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My people are still suffering from Australia's secret nuclear testing

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Sue Coleman-Haseldine

This is an extract of Sue Coleman-Haseldine's speech in Oslo marking the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Sue is an indigenous Kokatha woman who lives in Ceduna, South Australia, and a member of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (

My name is Sue Coleman-Haseldine. I was born into poverty on the margins of Australian society on the Aboriginal mission of Koonibba in 1951. At this time my people were not allowed to vote and we had very few means to be understood, let alone be heard.

I was born into one of the oldest living cultures known on Earth and into a place that I love – a dusty, arid paradise on the edge of a rugged coastline. Our land and waters are central to our outlook and religion and provide the basis for my people's health and happiness.

And I was born just before the desert lands to our north were bombed by the deadliest weapons on Earth in an extensive, secretive and devastating manner by the Australian and British governments.

In the 1950s, areas known as Emu Fields and Maralinga were used to test nine full-scale atomic bombs and for 600 other nuclear tests, leaving the land highly radioactive. We weren't on ground zero, but the dust didn't stay in one place. The winds brought the poison to us and many others.

Aboriginal people, indeed many people at that time, knew nothing about the effects of radiation. We didn't know the invisible killer was falling amongst us. Six decades on, my small town of Ceduna is being called the Cancer Capital of Australia. There are so many deaths in our region of various cancers. My grand-daughter and I have had our thyroids removed, and there are many others in our area with thyroid problems. Fertility issues appear common.

But there has been no long-term assessment of the health impacts in the region and even those involved in the botched clean-ups of the test sites have no recourse because they cannot prove their illness is linked with exposure to nuclear weapons testing.

The impact of the Maralinga and Emu Fields testing has had far-reaching consequences that are still being felt today. Ask a young person from my area, "What do you think you will die from?" The answer is, "Cancer, everyone else is".

I have lived my life learning about the bomb tests and also learning that the voice of my people and others won't always be understood or heard. But I learnt from old people now gone that speaking up is important and by joining with others from many different places and backgrounds that our voices can be amplified.

Through these steps I found the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), or perhaps ICAN found me. ICAN – as an organisation, as a collective of passionate, educated people working for a clear goal – has been so important to me. To know that my story and my voice helps bring recognition to the past and can shape the future of nuclear prohibition has strengthened my resolve.

Being involved in ICAN has been a double-edged sword. On one hand and for the first time in my life, I no longer feel alone or isolated. I have met others from many parts of the globe who have similar stories and experiences and who are passionate advocates for a nuclear-free future.

But the flip side of this is my understanding of just how widespread and just how devastating the nuclear weapons legacy is across the globe. To learn that so many weapons still exist sends fear to my heart. ICAN is a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize – in a short time we have gathered support for a treaty to finally outlaw nuclear weapons and help eliminate the nuclear threat.

The vision was reached in part with so many nations adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017. And we should celebrate this win and the opportunity to work together to stop the suffering and assist countries to make amends to nuclear weapons victims by acknowledging the permanent damage done to land, health and culture.

Unfortunately, the Australian government, along with other first world nations, didn't even participate in the treaty negotiations, and they haven't signed the treaty yet, but over time we feel confident they will.

A lot has changed since I was born. Aboriginal people now have the right to vote in Australia, but still we battle for understanding about our culture and the Australian nuclear weapons legacy. My home is still remote and most of my people still poor. But we are also no longer alone. We have the means and the will to participate – to share and to learn and to bring about lasting change.

ICAN's work is not done, our work is not done. We will continue to work together. A world without nuclear weapons is a world we need and are creating. I stand here in hope and gratitude for the opportunity to participate. I stand here with pride and I stand here for our future and the generations to come.

ICAN's Nobel Peace Prize born in Australia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Dr Margaret Beavis ‒ president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War and a board member of ICAN Australia.

Australians can be very proud. The winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), started in Melbourne. It began when the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) recognised that nuclear weapons, the very worst of the weapons of mass destruction, were still "legitimate". This contrasted with chemical weapons, biological weapons, cluster munitions, land mines – even dumdum bullets, which all have been made illegal by UN treaty, with impressive results.

The late Dr Bill Williams, a key member of the founding group, wrote: "After the energetically anti-nuke eighties and the end of the Cold War, nuclear holocaust – always unthinkable – became almost unmentionable. A mass self-censorship, a mental no-fly zone, a cone of silence descended. Little wonder: no sane person wants to contaminate their dreams with this ultimate horror. But to finish this journey of survival – to abolition – we need to penetrate the fog of fear and denial, informing ourselves and our neighbours without inducing psychological paralysis."

In 2006 he was part of the founding group of MAPW members, along with Tilman Ruff, Dimity Hawkins, Sue Wareham and others. The highly successful landmines campaign was taken as a model. For MAPW this was a bit like giving birth to a gorilla; ICAN very successfully brought together existing humanitarian organisations, clearly identifying nuclear weapons as a humanitarian issue, not a political one.

ICAN now has 468 partner organisations in 101 countries. It was pivotal to the UN adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on July 7 this year. In 2007, IPPNW (the 1985 Nobel Prize-winning group the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War) adopted ICAN as a core campaign. Locally the Poola Foundation helped ICAN get established, and later a major contribution came from the Norwegian government.

ICAN and its many partners worked tirelessly, educating governments about the urgent need for action. In 2013 and 2014, Norway, Mexico and Vienna hosted intergovernmental conferences, attended by more than 150 countries.

Throughout the campaign graphic stories from the "Hibakusha", the survivors of the bombs in World War 2 and survivors of nuclear weapons testing, brought home the appalling personal costs of these weapons. The Red Cross emphasised the only possible option is prevention, given all doctors, ambulances and hospitals are destroyed in a nuclear blast. Any meaningful response is impossible.

The longer term impacts of a limited nuclear exchange are also devastating. So much atmospheric dust would be created that a "nuclear winter" would follow, reducing crop yields for more than a decade and causing a famine putting two billion lives at risk.

It is horrifying that North Korea now has nuclear weapons. But also horrifying are the existing 15,000 weapons, with 1800 ready to launch. There have been numerous very close calls, where human and technical errors have brought us perilously close to nuclear war.

After nearly 50 years the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has stalled, with the entrenched need for consensus blocking effective action. South Africa likened the situation to apartheid; with the nine nuclear weapons states having a different set of rules for themselves compared to the rest of the world – effectively holding the rest of the world to ransom.

ICAN offered a new way forward, aiming for a UN General Assembly based process. Thus the nuclear possessing states could no longer block the wishes of the majority of nations. This treaty deliberately harmonises with the NPT, both working towards a common goal.

Shamefully, Australia's government has worked to undermine this process. The Australian delegation at the UN working group last year was described in the press as "Weasels", much to their chagrin. A key strategy of the ICAN campaign has been "humour, horror and hope", so typically ICAN provided photogenic sign-carrying "weasels", helpfully greeting Australian politicians as they continued their anti-ban treaty arguments.

On July 7 the TPNW was resoundingly adopted: 122 countries in favour, one against (the Netherlands), and one abstention (Singapore). Finally nuclear weapons will be clearly on the same footing as biological and chemical weapons.

This will not be a fast process. It will take a couple of decades to steadily and verifiably reduce stockpiles. But the TPNW has been recognised by the Nobel Prize Committee as critical in making the world a much safer place.

Australia's government is refusing to sign the treaty, but both the Australian Labor Party and the Greens support a nuclear weapons ban. Australians strongly support it too. Both Labor and Liberal voters are more than 70 per cent in favour in a poll taken last month. Given the appalling and indiscriminate impacts of these weapons, denial is not acceptable. Australia needs to show leadership and sign this treaty.

Does the US need a strong nuclear industry to prevent proliferation abroad?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

The argument that a strong civil nuclear industry is needed to maintain the US weapons program is exaggerated and problematic, as is another argument being put forward to bolster the case for expanded government support for the nuclear industry. This is the argument that the US must be heavily involved in the global nuclear industry to prevent weapons proliferation and to shore up other geopolitical interests.

Historically, the US has variously supported other countries' weapons programs, or turned a blind eye to them, or attempted to prevent those programs with varying success. The US 'Atoms for Peace' program spread dual-use facilities and materials (such as 25 tons of highly-enriched uranium (HEU)1) across the globe and there are unfinished efforts to undo that damage by transfering fissile material to the US, converting HEU-fuelled reactors to low-enriched uranium fuel, etc.

The administration of George W. Bush invested considerable resources and political capital into opening up civil nuclear trade with India. In so doing it took a sledgehammer to the global non-proliferation architecture, in particular the prohibition on nuclear trade with non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). To add insult to injury, the efforts of US firms to build reactors in India have come to nothing ‒ Russia is the only foreign country building reactors in India.

In recent years, the US has done all it can to undermine the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by the UN in early July 2017, and the US boycotted the negotiations. Just in the past week, reports have surfaced that the US warned Sweden that if it signs the UN treaty, bilateral defence cooperation will be hampered and it would jeopardize the possibility of military support from the US in a crisis situation.2

Michael E. Webber, an academic who receives funding from the US government and the power industry, argues that the "loss of expertise from a declining domestic nuclear workforce makes it hard for Americans to conduct the inspections that help keep the world safe from nuclear weapons."3 Webber notes that around 2,500 people, including 200 US citizens, work at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)4 ‒ but he fails to note that only 385 of the IAEA's staff members are safeguards inspectors, and that inspectors come from around 80 countries.5 His argument might carry a little more weight in relation to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a US agency concerned with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

Geopolitical interests

Mark Hibbs from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has written an article6 which has been enthusiastically endorsed by the World Nuclear Association7, the Nuclear Energy Institute8 and other nuclear advocates.9

Hibbs argues that US nuclear firms are at a competitive disadvantage compared to Russian and Chinese state-owned enterprises. That argument dovetails neatly with industry calls for direct state funding to build nuclear power plants since private firms can't or won't cover the capital costs. Commenting on Hibbs' article, Ted Jones from the Nuclear Energy Institute said: "The US nuclear industry has been competing not just against foreign companies but also against their governments ‒ which seek the unique strategic benefits of a nuclear energy supplier. For our nation, much more is at stake than billions in US nuclear exports and tens of thousands of American jobs."7

Hibbs says nothing about the interlinkages between civil and military nuclear programs in the US or the possibility that the weapons program will be adversely affected by a sustained downturn in nuclear power. He argues that US capacity to constrain weapons proliferation will be adversely impacted by the domestic downturn of nuclear power and by the waning prospects for US nuclear exports (greatly diminished by Westinghouse's bankruptcy filing).

Hibbs also argues that historically the US nuclear export program has facilitated "strategic trade penetration". He states that the Atoms for Peace program "was designed to expand U.S. influence during the Cold War, and it succeeded" ‒ but he fails to note that the Atoms for Peace program also spread dual-use nuclear facilities and materials across the globe.

Hibbs makes the exaggerated claim that the nuclear export programs of Russia and China give them "access to strategic decisionmaking" in dozens of countries "concerning technology, energy, and foreign policy for decades to come".

Hibbs states that the US and other established nuclear-technology-owning countries "made the rules for nuclear exporting, nonproliferation, nuclear security, and business transparency" and problems loom if that leadership is ceded to Russia and China. He cites allegations of Russian cyberattacks against nuclear power targets and alleged Chinese economic espionage against Westinghouse.

Hibbs questions whether Russia and China have strictly adhered to the Nuclear Suppliers Group's guidelines concerning their exports to India and Pakistan, respectively. But he doesn't mention that the US took an axe to the global non-proliferation architecture with the US‒India deal. And he doesn't mention that the US is now trying to undermine the Nuclear Suppliers Group by pressuring it to include India despite India's expansive program to expand its nuclear weapons and missile arsenal and its dodgy record in relation to nuclear exports.10

Hibbs notes that China's support for international efforts to rein in North Korea's "dangerous" nuclear weapons program has been limited and conditional upon other Chinese strategic interests. But the same could be said of US approaches to other countries' nuclear weapons programs (those of India and Israel, for example). And are we to believe that the only "dangerous" nuclear weapons program is North Korea's?

Although Hibbs' article says everything the US nuclear industry wants to hear ‒ and nothing it doesn't want to hear ‒ he is short on suggestions. Other than proposing "better use of the U.S. Export-Import Bank", all he proposes is a "structured conversation" between government and industry about steps that could be taken to enhance US nuclear exports and encourage a "level international playing field" for exporting nuclear technology.

Hibbs' article is dangerous, irresponsible propaganda and it undermines the credibility of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


1. Jessica Varnum, 23 Jan 2014, '60 Years of Atoms for Peace',

2. The Local (Sweden), 30 Aug 2017, 'US Defence Secretary Mattis warned Sweden not to sign anti-nuclear weapons treaty: report',

3. Michael E. Webber, 11 Aug 2017, 'Why the withering nuclear power industry threatens US national security',


5. IAEA, 27 July 2016, 'A Day in the Life of a Safeguards Inspector',

6. Mark Hibbs, 10 Aug 2017, 'Does the U.S. Nuclear Industry Have a Future?',

7. World Nuclear News, 15 Aug 2017, 'Call for government to revitalise US nuclear industry',

8. Nuclear Energy Institute, 10 Aug 2017, 'Russia, China Threaten US Leadership in Commercial Nuclear Trade',,-China-Threaten-US...

9. Dan Yurman, 12 Aug 2017, 'Does the U.S. Nuclear Industry Have a Future?',

10. See pp.9-10 in EnergyScience Coalition Briefing Paper No. 18 (revised), Oct 2010, 'Uranium, India and the Fracturing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime',

Nuclear power, weapons and 'national security'

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

The nuclear industry promotes a complex, interlinked set of lies and half-truths to obscure its connections to weapons proliferation. We untangled that industry propaganda in Nuclear Monitor #840.1

Discussion about the military potential of 'peaceful' nuclear technologies and programs focuses on the efforts of non-weapons states to acquire weapons. For advanced weapons states, such as the US, we noted in Nuclear Monitor #840 that "incremental growth of nuclear power in the US ... is of no proliferation significance."1

The same could be said in reverse: incremental decline of nuclear power in the US (or comparable weapons states) is of no proliferation significance. But what about a precipitous decline of nuclear power ‒ might that have adverse consequences for the US nuclear weapons program? The answer is 'yes' according to a growing number of nuclear advocates ‒ and that is being put forward as an argument for expanded government support for the troubled US nuclear power industry.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, for example, has been trying to convince politicians in Washington that if the AP1000 reactor construction projects in South Carolina and Georgia aren't completed, it would stunt development of the nation's nuclear weapons complex because the engineering expertise on the energy side helps the weapons side.2

A different argument ‒ that a strong civil nuclear industry provides the experts and expertise to drive international non-proliferation efforts and other geopolitical interests ‒ is common enough (see the following article in this issue of Nuclear Monitor). The 'Environmental Progress' group, for example, issues ominous warnings of "global nuclear domination by Russia" and argues the case for massive, multifaceted taxpayer subsidies for the nuclear industry and for a taxpayer-funded bailout of bankrupt Westinghouse.3

A new report by the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) makes the same argument and arrives at the same conclusions, arguing for massive additional subsidies for the civil nuclear industry in the US including credit support, tax incentives and federal siting and/or purchase power agreements.4 The EFI report also advocates establishing a broad-based consortium of nuclear supply chain companies, power-generating companies, financing institutions and "other appropriate entities" to share the risk and benefits of further new-build projects both in the US and internationally.

But there are a couple of major differences between Environmental Progress and the EFI. Environmental Progress is a fake environment group led by paid pro-nuclear lobbyists, whereas the EFI carries far greater weight ‒ it is a creation of Ernest Moniz, who served as energy secretary under president Barack Obama.

And while the EFI paper runs the argument that effective international engagement on nuclear issues depends on a strong domestic nuclear industry, it also argues that a strong domestic industry is necessary to directly support the US nuclear weapons program. The report states that the US nuclear energy sector "helps the U.S military meet specific defense priorities, supports the implementation of U.S. nonproliferation policy, and is essential to the global projection of U.S. military capability. The flip side is that an eroding nuclear enterprise will compromise important nuclear security capabilities or make them more costly."4

There are profound contradictions between Moniz's role at the EFI and his role as co-chair and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. The contradictions between the positions of the two organizations would fill a book. To give just a couple of examples, the Nuclear Threat Initiative argues the case for the elimination of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) in the civil nuclear sector5; but the EFI is having none of that ‒ it wants a civil enrichment industry to underpin military production of HEU. The Nuclear Threat Initiative warns that the US and Russia keep nearly 2,000 nuclear weapons on high alert, leaving both countries vulnerable to nuclear launch by accident, miscalculation or cyber-attack6; whereas the EFI report states that the existence of the Russian nuclear weapons arsenal underscores the importance of US nuclear weapons to "global strategic stability and deterrence".

The Navy's nuclear needs

On the US Navy's alleged need for a civil nuclear industry, the EFI report states:4

"The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is comprised of military and civilian personnel who design, build, operate, maintain and manage the nearly one hundred reactors that power US aircraft carriers and submarines and provide training and research services.

"The program is operated jointly by the Department of Energy and the US Navy. Nuclear reactors provide the Navy with the mobility, flexibility and endurance required to carry out its global mission. More powerful reactors are beginning to be employed on the new Ford class aircraft carriers and will enable the new Columbia class of submarines in the next decades.

"A strong domestic supply chain is needed to provide for nuclear Navy requirements.

"This supply chain has an inherent and very strong overlap with the commercial nuclear energy sector.

"This supply chain for meeting the critical national security need for design and operation of Navy reactors includes a workforce trained in science and engineering, comprised of US citizens who qualify for security clearances.

"The Navy will (also) eventually need additional highly enriched uranium (HEU) to fuel its reactors for long intervals between refueling. Because of the national security use and the sensitivity of HEU production, the entire supply chain from uranium feed to the enrichment technology must be of United States origin.

"There is currently no such domestic capability in the supply chain. The relatively lengthy time period required to stand up such a capability raises serious, near-term concerns about the US capacity to meet this critical national security need."

The EFI report also states that the companies that supply the shrinking civil nuclear reactor program are the same firms providing components and enriched uranium to keep the Navy's nuclear-propelled vessels operating. And the report raises concerns about the workforce: "A shrinking commercial enterprise will have long term spillover effects on the Navy supply chain, including by lessened enthusiasm among American citizens to pursue nuclear technology careers."

Broader connections

The EFI report also discusses civil/military connections beyond the Navy's requirements. For example it states:4

"The nuclear weapons stockpile requires a constant source of tritium (half life about 12.5 years), provided by irradiating special fuel rods in one or two commercial power reactors. As with the Navy HEU requirements, the tritium must be supplied from US-origin reactors using domestically produced LEU reactor fuel.

"Once again, we do not have the long-term capability to meet this need because of the absence of an enrichment facility using US-origin technology. This is a glaring hole in the domestic nuclear supply chain, since the only enrichment facility in the United States today uses Urenco (European) technology to supply power reactor fuel."

The report also broadens the workforce argument beyond the Navy, stating that the number people pursuing higher education in nuclear sciences is becoming too small to sustain the nuclear industry and that a nuclear career path will be still less attractive if only military careers were available.

The EFI report concludes that "a stabilized existing reactor fleet and new builds" will be needed to rebuild a supply chain that will underpin national security "success".

Do the arguments withstand scrutiny?

A growing number of nuclear advocates are arguing that a strong civil nuclear industry is required to support the US weapons program ‒ but do their arguments stack up? The short answer is that a strong civil industry helps the weapons program but it isn't essential.

If tritium isn't produced in one particular power reactor, it can be produced in another power reactor, or a research reactor, or a small military reactor could be built or restarted to produce tritium for weapons. As for low-enriched uranium to fuel reactors used to produce tritium, the European consortium Urenco has reportedly approved the use of its enriched uranium to fuel reactors in the US used to produce tritium.7

If HEU isn't produced in a dual-use domestic enrichment plant, a dedicated military enrichment plant will do the job (and could be built with or without the support of a civil enrichment industry), or HEU can be sourced elsewhere (e.g. from dismantled weapons).

It helps the weapons program to have a pool of trained personnel in the civil sector to draw from ‒ but it isn't essential.

Of course, this discussion assumes that maintaining the US nuclear weapons program is a good thing ‒ which is a strongly contested assumption. If the aim is to comply with the nation's obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to seriously pursue disarmament, the decline of the civil nuclear industry would dovetail neatly with the NPT obligation to pursue disarmament.

And of course, this refreshing honesty about the connections between the peaceful nuclear industry and Weapons of Mass Destruction might backfire. Opponents of nuclear power in the US (and comparable countries) might redouble their efforts, secure in the knowledge that anti-nuclear power campaigning also serves to undermine the WMD program to a greater or lesser extent.


Perhaps some of those arguing that a strong civil nuclear industry is needed to maintain the US weapons program don't really believe the argument stacks up, or they don't care one way or another ‒ for them the test is whether the argument might be accepted by people with power and influence within the Trump administration.

Trump is certainly an advocate of expanding the nuclear weapons program. But his comments linking civil and military nuclear programs have been so convoluted that it would take an oracle (or a Fox or a Breitbart) to decipher them. He famously said in February 2017: "You know what uranium is, right? It's a thing called nuclear weapons and other things. Like lots of things are done with uranium, including some bad things."8 And in the same month he said: "I am the first one that would like to see everybody nobody have nukes, but we're never going to fall behind any country even if it's a friendly country, we're never going to fall behind on nuclear power. It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we're going to be at the top of the pack."9

At the Future of Energy summit in April 2017, Energy Secretary Rick Perry joined the dots more clearly: "As we have not built nuclear plants over a 30-year time, the intellectual capability, the manufacturing capability, I will not say has been completely lost, but has been impacted in a major way. In doing so, the development of our weapons side has been impacted."10

Perry continued: "There is a conversation, there is a discussion ‒ some of it obviously very classified ‒ that will be occurring as we going forward to make sure that we have the decisions, made by Congress in a lot of these cases, to protect the security interests of America ..."10

The Trump administration is probably sympathetic to the argument that the civil nuclear industry needs extra support in order to prop up the weapons programs. The administration might, in time, give the industry what it wants ‒ but it has done little to date. A request for a non-repayable handout of US$1‒3 billion to help keep the VC Summer reactor project in South Carolina alive was rejected and the project was abandoned shortly thereafter.11 The administration has proposed cutting nuclear power R&D funding and killing off the loan guarantee program (which would jeopardize the only nuclear new-build program in the US ‒ the Vogtle project in Georgia).12 In June, the administration barred 27 Department of Energy scientists from attending an IAEA conference in Russia on fast neutron reactors.13 One scientist offered to pay his own way and was still barred from attending.

The Trump administration might be more receptive to libertarian conservatives such as those arguing that favoring nuclear power with heavy subsidies "increases costs to electricity users, and discourages the development of new energy technologies" and that nuclear subsidies "reward poor management and bad judgment and would cost homeowners and businesses billions."14

Matt Kempner, a journalist with Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wrote on August 28:15

"There's a mad scramble underway to come up with new reasons for why Georgians should continue to pay billions of dollars to expand nuclear power in the state. National security! Push back against Russia and China! ... Seriously? ... It seemed like only yesterday when Georgia Power convinced politicians on the Georgia Public Service Commission that a primary reason for expanding Plant Vogtle was because it was the cheapest way to cool our homes, charge our iPhones and keep industry chugging. Proponents can no longer say that without twitching. ...

"You might wonder why Georgia ratepayers should pay the bulk of supposedly preserving national security rather than having the federal government do so. Well, there hasn't been a Washington groundswell to write a blank check that takes most of the nuclear burden off our backs. Maybe they aren't fully convinced by the "national security" argument. ...

"Bobby Baker, a former PSC commissioner, says he doesn't remember the national security argument or fear of Russian or Chinese dominance being raised as issues when PSC commissioners were asked to approve the Vogtle expansion back in the day, when U.S. utilities were already decades into a deep freeze on nuclear construction. Baker called it a "creative" argument."

Kempner also questions Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols' claim that the lack of a commercial nuclear industry to provide employment and training would have an adverse impact on the Navy:15

"Actually, a lot of the time it's the other way around: Utilities often hire Navy-trained nuclear personnel. I asked the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program about how crucial the commercial nuclear industry is for the Navy. "The direct relationship between civilian and naval nuclear reactors is small," public affairs director Lee Smith emailed me. But some components are supplied by the same companies, "providing some economy of scale for the manufacturer and reduced costs for the Navy.""

UK debates

The UK's nuclear power industry is closer to extinction than the US industry. The US has 99 operable power reactors, a large majority of them 30+ years old. The UK has 15 power reactors, most of them 30+ years old.

The power/weapons arguments are also starting to surface in the UK. Paul Brown wrote in Climate News Network on August 23:16

"Britain decided in 2002 after an objective inquiry17 by the government's Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) that nuclear was becoming too expensive and renewables were a better alternative for generating electricity.

"However, quite unexpectedly, in 2005, after a secretive review under the premiership of Tony Blair, the policy was reversed and the UK government announced a revival of the nuclear industry.18

"Corresponding with this unprecedented U-turn on civil nuclear power was an equally unprecedented intensification in efforts to preserve nuclear skills for the military sector. Many millions of pounds have been given in government grants since that time to set up nuclear training programmes.

"The Oxford Research Group (ORG), a UK think tank, published a two-part report, entitled Sustainable Security.19,20 Both parts examined the prospects of the UK's Trident nuclear programme influencing its energy policy. 

"The ORG concluded that the government realised it could not sustain its own nuclear weapons programme, or more particularly its nuclear-propelled submarine fleet, without a large and complementary civilian nuclear industry.

"Commenting on the release of the American report on the military crisis being caused by the lack of civilian power projects, Andrew Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the School of Business, University of Sussex, UK, said: 'With renewable costs tumbling and the international nuclear industry in growing crisis, it is becoming ever more difficult to carry on concealing this key underlying military reason for attachment to civil nuclear power.'

"In the last year the UK government has been trying to generate interest in an alternative civilian nuclear programme. It has encouraged a competition to develop small modular reactors.21

"These reactors are supposed to be dotted around the countryside to power small towns. There are a number of designs, but some are remarkably similar to the power generators for nuclear submarines, particularly those that will be needed for the UK's so-called independent nuclear deterrent – the Trident programme.

"It is no coincidence that the frontline developer of both these kinds of reactors is Rolls-Royce, which has a workforce that seamlessly crosses over between military and civilian developments."


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

2. Amy Harder, 16 June 2017, 'Nuclear scramble on tax credits',

3. Nick Gallucci and Michael Shellenberger, 3 Aug 2017, 'Are we really going to allow global nuclear domination by Russia?',

4. Energy Futures Initiative, 2017, 'The U.S. Nuclear Energy Enterprise: A Key National Security Enabler',



7. Nuclear Monitor #846, 29 June 2017, 'Urenco enrichment consortium to help US nuclear weapons program',

8. Tom DiChristopher, 16 Feb 2017, 'Donald Trump claims — falsely — that Hillary Clinton gave Russia 20% of US uranium',

9. Steve Holland, 24 Feb 2017, 'Trump wants to make sure U.S. nuclear arsenal at 'top of the pack'',

10. Christian Roselund, 25 April 2017, 'Full speed in reverse: Rick Perry presents his vision for DOE',

11. Amy Harder, 4 Aug 2017, 'Utility made failed plea for billion-dollar nuclear grant',

12. Ari Natter, 15 Aug 2017, 'Nuclear Power's Woes Imperil U.S. National Security, Moniz Says',

13. Elliott Negin, 1 Aug 2017, 'Energy Department Scientists Barred From Attending Nuclear Power Conference',

14. Joe Romm, 25 May 2017, 'Nuclear industry prices itself out of power market, demands taxpayers keep it afloat',

15. Matt Kempner, 28 Aug 2017, 'Kempner: Georgia nuke backers scramble for reasons to keep going', The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

16. Paul Brown, 23 Aug 2017, 'US nuclear might rests on civil reactors', Climate News Network,






Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #838 - 21 February 2017

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Banning nuclear weapons in 2017

In one of its final acts of 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution to begin negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts. The new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons will strengthen the global norms against using and possessing these weapons. It will spur long-overdue progress towards disarmament.

Eliminating the nuclear threat has been high on the UN agenda since the organisation’s formation in 1945. But international efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the build-up and modernisation of their nuclear arsenals. More than 20 years have passed since multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations took place.

Experience shows that the prohibition of a particular type of weapons provides a solid legal and political foundation for advancing its elimination. Weapons that are outlawed are increasingly seen as illegitimate, losing their political status, and, along with it, the resources for their production, modernisation and retention.

The treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons will complement existing bans on other indiscriminate and inhumane weapons, and reinforce existing legal instruments on nuclear weapons, such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, regional nuclear-weapon-free zones, and the treaty banning nuclear test explosions. It will strengthen the global taboo against the use and possession of nuclear weapons.

Negotiations on the treaty will begin on March 27 for one week, continuing for another three weeks in June-July. This breakthrough in nuclear disarmament negotiations has come about in the wake of three conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. A growing global movement of nations are ready to declare nuclear weapons illegal for all. The negotiations are open to all, and blockable by none.

Contact your Foreign Minister and urge your Government to participate constructively in the upcoming negotiations. It’s time to make nuclear weapons illegal.

‒ Gem Romuld

Forest occupation, protests and attacks on the CIGEO nuclear research laboratory in Bure, northeast France

Autonomous Bure Media Collective:

Saturday 18 February ‒ Anti-nuclear protest actions took place today in Bure, northeast France. First a demo in the forest to support its occupation and then at the planned CIGEO nuclear research laboratory. Part of the wall illegally erected in the forest by ANDRA, the French national radioactive waste management agency, was more or less symbolically broken down.

More than 700 people took part in the February 2017 action says in Bure, peaking in the late afternoon today with fierce clashes and massive attacks. For more than a year resistance by the anti-nuclear movement has obstructed CIGEO's dump project. Despite forced evictions, wall construction and juridical attacks and counter-attacks, the occupation is holding and protest against the project is growing, including beyond the region. In recent days there have been manifestations of solidarity in other towns – hundreds of people came to today's action.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays there have been night actions and attacks on the laboratory and its greenwashing department, causing considerable damage to the barriers, which were partly replaced by razor wire. This afternoon a large force of cops prevented an advance right to the buildings. But during a battle lasting several hours, large parts of the remaining fence, reinforcement materials, dead trees and much more were expertly assembled into barricades. Whereas the cops almost incessantly hurled tear-gas and dispersion grenades, for more than two hours many determined protesters attacked the lackeys of nuclear capital. Several people were injured on both sides and there were at least three arrests.

In the coming week and during this spring several decisive court cases are slated. Support the forest squat, dare to come to Bure! Prevent the atomic loo in Bure, break atom firms everywhere!

South Korea: Wolsong NPP lifespan extension cancelled

On February 7, the Seoul Administrative Court cancelled the decision of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) to extend the lifespan of Wolsong-1, the second oldest reactor in Korea. Wolsong-1 was supposed to be shut down in 2012 when it reached its design life of 30 years. However, NSSC approved a lifespan extension in Feb. 2015 so that it could operate to 2022.

2166 people, including civil society and local people living close to nuclear power plants, filed a petition to have the lifespan extension invalidated. After 12 trials in total, on-the-spot investigation, and witness examination, it has been confirmed that the lifespan extension permit for Wolsong-1 is improper and should be cancelled. The NSSC shortly after announced its plan to appeal the ruling and will keep operating Wolsong-1 during the appeals process.

The delegates of plaintiffs presented diverse evidence that the NSSC didn't submit a comparison chart showing the facilities and parts before and after the change, did not apply the latest technology standard in the safety assessment, and made a decision which involved two members disqualified from the commission.

The Korea Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM) demands the suspension of operation of Wolsong-1 and for the resignation of the chair of the NSSC. KFEM executive director Yang Yi Won-young said the Court ruling "clearly shows that the NSSC has arbitrarily applied related law without any consideration for public safety while giving out too many permits to expand lifespan of old nuclear power plants and build new ones with the nuclear industry, that is Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power."

‒ Hye Lyn Kim

EDF and decentralised energy

Les Echos, the French business newspaper, carried an extraordinary article from a Senior Vice President of EDF, the largely state-owned French utility that will build the nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in England. Mark Boillot contends that 'large nuclear or thermal power plants designed to function as baseload are challenged by the more flexible decentralized model'. He says that the centralised model of power production is dying, to be replaced by local solar and wind, supplemented by batteries and intelligent management of supply and demand. Not only will this be cheaper in the long run but customers are actually prepared to pay more for solar electricity and actively work to reduce usage at times of shortage. His conclusion is that 'the traditional model must adapt to the new realities, thus allowing the utilities to emerge from ... hypercentralized structures in a world that is becoming more and more decentralized'. In most jurisdictions Mr Boillot would have been asked to clear his desk. What will EDF do about one of its most senior people openly forecasting the end of the large power station as it tries to raise the ten billion euros necessary to pay for its share of Hinkley?

‒ Carbon Commentary Newsletter, 19 Feb 2017,

‒ Les Echos article:

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',

A legally-binding treaty to ban nuclear weapons

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Ray Acheson − Director of Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament programme of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Five years after the adoption of the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Action Plan in 2010, compliance with commitments related to nuclear disarmament lags far behind those related to non-proliferation or the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Yet during the same five years, new evidence and international discussions have emphasised the catastrophic consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and the unacceptable risks of such use, either by design or accident.

Thus the NPT's full implementation, particularly regarding nuclear disarmament, is as urgent as ever. One of the most effective measures for nuclear disarmament would be the negotiation of a legally-binding instrument prohibiting and establishing a framework for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Not everyone sees it that way.

In fact, ahead of the 2015 Review Conference (scheduled to take place in New York April 27−May 22), the NPT nuclear-armed states and some of their nuclear-dependent allies have argued that any such negotiations would "undermine" the NPT and that the Action Plan is a long-term roadmap that should be "rolled over" for at least another review cycle.

This is an extremely retrogressive approach to what should be an opportunity for meaningful action. Negotiating an instrument to fulfill article VI of the NPT would hardly undermine the Treaty.

On the contrary, it would finally bring the nuclear-armed states into compliance with the legal obligations.

Those countries that possess or rely on nuclear weapons often highlight the importance of the NPT for preventing proliferation and enhancing security.

Yet these same countries, more than any other states parties, do the most to undermine the Treaty by preventing, avoiding, or delaying concrete actions necessary for disarmament.

It is past time that the NPT nuclear-armed states and their nuclear-dependent allies fulfill their responsibilities, commitments, and obligations − or risk undermining the very treaty regime they claim to want to protect.

Their failure to implement their commitments presents dim prospects for the future of the NPT. The apparent expectation that this non-compliance can continue in perpetuity, allowing not only for continued possession but also modernisation and deployment of nuclear weapon systems, is misguided.

The 2015 Review Conference will provide an opportunity for other governments to confront and challenge this behaviour and to demand concerted and immediate action. This is the end of a review cycle; it is time for conclusions to be drawn.

States parties will have to not only undertake a serious assessment of the last five years but will have to determine what actions are necessary to ensure continued survival of the NPT and to achieve all of its goals and objectives, including those on stopping the nuclear arms race, ceasing the manufacture of nuclear weapons, preventing the use of nuclear weapons, and eliminating existing arsenals.

The recent renewed investigation of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons is a good place to look for guidance. The 2010 NPT Review Conference expressed "deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons."

Since then, especially at the series of conferences hosted by Norway, Mexico, and Austria, these consequences have increasingly become a focal point for discussion and proposed action.

Governments are also increasingly raising the issue of humanitarian impacts in traditional forums, with 155 states signing a joint statement at the 2014 session of the UN General Assembly highlighting the unacceptable harm caused by nuclear weapons and calling for action to ensure they are never used again, under any circumstances.

The humanitarian initiative has provided the basis for a new momentum on nuclear disarmament. It has involved new types of actors, such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and a new generation of civil society campaigners.

The discussion around the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons should be fully supported by all states parties to the NPT.

The humanitarian initiative has also resulted in the Austrian Pledge, which commits its government (and any countries that wish to associate themselves with the Pledge) to "fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons."

As of February 2015, 40 states have endorsed the Pledge. These states are committed to change. They believe that existing international law is inadequate for achieving nuclear disarmament and that a process of change that involves stigmatising, prohibiting, and eliminating nuclear weapons is necessary.

This process requires a legally-binding international instrument that clearly prohibits nuclear weapons based on their unacceptable consequences. Such a treaty would put nuclear weapons on the same footing as the other weapons of mass destruction, which are subject to prohibition through specific treaties.

A treaty banning nuclear weapons would build on existing norms and reinforce existing legal instruments, including the NPT, but it would also close loopholes in the current legal regime that enable states to engage in nuclear weapon activities or to otherwise claim perceived benefit from the continued existence of nuclear weapons while purporting to promote their elimination.

NPT states parties need to ask themselves how long we can wait for disarmament. Several initiatives since the 2010 Review Conference have advanced the ongoing international discussion about nuclear weapons.

States and other actors must now be willing to act to achieve disarmament, by developing a legally-binding instrument to prohibit and establish a framework for eliminating nuclear weapons. This year, the year of the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is a good place to start.


For more information and updates during the NPT Review Conference, visit the Reaching Critical Will website:


Readers are encouraged to lobby national governments to support the Austrian Pledge to ban nuclear weapons. More than 50 countries have already endorsed the pledge (see the list at
Information is posted at:

You can sign an online petition urging your national government to support the pledge at


Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

UK: Report outlines unreliability of aging nuclear reactors

The UK Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) published a report on December 9 which details the unreliability of the UK's aging nuclear power stations.
The report, written by NFLA Policy Advisor Pete Roche, found that in the three years from 2012−2014, 62 outages were reported, over three-quarters of which were unplanned. These reported outages do not include routine refuelling closures. The list of outages is not comprehensive as EDF Energy does not provide comprehensive data on reactor performance.

At its lowest point, on 20 November 2014, less than half (43%) of UK nuclear power capacity was available due to shutdowns. Seven out of 15 reactors were offline.

Unplanned shutdowns cause serious problems for electricity supply regulation and planning. A major likely reason for poor performance is that most reactors are over 30 years old and past their use-by dates, some by considerable margins. The increasingly decrepit state of UK nuclear power stations also presents a serious safety issue. UK nuclear regulatory agencies are aware of the continual reduction in safety margins resulting from graphite loss and crumbling in the moderators of AGR reactors.

Nuclear Free Local Authorities, 9 Dec 2014, 'NFLA concerns over the reliability of aging nuclear reactors in the UK',


International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Human Weapons

On December 8−9, over 1000 people flocked into the grand ballroom of Holfsburg Palace, Vienna, to consider the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. Delegations representing 158 nations were present, as well as nuclear survivors, civil society, media, and researchers.

This was the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Human Weapons − the first was in Norway in 2013, the second in Mexico in February 2014. The latest conference is intended to 'jump-start' the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) deliberations at the UN in May 2015 with a call to proceed with complete disarmament in a global, legally binding form.

The meeting resulted in a vehicle for nations to "sign on" to the Austrian Pledge. This document calls on parties to the NPT to renew their commitments under that treaty and to close any gaps that undermines prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

The Austrian Pledge contains this remarkable provision: "Austria calls on all nuclear weapons possessor states to take concrete interim measures to reduce the risk of nuclear weapon detonations, including reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons and moving nuclear weapons away from deployment into storage, diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in military doctrines and rapid reductions of all types of nuclear weapons ..."

This provision was all the more remarkable since, for the first time, nuclear weapons states were present: the US and Britain, both of which made statements to the assembly confirming that they were not listening.

Invited to speak during the session on the Medical Consequences of Using Nuclear Weapons, I originally declined since my work has focused on energy and the environment, not the military side of nuclear. The invite was made more precise by Ambassador Alexander Kmentt: please speak on the disproportionate impact of radiation on girls and women. Such a direct invitation offered an opportunity to share information that is under-reported.

The fact that atomic bombs were dropped on two cities in Japan almost 80 years ago is no longer being widely taught. Most people don't know that a long-term study was initiated by the US to count the cancers in the survivors. Among those who were under five years old in 1945, for every boy who got cancer at some point in their lives, two girls got cancer.

The room was full of people, including Hibakusha from Japan, survivors from the US tests in the Marshall Islands, from the British tests in Australia, and from Utah (downwind of the Nevada Test Site). It was a great place to share this information.

Information on Atomic Radiation and Harm to Women is posted at:

− Mary Olson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (US)


Sweden: Regulator calls for hike in nuclear waste fees

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has recommended yet another increase in the per kWh-fee on nuclear power to cover predicted costs of decommissioning reactors and the processing and storage of nuclear waste. The proposal raises the fee from an average SEK 0.022/kWh to around 0.040/kWh (US 0.5 c/kWh).

Swedish law requires the industry-owned nuclear waste management company SKB to submit an estimate of projected costs to SSM at three-year intervals. After examining the estimate and consulting other sources, SSM submits its recommendation to the government, which then sets the fee for the next period, in this case 2015−2017.

Over the past couple of terms, SSM's estimates have differed substantially from those of the industry's nuclear waste company. This time, SSM finds that SKB's estimate is short by at least SEK 11 billion (US$1.44, €1.16b). SSM bases its conclusion on a study commissioned from the National Institute of Economic Research (a state body). The conclusion is also seconded by the National Council for Nuclear Waste, an academic reference group, and the National Debt Office, whose comments call for greater transparency as to how SKB arrived at its estimates.

Principal differences concern the estimated future cost of goods and services relating to decommissioning and waste storage, and the cost of necessary reinvestments in existing waste management facilities. SSM states that SKB underestimates cost rises by as much as 12%. Sagging financial returns accruing to the Nuclear Waste Fund – a consequence of the broader economic downturn – also contribute to the gap.

Another discrepancy is that SKB bases its calculations on reactor lifetimes of 50-60 years, yet the Financing Ordinance stipulates that a lifetime of 40 years be used. The advantage from the industry's point of view is obvious: positing a 20−50% longer period of production raises the total sum deposited into the Waste Fund, thereby permitting a lower fee.

The law provides that SSM may, "should circumstances so demand," reject the industry's prognosis and fix an interim fee until satisfactory estimates are on the table. SSM is doing just that. The current recommendation will be for 2015 only, and SKB has been instructed to produce a revised estimate within the next few months.

Shortly after the general election in September 2014, the new government stated as an overall principle that nuclear energy should cover a greater share of its costs to society – which suggests that SSM's proposals would be favourably received.

But there is a catch. The government – a minority coalition – failed to gain parliamentary approval of its budget in December and has announced new elections for March 2015. A change of government before the proposal can be considered is likely, and no one can say what the political constellation after the elections will be.

− Charly Hultén / WISE Sweden


Greenland: Pro-uranium coalition forms government

The Inuit Ataqatigiit party was expected to win Greenland's November 28 election, after which it would call a referendum on the controversial issue of uranium mining.

However the pro-uranium Siumut party narrowly won the most votes and has formed a coalition with two other pro-uranium parties − Atassut and Demokraatic. The three parties hold a combined 17 seats in the new parliament while two anti-uranium parties − Inuit Ataqatigiit and Partii Naleraq − hold 14 seats.

Just before the election, a poll showed that 71% of Greenlanders want a national referendum on whether to reinstate the uranium ban. Inuit Ataqatigiit and Partii Naleraq had called for a referendum.

Before the election, former Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond announced in Parliament that if a mining permit was issued to the Australian mining company Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd. for the Kvanefjeld uranium / rare earths project, a referendum on the project would be held in southern Greenland. That promise might still be kept ... or it might not.

The only uranium project that might be developed in the foreseeable future is the Kvanefjeld project. A feasibility study is due for completion in 2015. It could take 2−3 years before environmental assessment processes are complete.


US blocks international nuclear safety initiatives

The US was exposed at an international meeting of parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety on December 4.1 A European proposal would have led to greater efforts to prevent accidents and, should they occur, mitigate the effects of radioactive contamination. The proposal would likely have forced upgrades at existing plants.

Russia scaled back its opposition to European proposals, leaving the US as the main dissenter. Russia was prepared to endorse some of the European proposals though it balked at accepting proposals that would require retrofits of old reactors.

Defending their indefensible position, US diplomats said their opposition to the European initiative was driven by concern that an attempt to amend the convention could weaken it, because some governments would be slow to ratify changes.

Former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Victor Gilinsky told Bloomberg: "People in the U.S. don't realize that in many ways our nuclear safety standards lag behind those in Europe. The German and French containment structures are generally more formidable than ours and those reactors generally have more protection systems."1

Created in response to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the Convention on Nuclear Safety has struggled to improve safety standards. The group's secrecy has often undermined its objectives. A former French envoy, Jean-Pierre Clausner, said that the opacity of the organisation was "shocking" according to documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request.2



South Africa and Russia: 'Pay More for Nuclear' reports

Earthlife Africa has commissioned and released four significant reports in the second half of 2014 in a series titled 'Pay More for Nuclear'. The first report is titled 'Nuclear Technology Options for South Africa'. Prof. Steve Thomas writes: "South Africa's call for tenders for nuclear power plants [in 2008] failed because the costs were high and because the requirements to obtain funding were not politically acceptable. The response to this failure seemed to be that pursuing a wider range of technical options and partners would produce a cheaper and more readily financed offer. The new options mooted include reactors from Korea, China and Russia. The perception that these options will be cheaper is likely to be an illusion. In addition, the designs are unproven and raise serious issues of verifying that they meet the required safety standards."

The second report is titled 'Funding Nuclear Decommissioning – Lessons for South Africa'. Thomas writes: "Current policy and practice on funding nuclear power plant decommissioning in South Africa lags far behind international best practice. It risks bequeathing future generations with a hazardous and expensive task that will have to be paid for by future taxpayers."

The third report is titled 'What Does It Take To Finance New Nuclear Power Plants?'. Thomas writes: "Unless the South African government is prepared to require electricity consumers to sign what will effectively be a blank cheque to the developers of a nuclear power the current attempt to order nuclear power plants for South Africa will fail again and several more years will have been wasted pursuing an option, nuclear power, that is not financeable."

The fourth report is titled 'Russian Nuclear Industry Overview'. Report author Vladimir Slivyak covers problems with ageing reactors, planned new reactors, Russia's fast breeder program, its reactor export program, and inadequate nuclear waste and decommissioning programs. Of particular interest is the section on corruption in the Russian nuclear industry, and the role of NGOs Ecodefense and Transparency International in exposing that corruption.

The four 'Pay More for Nuclear' reports are posted at:

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Spain: We are all the Cofrentes 17

Celia Ojeda from Greenpeace Spain writes:

Seventeen people face trial in Spain on charges of public disorder, damage and injury. The punishment being demanded is nearly three years in prison. In addition, Greenpeace may have to pay a fine of 360,000 euros. Why? Because on February 15, 2011, 16 Greenpeace activists and a freelance photojournalist entered Spain's Cofrentes nuclear power plant, climbed one of the cooling towers and painted "Nuclear Danger" on it. Greenpeace's protests are peaceful actions. Is punishing the painting of a cooling tower with jail fair and proportionate? Defending the environment should not carry a cost that is higher than for destroying it.

In a time when peaceful protest is being questioned, Greenpeace points to Article 45 of Spain's constitution that establishes the right of everyone to "enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the individual as well as the duty to preserve it ". That is what Greenpeace does and it is a right our people exercised on February 15, 2011. So we have launched a campaign: COFRENTES MISSION: ARTICLE 45. Because when you have exhausted all other avenues, all you have left is peaceful protest. Three years ago we expected this trial to be held on 4 December, 2014. Today [November 19] we begin a campaign that will last 17 days. During these days we will be proposing 17 missions to make bring attention to the injustice the Cofrentes 17 are facing.

Abridged from

In a separate post, Raquel Montón, nuclear and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Spain, lists 17 nuclear power plants that ought to be shut down immediately − one for each of the 17 Cofrentes activists. Most of the plants are ageing: Fessenheim (France), Doel 3 (Belgium), Borssele (Netherlands), Gundremmingen B and C (Germany), Tarapur 1 and 2 (India), Dukovany (Czech Republic), Paks 2 (Hungary), Krsko (Slovenia), Forsmark 1 (Sweden), Cofrentes (Spain), Rivne 1 and 2 (Ukraine), Fukushima (Japan), Santa María de Garoña (Spain).

Australia: Kakadu Traditional Owner just wants a house on his country

Kirsten Blair, Community and International Liaison officer with the Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation, writes:

Jeffrey Lee spoke powerfully about his work to protect Koongarra from mining at the closing plenary of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia on November 18. Kakadu, in the tropical Top End of the Northern Territory, is Australia's largest National Park and is dual World Heritage listed for both its natural and cultural values. Encompassing tropical wetlands, extensive savannah and soaring sandstone escarpments and waterfalls this region has been sculptured and shaped by people and nature for many tens of thousands of years. Jeffrey Lee, the Senior Traditional Owner of the Djok clan in Kakadu fought for many years to see his country at Koongarra protected from the threat of uranium mining. In 2011 he made the long journey from Kakadu to Paris to see the World Heritage Committee include Koongarra in the World Heritage estate and in 2013 the area was formally included within Kakadu National Park and permanently protected from uranium mining. [Areva is understood to be planning legal action against the Australian government over its 2013 decision to veto mining at Koongarra.]

For decades Jeffrey was pressured to allow uranium mining on his land at Koongarra and for decades he resisted – refusing millions of dollars in promised mining payments. Now he is seeking something. After generously allowing his land to be included in Kakadu National Park Jeffrey has a modest ask of the Australian Government in return: please build a house on his country. Jeffrey spoke to thousands of delegates at the closing plenary of the World Parks Congress in Sydney and told the story of his long fight to protect Koongarra. He concluded by calling on the Australian Government to come good on their promise to build him a house on his country. "I have said no to uranium mining at Koongarra because I believe that the land and my cultural beliefs are more important than mining and money. Money comes and goes, but the land is always here, it always stays if we look after it and it will look after us," he said. "While I'm down here at this Congress, I want to tell people about Koongarra and remind the Government that I did all that work to protect that country. All I'm asking is for a place to live on my country. I don't want to wait until I've passed away, I want to live on my county now. "I don't want the Government to forget me, they came to visit me, they congratulated me on my hard work and said they will support me in this. The Government knows how hard I worked, they gave me an Order of Australia and I'm happy for that. Now I just want a commitment from them for a house so I can live on that country that I fought for."

Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade reports

Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT), a collaboration between 23 universities and civil society organisations, published two significant reports on nuclear and uranium issues in November.

'Expanded nuclear power capacity in Europe, impact of uranium mining and alternatives' tackles the myths that nuclear energy is clean, reliable, cheap and climate friendly. In reality, nuclear energy capacity in Eastern Europe is characterised by hidden externalised costs, technical problems and covered-up dangers. At the same time, alternative options for energy production and measures for managing energy demand already exist. The report focuses on Bulgaria and Slovenia, where the full range of issues with nuclear energy are exposed: from zombie mines to badly managed radioactive waste. Slovenia plans one new nuclear power plant and prolongs one other, while Bulgaria is planning two new nuclear power plants. The report concludes that projected Bulgarian and Slovenian energy demand is deliberately exaggerated by competent authorities, while nuclear costs are underestimated. This is despite the existence of an economically justifiable potential for renewable energy solutions, at lower cost per kWh.

Raeva, D., et al., 2014, Expanded nuclear power capacity in Europe, impact of uranium mining and alternatives. EJOLT Report No. 12, 129p.,

'Uranium mining. Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry' argues that the EU should improve legislation and practices to limit the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining. Lead author Bruno Chareyron states: "Uranium mining is increasing the amount of radioactive substances in the biosphere and produces hundreds of millions of tonnes of long lived radioactive waste. The companies have no solutions for the confinement of this waste and for the appropriate management of contaminated water flowing from the mine sites, even decades after mine closure." The cost of remediation should be properly estimated and paid by the mining companies. Field studies done for this report reveal how zombie mines keep affecting the lives of thousands, even decades after the mines are closed.

The report draws from on-site studies performed in Bulgaria, Brazil, Namibia and Malawi in the course of the EJOLT project and from previous studies in France and Africa over the past 20 years. It gives examples of the various impacts of uranium mining and milling activities on the environment (air, soil, water) and provides recommendations to limit these impacts.

Chareyron, B., et al., 2014, Uranium mining. Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry. EJOLT Report No. 15, 116p.,

UK reactor plans face obstacles

Paul Brown writes:

Plans to build two giant nuclear reactors in south-west England are being reviewed as French energy companies now seek financial backing from China and Saudi Arabia − while the British government considers whether it has offered vast subsidies for a white elephant. A long-delayed final decision on whether the French electricity utility company EDF will build two 1.6 gigawatt European Pressurised water Reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset − in what would be the biggest construction project in Europe − was due in the new year, but is likely to drift again. Construction estimates have already escalated to £25 billion (US$39.3b, €31.5b), which is £9 billion more than a year ago, and four times the cost of putting on the London Olympics last year. Two prototypes being built in Olikuoto, Finland, and Flamanville, France, were long ago expected to be finished and operational, but are years late and costs continue to escalate. Until at least one of these is shown to work as designed, it would seem a gamble to start building more, but neither of them is expected to produce power until 2017.

British experts, politicians and businessmen have begun to doubt that the new nuclear stations are a viable proposition. Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, London, said: "The project is at very serious risk of collapse at the moment. Only four of those reactors have ever been ordered. Two of them are in Europe, and both of those are about three times over budget. One is about five or six years late and the other is nine years late. Two more are in China and are doing a bit better, but are also running late." Tom Greatrex, the British Labour party opposition's energy spokesman, called on the National Audit Office to investigate whether the nuclear reactors were value for money for British consumers. Peter Atherton, of financial experts Liberum Capital, believes the enormous cost and appalling track record in the nuclear industry of doing things on time mean that ministers should scrap the Hinkley plans. Billionaire businessman Jim Ratcliffe, who wants to invest £640 million in shale gas extraction in the UK, said that the subsidy that the British government would pay for nuclear electricity is "outrageous". Finding the vast sums of capital needed to finance the project is proving a problem. Both EDF and its French partner company, Areva, which designed the European Pressurised water Reactor (EPR), have money troubles. In November, Areva suspended future profit predictions and shares fell by 20%.

Chinese power companies have offered to back the project, but want many of the jobs to go to supply companies back home − something the French are alarmed about because they need to support their own ailing nuclear industry. Saudi Arabia is offering to help too, but this may not go down well in Britain. On the surface, all is well. Preparation of the site is already under way on the south-west coast of England, with millions being spent on earthworks and new roads. ... But leaks from civil servants in Whitehall suggest that the government may be getting cold feet about its open-ended guarantees. ... The Treasury is having a review because of fears that, once this project begins, so much money will have been invested that the government will have to bail it out with billions more of taxpayers' money to finish it − or write off huge sums.

− Abridged from Climate News Network,

Belgium: Fire takes another reactor offline

Electrabel closed the Tihange 3 power reactor on November 30 after an electrical fire, leaving only three of the Belgian firm's seven nuclear plants in action. Several electrical cables outside the reactor caught fire. Electrabel operates seven nuclear reactors − four in Doel and three in Tihange − producing about half of Belgium's electricity demand.Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were off-line for almost a year in 2012−13, due to the discovery of thousands of cracks in the reactors' steel containment vessels, and they were shut down again in March 2014. Sabotage on August 5 by an unidentified staff member damaged the steam turbine of Doel 4, causing its automatic shut down.2


Uranium mine sludge discharge permit threatens Lake Malawi

Paladin Africa Ltd, which mines uranium ore in Malawi's northern district of Karonga, has come under fire from a coalition of Malawian civil society groups and chiefs over its proposal to discharge mining sludge into the Sere and North Rukuru rivers. The toxic substances that would flow from the tailings pond at the Kayelekera Uranium Mine into Lake Malawi 50 kms downstream include waste uranium rock, acids, arsenic and other chemicals used in processing the uranium ore, the coalition fears. A statement issued by the Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN), a coalition of 33 civil society organisations active in the extractive industry sector, expressed grave concerns about a recommendation by the National Water Development and Management Technical Committee in the Ministry of Agriculture that the minister issue a discharge permit to Paladin Africa.

Officials from Paladin Africa at a November 4 meeting told participants, according to NRJN members present, "Paladin fears that if the water from the tailings dam is not released into Rukuru River then there is a high risk that the contaminated water from the dam would overflow as a result of the impending rains." The NRJN says it is "shocking and inhumane" for Paladin to put the lives of millions of Malawians at risk as a result of the company's failure to plan properly. "We therefore ask Paladin to build a second tailings dam as was the initial plan and consequently refrain from this malicious practice of discharging radioactive effluents into the river systems, which would subject lives of innocent Malawians to a series of acute and chronic health effects," the NRJN said in its statement. The coalition is calling for an independent team of chemists to conduct studies of the lake to ascertain whether effluents proposed for discharge from the mine are indeed safe. Paladin Africa issued a statement in February that due to the sustained low uranium price, processing would cease at Kayelekera and that the site would be placed on care and maintenance. Following a period of reagent run-down, processing was completed in early May.

Abridged from Environmental News Service,

USA: Mismanagement at nuclear weapons bases

Problems at nuclear weapons bases continue to attract widespread media commentary. Typical of this is a BloombergView editorial which states: "The shenanigans that have been going on at U.S. nuclear bases are almost too clownish to believe: officers running a drug ring across six facilities, widespread cheating on monthly proficiency tests, blast doors on missile silos too rusty to properly seal, six nuclear-armed missiles accidentally loaded onto a plane that then flew across the country, and a curious story of crews at three bases FedExing one another an apparently magical wrench used to connect warheads to intercontinental ballistic missiles."

See also:

Pakistan: nuclear security concerns

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In September, documents leaked by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that keeping tabs on the security of Pakistan's nuclear, chemical and biological facilities was consuming a growing share of the budgets of US intelligence agencies.[1]

"Knowledge of the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and associated material encompassed one of the most critical set of ... intelligence gaps," according to a leaked budget document, and this lack of information is especially troubling in light of "the political instability, terrorist threat and expanding inventory [of Pakistan's nuclear weapons]."[2]

US agencies are concentrating on two possibilities: the chance that nuclear sites in Pakistan could be assaulted by local extremist groups, and that radical militants could to infiltrate the military or intelligence agencies, giving them a better position to gain access to nuclear materials or to mount an insider attack.[2]

Another concern is that Pakistan's recent focus on developing compact lower-yield nuclear weapons might make it easier for extremists groups to steal an entire warhead.[1]

In September 2012, former nuclear weapons developer and proliferator A.Q. Khan said he was directed by Pakistan's now-deceased prime minister Benazir Bhutto to sell sensitive technology to two foreign nations, undermining the view that he was a rogue operator. Khan's claim was quickly denied by the governing Pakistan People's Party.[3]

In January 2012, a Pakistani national living in the US received a three-year prison sentence for plotting to provide Pakistan with technology and substances with atomic uses in violation of US nonproliferation controls. Nadeem Akhtar was charged with attempting to export radiation sensors, calibration equipment, specialised resins, attenuators and surface refining materials. Akhtar admitted receiving directions from a trading firm in Karachi, which received its directions from persons or entities within the Pakistani government. Some of the technology may have been destined for Pakistan's Khushab complex, where plutonium is produced.[4]

In 2010, docucments released by Wikileaks revealed numerous concerns about nuclear security in Pakistan. "Despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world," a December 2008 US intelligence document prepared for NATO noted. A White House strategy meeting in 2009 addressed potential threats to the Pakistani nuclear arsenal in great detail. "Why is it that we're trying to prevent the Pakistani government from collapsing?" one official said. "Because we fundamentally believe that we cannot afford a country with 80 to 100 nuclear weapons becoming the Congo."[5]

Recently declassified US documents show that the Reagan administration put Cold War considerations above nonproliferation concerns in the late 1980s when it decided to continue providing foreign aid to Pakistan even after the discovery of a nuclear-technology smuggling operation. Proposals from arms control officials to punish Islamabad by ending US$4 billion in annual economic and military aid were rejected because of Islamabad's support for Afghan forces fighting the Soviet Union.[6]

[1] 24 Oct 2013, 'Obama Says He is Confident About Pakistani Nuclear Security',
[2] 3 Sept 2013, 'U.S. Concerned About Pakistani Nuke Security, Secret Budget Reveals',
[3] 17 Sept 2013, 'Khan Says Pakistani Nuke Tech Sold on Bhutto's Orders; Party Denies Claim',
[4] 9 Jan 2012, 'Man Gets 3 Years For Plotting to Send U.S. Nuke-Related Goods to Pakistan',
[5] 1 Dec 2010, 'Leaked Memos Reveal Further Concerns on Pakistani Nukes',
[6] 26 Nov 2013, 'U.S. Ignored Attempted Pakistani Nuclear Smuggling in 1980s: Records',

Nuclear weapons states on the defensive

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Numerous recent nuclear disarmament initiatives have the nuclear weapons states and their allies squirming.

A joint statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons was delivered by New Zealand at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on October 21. Expressing deep concern for the catastrophic consequences that any use of nuclear weapons would entail, as well as for their uncontrollable destructive capability and indiscriminate nature, the New Zealand statement was signed by 123 other member states.[1]

Japan agreed to endorse the statement but only once the wording had been tempered. The statement does not discuss "outlawing" nuclear arms as a 2012 statement did. Norway and Denmark, which as members of NATO receive nuclear deterrence 'protection', also supported the statement. It was not backed by any of the nuclear weapons states.[2] Australia tried to undermine the New Zealand-led initiative with a weaker resolution, which was endorsed by just 17 states (while the US endorsed neither).[7] Australia actively supports the US nuclear weapons program.

Dutch peace group IKV Pax Christi has expressed deep disappointment at the nuclear weapons policy published on October 24 by Dutch Foreign Minister Timmermans. IKV Pax Christi notes that Timmermans ignores Dutch responsibility for facilitating the ongoing presence of US nuclear weapons in Europe including the presence of 20 nuclear weapons at the Dutch airbase Volkel, and he offers no concrete proposals to rid the Netherlands of nuclear weapons.[3]

The Latin American and Caribbean Leadership Network for Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation released a statement on October 18 urging leaders worldwide to firmly take the essential steps toward the elimination of Nuclear Weapons.[4]

On October 18, Ambassador Manuel Dengo (Costa Rica) introduced a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly as a follow-up to the successful UN Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) which met earlier this year in Geneva. The draft resolution, co-sponsored by another 17 countries, highlights the positive way in which the OEWG enabled governments and civil society to engage in a constructive manner to address various issues related to nuclear disarmament, calls on the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and other fora to take up the nuclear disarmament proposals in the OEWG report, and calls for a review of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations at the UN General Assembly in 2014 to decide whether further work should be undertaken by the OEWG to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.[5]

The OEWG was established by the UN General Assembly in November 2012 (and commenced its work in May 2013). The momentum developed by the OEWG led to the CD finally agreeing to establish an informal working group on nuclear disarmament in August 2013. The nuclear disarmament proposals in the OEWG report can now feed into this CD process. If successful, we could soon see the start of multilateral negotiations to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. If not, then the OEWG could restart again in 2014 to take the next steps toward such negotiations. NGOs involved in this work are calling on citizens around the world to lobby their national governments to support the draft UN resolution − for more information see and

A statement drafted by International Physicians for the Prevention of War and released at the 13th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates ( in Warsaw, calls for outlawing and eliminating nuclear weapons as a humanitarian imperative. In addition to IPPNW (the 1985 Peace Laureate), the statement has been endorsed by Peace Laureates the International Peace Bureau, the American Friends Service Committee, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Lech Walesa, the Dalai Lama, F. W. De Klerk, the Pugwash Conferences, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, and Muhammad Yunus. Other Laureates are expected to endorse the statement.[6]

On September 26, the overwhelming majority of countries condemned the continued existence of nuclear weapons and called for their banning and elimination at the first ever UN high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament. Ray Acheson and Beatrice Fihn from Reaching Critical Will wrote: "In an attempt to counter this rising wave of states free of nuclear weapons asserting their agency over the nuclear disarmament question, the nuclear-armed states complained about "distractions" from "existing processes". The nuclear-armed states, and some of their allies that still believe they "benefit" from nuclear weapons, argued that the step-by-step approach to disarmament is the "only" way forward. In a defensively worded joint statement by France, the United Kingdom, and United States, the three nuclear-armed states expressed "regret" that some states and civil society have decided to highlight the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons ... They argued that energy should instead be directed to existing processes and making progress on the step-by-step agenda. However, as the Philippines noted, the step-by-step process has become synonymous with foot dragging."[8]

'Don't Bank on the Bomb' is a global report into the financing of nuclear weapons, released by IKV Pax Christi and ICAN, which aims to increase the transparency of the finance sectors' investments. It details how 298 private and public financial institutions continue to invest almost US$314 billion into 27 companies involved in the production, maintenance and modernisation of nuclear weapons. The report is posted at:


Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Successful blockade at nuclear weapon base Buchel. On August 11 a group from IKV Pax Christi joined the blockade of the German military base Büchel that hosts US nuclear weapons. Every gate was blocked by non-violent activists from all over the world. Every gate supported the 'Rhythm Beats Bombs' message with musical performances. Krista van Velzen, nuclear disarmament campaigner at IKV Pax Christi, said: 'We join this 24 hour long blockade to show solidarity with the German peace movement. Just as in the Netherlands, Germany hosts 20 American B61 nuclear weapons at the air base. Although the German government said they wanted to send them back, there are still at Büchel, this is the reason why it is necessary to protest.


Hiroshima's Mayor lashes Japan-India atomic courtship. The mayor of Hiroshima, speaking on the 68th anniversary of the nuclear attack on his city, said Japan is wrong to be entertaining prospects of atomic trade with nuclear-armed India. Tokyo and New Delhi agreed in May to pursue arrangements for peaceful nuclear trade. "Even if the nuclear power agreement the Japanese government is negotiating with India promotes their economic relationship, it is likely to hinder nuclear weapons abolition," Mayor Kazumi Matsui said. He pressed his country to strengthen ties with the governments pursuing nuclear weapons abolition. Matsui spoke to a crowd of about 50,000 near the location of the 1945 blast, which killed around 140,000 people.


Tokyo exhibition shows harassment against anti-nuclear movement. Anti-nuclear activists held an exhibition in Tokyo on August 10−11 to highlight the harassment and threats they faced during a period long before the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Letters and postcards sent to the activists in the 1990s and early 2000s were displayed. One postcard simply says, "You are a tick." Some envelopes contained hair, cigarette butts and dead cockroaches. Other letters were filled with obscenities. In 1995, five organisations and 66 individuals asked the Human Rights Protection Committee of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations to take measures against the harassment. By that time, 4,000 of the letters and postcards had been confirmed around the country. Lawyer Yuichi Kaido, one of the organisers of the exhibition, said: "The battle between those supporting the restart of idled nuclear reactors and those against it will be heating up from now on. The obstruction tactics against the anti-nuclear movement that were seen in the past could occur again."


Japanese Peace Boat. The Japanese Peace Boat is travelling around the world with a global call for nuclear weapons abolition through its 6th Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World. Eight Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, accompanied by a Youth Special Communicator for a Nuclear-Free World, are giving testimonies in more than a dozen ports on their way to arrive back in Japan in October. The Peace Boat will be in Mexico on September 21 for the International Day of Peace (Mexico will host the next humanitarian conference on nuclear weapons in February 2014). Updates are posted at and


World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. The 2013 World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs ended successfully on August 9 in Nagasaki with the participation of about 7,000 people including 89 overseas representatives from 20 countries. Conference organisers have historically shied away from debates over nuclear power but that has changed since the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The Declaration of the International Meeting adopted on August 5 in Hiroshima includes the following statement: "The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is still in the midst of the crisis. Bringing the situation under control, decommissioning of all nuclear reactors and a fundamental shift to renewable energy resources are keenly called for. Having noted the dangerous relations between nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation, we call for ending all kind of nuclear damage caused by nuclear fuel cycles, and oppose reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and accumulation of plutonium, as well as military use of nuclear energy. United in one wish for 'no more nuclear victims,' we will develop our campaign together with the movement to break free of nuclear power."


Offshore wind could meet EU electricity needs. The EU's total electricity usage could be met more than four times over by floating offshore wind farms in the deep waters of the North Sea, according to a new report from the European Wind Energy Association. The report claims that if the right policies are put into place now to spur the development and implementation of next-generation floating turbines, total EU offshore wind capacity could reach 150 gigawatts by the year 2030.

Peace Boat Japan

Birth defects: Did the occupation of Iraq leave a toxic legacy?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Doug Weir - Coordinator of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons

During the occupation of Iraq, the city of Fallujah bore witness to some of the most intense US combat operations since Vietnam, with 2004's Operation Phantom Fury widely condemned for its ferocity and disregard for international law.[1]

Paediatrician Dr Samira Al'aani has worked in the city since 1997.[2] In 2006 she began to notice an increase in the number of babies being born with congenital birth defects (CBD). Concerned, she began to log the cases that she saw. Through careful record keeping she has determined that at Fallujah General Hospital, 144 babies are now born with a deformity for every 1000 live births. This is nearly six times higher than the average rate in the UK between 2006 and 2010, and one strong suspicion is that contamination from the toxic constituents of munitions used by occupying forces could be the cause. Now a new nationwide study by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, has the potential to catalyse efforts to understand and confront the issue, but only if science can be allowed to rise above politics.

The politicisation of health research in Iraq has deep roots. In April 2001, plans were beginning to be put in place for a framework agreement between the WHO and Iraqi government that was intended to establish projects aimed at improving public health care in the country.[3] Among the projects were plans to improve the recording and registration of cancers and congenital malformations, and efforts to identify substances in the environment that might be responsible for the increases in those diseases reported since the 1991 Gulf War. Controversially for some states, depleted uranium from US and UK munitions was among the environmental risk factors to be investigated.

After six months, the plans were in disarray. While Baghdad had initiated the project, after consultation the WHO had announced that any costs associated with the projects would need to be borne by Iraq itself. "None of these projects can really start until funding has been found for them, and funding, it has been agreed, will be at the Iraqi initiative," said Neel Mani, incoming director of the WHO's Iraq programme at the time.[4] The Iraqi government, convinced that the health problems had been caused by the 1991 Gulf War and were thus the fault of the US and its allies, refused to cooperate. Political concerns had trumped the needs of the Iraqi people.

The United States has long been the WHO's largest single state donor and the institution has not been free of the criticism directed at other international bodies, such as the World Bank, in recent years that it is disproportionately influenced by its largest patron. The reality is that vast sums of money are involved and state donors have been keen to see returns that are consistent with their interests and principles, whether this is protection of Big Pharma's intellectual property rights or promoting neoliberal approaches to health care provision. Yet in order to be effective the WHO must be, and be seen to be, genuinely independent. The WHO's governing body, the World Health Assembly, reopened the issue of reform back in 2009 but progress has been slow, particularly as different parties are pushing the reform agenda in different directions.

When the WHO announced in 2011 that it was to work with Iraq's Health Ministry on a nationwide study to assess the rates and geographic spread of CBDs in the country, optimism began to build that this could be a significant first step in the long path towards reducing harm and providing assistance to affected families.[5] Prior to the announcement, studies into rates had been limited in scope to a single hospital, and questions were raised about their methodology. Taken in isolation these studies were insufficient to generate the political will for action. Additionally, concerns were expressed over Iraq's internal bureaucracy and power struggles after researchers reported that medical staff were being pressured into not speaking out. Gradually, hopes began to fade that effective research would ever see the light of day.

From the outset, phase one of the project was never due to consider causality – a fact that has drawn criticism from some quarters. Its original aim was to gather baseline data from selected districts and analyse spatial and temporal trends in the incidence of CBDs. Progress on the project was slow, with data collection hit by repeated delays, but during 2012 the WHO, which had posted a FAQ on the project in response to growing interest from the public and media, announced that: "The data collection process has been recently completed and the results are being analysed by the Ministry of Health and WHO. The data analysis process will conclude at the end of 2012 following which time the report writing process will start." [6]

The FAQ was notable in that it pre-empted questions on causality. Of these the possible link between depleted uranium use and CBD rates was covered; the tone was exasperated: "Is the study looking at a possible link between prevalence of child birth defects and the use of depleted uranium? No, absolutely not. The study is only looking at the prevalence of congenital birth defects in selected governorates."

This was understandable, the term birth defect covers a diverse spectrum of disorders; causes include single gene defects, chromosomal disorders, multi-factorial inheritance, environmental teratogens, maternal infections such as rubella and micronutrient deficiencies. Amidst the wreckage of post-war Iraq, there was no shortage of potential risk factors.

In March 2013, BBC World broadcast a documentary on the story. As with other media reports, Born Under A Bad Sign visited the hospitals and spoke with parents and doctors – all of whom were convinced that the health problems they were witnessing were linked to the war.[7] Journalist Yalda Hakim took this up with staff from the Ministry of Health and was able to discuss the CBD data with them. Although nervous, and reluctant to provide too many answers, citing political pressure, they confirmed that the study would find a link between increased incidence of CBDs and areas subject to the most intense fighting in 2003.[8]

If true, this is a hugely significant and profoundly political outcome, and while it doesn't identify a single causal factor for the increase in CBD rates, it narrows the field considerably. While the long-term impact of explosive remnants of war such as landmines and cluster bombs are familiar to most, questions are increasingly being asked about the public health legacy of toxic remnants of war.[9] While the two most notorious examples are depleted uranium and the dioxin contaminated Vietnam-era herbicide Agent Orange, an analysis of commonly used military substances – from heavy metals to explosives − demonstrates significant potential for harm from a range of materials.

Unfortunately data on the toxicity, environmental behaviour and dispersal of these substances is limited as militaries have often only undertaken research into the effects on their own troops or when faced by domestic regulations over emissions from firing ranges. This lack of data and the unpredictability of conflict means that accurately predicting the risk to civilians is enormously challenging. That no system of comprehensive post-conflict environmental assessment exists will ensure that many of these data gaps will remain.

Broadcast of the BBC report in March was followed by updates to the WHO's FAQ. Gone was the petulant 'No, absolutely not' from the line on depleted uranium and the first of a series of procedural delays was announced as committees were formed and new analyses proposed.[10] For campaigners seeking disclosure of the data as a first step towards focused research and humanitarian assistance in Iraq, the delays were worrying.

By July, further delays were announced, with the WHO's FAQ stating: "It was established that this large data set has a great deal of potentially valuable information and that additional analyses not originally conceived of should be done."[11] The WHO added that: "... in addition to further analyses, it was determined the work should also undergo the scientific standard of peer review. A team of independent scientists is now being recruited to review the planned analyses."

The political ramifications of the study are obvious and, while the alterations to the project may be scientifically justified on the basis of the dataset, it was felt that the best way to ensure confidence in the findings was to call for the study and analyses to be subject to genuinely independent and transparent peer review in an open-access journal. The WHO has used open-access journals in the past so the request is not without precedent. Crucially, any experts involved would be selected independently of the WHO.

So how can civil society and individuals influence an organisation as monolithic and apparently compromised as the WHO? On July 31, Dr Al'aani launched an online petition through ( − with the associated twitter hashtag of #Act4Iraq) calling for the WHO to immediately publish the collected data for independent peer review, so that scientific conclusions can be drawn and the affected parents can finally understand what has happened to their children.[12] For them, and for Dr Al'aani, the unfolding health crisis concerns far, far more than a debate over numbers and statistics. For those of us who are citizens of the states that invaded Iraq, it is vital to understand whether we carry a share of responsibility for those parents' suffering, and to demonstrate to Iraqis that the world has not forgotten about their country.


Doug Weir is Coordinator of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons and manages the Toxic Remnants of War Project (, which explores the link between conflict toxics and civilian and environmental harm.

This article is reprinted from New Left Project.

Syrian crisis should re-energise broader disarmament efforts

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Cesar Jaramillo - program officer at Project Ploughshares (Ontario, Canada)

Whatever the merits of the deal reached to defuse the tension in Syria, the use of chemical weapons in its civil war confirms a sobering reality: if weapons exist, they will sooner or later be used — no matter how immoral, indiscriminate or contrary to international norms.

Any use of nuclear weapons in a populated area would be far more catastrophic than the highest estimate of casualties from the use of chemical weapons outside Damascus on Aug. 21. However, while various nations seem to be scrambling to respond to the events in Syria within days, the international community has not been able to follow a road map for nuclear disarmament to its final destination after more than four decades.

Chemical, biological and nuclear weapons have this in common: their use is immoral and illegal — even in times of conflict. Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird sardonically called chemical weapons "a poor man's weapons of mass destruction." Even if true, the weapons of mass destruction of affluent countries are no more legitimate.

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty was designed to prevent non-nuclear-weapon states from acquiring nuclear weapons and to compel nuclear-weapon states to eliminate them. More than 40 years later, the former have by and large fulfilled their non-proliferation commitments. Yet those that hold nuclear weapons have resisted, avoided or ignored not only their treaty obligations, but the groundswell of support for nuclear abolition from all corners of the planet. Instead, there is a discouraging and well-documented trend to spend billions of dollars on modernising nuclear weapons, pushing the goalpost of nuclear abolition ever further away.

Only five states party to the nearly universal non-proliferation treaty possess nuclear weapons, but their combined arsenals of more than 17,000 warheads could destroy our planet many times over.

Certainly, Syria should sign on to the chemical weapons convention, which mandates the destruction of chemical arsenals. The possession of weapons of mass destruction of any kind is the obvious fundamental prerequisite for their use.

It is just as clear that nuclear-weapon states should begin negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention. Until all nuclear weapons are eliminated, the threat remains that they will be used — by accident, miscalculation or design.

In his Sept. 10 televised speech to rally domestic support for eventual military intervention in Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama called the images of victims of chemical weapons "sickening" and stated that these weapons "can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant." He was right. But the same is true for nuclear weapons.

He also stated that the United States belongs to the 98 per cent of nations that have signed the chemical weapons convention. This is roughly the same percentage of states that have refrained from acquiring nuclear weapons. On the nuclear issue, however, the United States sits with the minority.

To be sure, Obama has spoken passionately in favour of nuclear abolition. In June, he acknowledged the grave danger posed by nuclear weapons and stated that "so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe." In Prague in 2009, he said the United States would take "concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons."

But setting lofty goals has never been the problem. Nuclear abolition has been an international objective for decades, supported in theory even by states with nuclear weapons. It is implementing this goal that has proved difficult. No reasonable observer would conclude that nuclear-weapon states have taken meaningful steps to "pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament" as obligated by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Opportunities for engagement on this issue continue to develop. Just this year, a UN open-ended working group met in June and August with a mandate to "develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons." The five permanent members of the UN Security Council — also the sole possessors of nuclear weapons within the non-proliferation treaty — were asked to join the group. Every single one chose not to.

Another opportunity comes on Sept. 26, when the UN holds a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament. In October, states will have the chance to solidify any progress initiated at that meeting during sessions of the UN General Assembly's first committee on disarmament and international security. These diplomatic gatherings constitute key occasions for the five permanent members of the Security Council to show the international community that their talk of a world free of nuclear weapons is more than empty rhetoric.

Efforts to prevent the use of chemical weapons, such as those currently in motion in response to Syria, are not only welcome, but indeed essential. The same arguments about the need to eradicate these weapons should apply, even more vigorously, to nuclear arsenals.

In Obama's televised address, the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth — and commander of its vast nuclear forces — spoke forcefully "of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used."

If there can be a silver lining to the devastation in Syria, it might be in reminding the world that the only foolproof way to ensure that weapons of mass destruction — chemical, biological and nuclear — are never used is to completely eliminate them.


US intercontinental ballistic missile test
The US Air Force Global Strike Command test fired an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile on September 22. A second Minuteman III test-firing is scheduled for September 26. The US has an arsenal of 450 Minuteman III missiles. A Minuteman III test firing was postponed in April as the US did not want North Korea to "misinterpret" the missile test as a provocative act. Yet the timing of the September tests is also impolite − September 21 is the International Day of Peace, and a UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament takes place on September 26.

US warned Kodak, not us, about radioactive fallout (John LaForge)

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
John LaForge

In the 1950s and '60s, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) doused the United States with thyroid cancer-causing iodine-131 − and 300 other radioisotopes − by exploding atomic and hydrogen bombs above ground in Nevada. To protect the dirty, secretive bomb-building industry, the government chose to warn the photographic film industry about the radioactive fallout patterns, but not the public.

In 1951, Eastman Kodak Co. had threatened a federal lawsuit over the nuclear fallout that was fogging its bulk film shipments. Film was not packed in bubble wrap then, but in corn stalks that were sometimes being fallout-contaminated. By agreeing to warn Kodak, etc., the AEC and the bomb program avoided the public uproar − and the bomb testing program's possible cancellation − that a lawsuit would have precipitated. The settlement kept the deadliness of the fallout hidden from the public, even though the government well knew that fallout endangered all the people it was supposed to be defending.

This staggering revelation was heralded on September 30, 1997, in the New York Times headline, "U.S. Warned Film Plants, Not Public, About Nuclear Fallout." The article began, "(W)hile the government reassured the public that there was no health threat from atmospheric nuclear tests. ..." The fallout's radioactive iodine-131 caused thyroid doses to virtually all 160 million Americans.

According to the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma Park, Md., which discovered the cover-up, children were especially affected and received higher doses because they generally consumed more milk than adults and since their thyroids are smaller and growing more rapidly. The "milk pathway" moves radio-iodine from grass, to cows, to milk with extreme efficiency − a fact known to the government as early as 1951. Ingested iodine-131 concentrates in the thyroid gland where it can cause cancer. Doses to children averaged 6 to 14 rads (0.06−0.14 Gy), with some as high as 112 rads (1.12 Gy). Before 1997, the government claimed that thyroid doses to children were 15 to 70 times less.

Radioactive fallout spread to every corner of the US
My friend Steve O'Neil of Duluth, Minn., who was born in 1951, has been a public-spirited political activist all of his adult life, an advocate for the homeless and a campaigner against the causes of homelessness. As a St. Louis County commissioner in his third term, Steve made headlines by announcing that he has been attacked by an aggressive form of thyroid cancer. Steve is not alone in his affliction − more than 60,000 thyroid cancers will be spotted this year in the US. Tens of thousands of them have been caused by our government's nuclear weapons establishment.

The National Cancer Institute disclosed in 1997 that 75,000 thyroid cancer cases can be expected in the U.S. from just 90 − out of 235 − above-ground bomb tests and that 10% of them will be fatal. That year, the cancer institute said, about 70% of the thyroid cancers caused by iodine-131 fallout from those 90 tests had not yet been diagnosed but would appear years or decades later.

Its 14-year study said the 90 bomb blasts produced more than 100 times the radioactive iodine-131 than the government had earlier claimed. The cancer institute estimated that the tests dispersed "about 150 million curies of iodine-131, mainly in the years 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1957." The study reported that all 160 million people in the country at the time were exposed to iodine-131 (the only isotope it studied out of more than 300 dispersed by the blasts.) Children under 15, like Steve O'Neil, were particularly at risk.

High doses of fallout were spread nationwide. Wind patterns and local rainfall caused "hot spots" from Montana and Idaho to South Dakota, Minnesota, and Missouri and beyond.

In 1962, according to IEER, officials in Utah and Minnesota diverted possibly contaminated milk from the market when iodine-131 levels exceeded radiation guidelines set by the Federal Radiation Council. The council reacted harshly and declared that it did "not recommend such actions." It also announced that its radiation guidelines should not be applied to bomb test fallout because "any possible health risk which may be associated with exposures even many times above the guide levels would not result in a detectable increase in the incidence of disease." IEER's scientists condemned this fabulously implausible assurance, writing: "Since thyroid cancers can develop many years after radiation exposure and are therefore not immediately detectable, this reassurance was highly misleading."

Thyroid cancers are tip of bomb test cancer iceberg
The cancer institute's 1997 study said about 16,000 cases of thyroid cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. annually, and that 1,230 would die from the disease. It was a gross understatement.

Today it reports that 60,220 cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the US this year, and that 1,850 of them will be fatal.

The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation says that iodine-131 doses comprise only 2% of the overall radiation dose from weapons testing. Ninety-eight percent of the fallout dose is from 300 other isotopes produced by the bomb. It is not idle speculation to suggest that the cancer pandemic afflicting the U.S. has been caused by our government's deliberately secret and viciously reckless weapons program.

This article appeared earlier in the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Author: John LaForge works for Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, USA, edits its Quarterly newsletter and is syndicated through PeaceVoice.