclear alternative',

[74] 'Thor-bores and uro-sceptics: thorium's friendly fire', Nuclear Monitor #801, 9 April 2015, or

[75] Barry Brook, 9 June 2009, 'An inconvenient solution', The Australian,

[76] Friends of the Earth, Australia, 'Nuclear Weapons and 'Generation 4' Reactors',

[77] George Stanford, 18 Sep 2010, 'IFR FaD 7 – Q&A on Integral Fast Reactors',

[78] Khidhir Hamza, Sep/Oct 1998, 'Inside Saddam's Secret Nuclear Program', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 54, No. 5,

[79] UK Royal Society, 13 Oct 2011, 'Fuel cycle stewardship in a nuclear renaissance',

[80] John Carlson, 2009, 'Introduction to the Concept of Proliferation Resistance',

[81] James Hansen, 7 June 2014, 'Scientists can help in planet's carbon cut',

[82] 3 Nov 2013, 'Top climate change scientists' letter to policy influencers',

[83] John Carlson, 2014, submission to Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Parliament of Australia,

[84] Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen, March 2013, 'Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power', Environment, Science and Technology,

[85] P. Kharecha et al., 2010, 'Options for near-term phaseout of CO2 emissions from coal use in the United States', Environmental Science & Technology, 44, 4050-4062,

[86] John Carlson, 2015, first supplementary submission to Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Parliament of Australia,

[87] K. Caldeira, K. Emanuel, J. Hansen, and T. Wigley, 3 Nov 2013, 'Top climate change scientists' letter to policy influencers',