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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #849 - 29 June 2017

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

UN Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Reminiscent of the Cold War, escalating international tensions have fueled new rivalry among nuclear weapons states. As these countries rebuild their nuclear weapons arsenals, and their relations become progressively volatile, it is impossible to ignore the catastrophic humanitarian consequences and international security threats posed by nuclear weapons.

The United Nations' Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons1, a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, could not be more timely. Led by 132 non-nuclear weapons States, the treaty mandate is to "negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination," a historical moment on the path to global disarmament.

Treaty negotiations are currently underway with plans to conclude negotiations for final treaty language by July 7.

On June 20 and 21, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), joined by allied groups Federation of American Scientists, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility New York, and Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility, and hosted by the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations, presented two side sessions: Fission: Family, Community, Environment and Justice Impacts; and The Road Back to the Nuclear Brink.

The first panel, Fission: Family, Community, Environment, and Justice Impacts included speakers Karina Lester, South Australia; Linda Cataldo Modica, Tennessee USA; Roland Oldham, Atomic Veteran, French Polynesia; and Mary Olson of NIRS who discussed the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons production, testing, and use on health, families, communities and human rights.

These first-hand accounts provided a glimpse inside the daily, lived experiences of communities effected by the production and testing of nuclear weapons ‒ the attempts of governments to trade money for their health and humanity, the attempted erasure of their community's voices and agency, and the means through which their communities empower themselves and fight for their and future generation's right to a healthy and happy life.

Mary Olson of NIRS also highlighted the treaty's first time acknowledgement2 of the disproportionate effects ionizing radiation has on women and girls, putting them, and future generations, at far greater risk than men and boys, a near ten-fold difference across the human life-span. Through her pioneering research3 she has discovered that women are 50% more likely than men to develop cancer or die after being exposed to the same level of ionizing radiation, a significant finding as we often find women's voices absent from disarmament discussions. The UN treaty text (a work in progress) notes that "the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons ... have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, including as a result of ionizing radiation".

The second panel, The Road Back to the Nuclear Brink, included speakers Matthew McKinzie, Natural Resources Defense Council; Hans Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists; Tilman Ruff, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; and Arjun Makhijani, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, who discussed the threats posed by nuclear weapons' targeting capability upgrades to international security.

Nuclear weapons states have begun modernizing their arsenals4 at a rapid pace, some of these nuclear weapons are "capable of being launched within ten minutes," (Mathew McKinzie) significantly increasing the world's vulnerability to human error and/or technological malfunctions that could result in destruction far greater than anything we've witnessed in human history.

Physicians, scientists, and other nuclear experts have been at the helm of treaty negotiations and their evidence overwhelmingly proves the production, testing, and use of nuclear weapons causes irreparable harm to humanity.

"There is groundbreaking scientific analysis showing that using less than half a percent of today's nuclear arsenals (less than a tenth of a percent of their total yield) on cities would cool, darken and dry the surface of the whole planet, decimating agriculture and putting billions in jeopardy from starvation. Britain, France, China, Israel, India and Pakistan have smaller arsenals, but even these pose a global threat," Dr. Tilman Ruff emphasized.

The overwhelming international support the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons treaty has received assures us all that this treaty has the power to delegitimize nuclear weapons, while legitimizing the humanity of communities effected by nuclear weapons.

‒ Jasmine Bright, Nuclear Information and Resource Service

1. Working (non-final) version of the treaty text:




Urenco enrichment consortium to help US nuclear weapons program

The German-Dutch-British uranium enrichment company Urenco is to support the US nuclear weapons program in tritium production, German public television's Tagesschau news has reported. According to the Tagesschau, Urenco was contracted in May to supply low enriched uranium from its plant in New Mexico to the US power utility TVA. 

TVA's two nuclear power stations 'Watts Bar' and 'Sequoyah' are to be supplied to the value of US$500 million. These plants not only produce electricity but in normal operation also tritium, which is needed for the constant routine maintenance of US nuclear bombs. Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen with a half-life period of only 12 years. 

Because the US no longer has a military uranium enrichment plant of its own ‒ or any enrichment plant at all ‒ this means Urenco is keeping the US nuclear weapons program going. That would be a clear breach of the Treaty of Almelo which allows Urenco to deliver enriched uranium only for civilian purposes.

The "joint committee" governing Urenco, comprising representatives of the German, Dutch and British governments, has failed completely, German anti-nuclear activists charge.

The convoluted, disingenuous justification is that tritium is a 'by-product material' and not a 'special nuclear material' if produced in reactors used 'principally' to produce electricity.

‒ Diet Simon

More information:

‒ 19 May 2017, 'US nuclear weapons: Military tritium with support from URENCO?',

‒ John R. Harvey and Franklin C. Miller, 6 March 2017, 'Commentary: The looming crisis for US tritium production',

‒ United States Government Accountability Office, Oct 2014, 'Department of Energy: Interagency Review Needed to Update U.S. Position on Enriched Uranium That Can Be Used for Tritium Production Report to Congressional Requesters',

Laka Foundation releases IAEA's complete list of accidents

Earlier this month, the Laka Foundation released a list of almost 1,000 incidents, accidents and near-misses at nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities.1 Accidents and technical and human errors are reported by national nuclear regulatory agencies to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). But the IAEA only releases reports from the previous twelve months to the public.2 After twelve months, accident reports are hidden from the IAEA website.

By releasing the full IAEA list with all reported incidents and accidents since 1990, Laka, an Amsterdam based research group on nuclear energy, makes this safety-relevant information accessible.



Pro-nuclear environmentalists' prescription for world peace ... nuclear power

James Hansen and numerous other self-styled pro-nuclear environmentalists have written to political leaders in the US, South Korea and North Korea advocating a "new framework" involving support for the development of nuclear power in North Korea in return for North Korea accepting IAEA inspections of its nuclear program, ending its missile tests and limiting its nuclear arsenal.

The "new framework" is much the same as the old 1994 Agreed Framework ... which was a complete failure. If the power reactors had been completed before North Korea terminated IAEA safeguards during the collapse of the Agreed Framework, those reactors might now be used for weapons production in addition to North Korea's small 'experimental power reactor' and its enrichment program. Other reasons to reject the proposal include the possibility that reactors in both North and South Korea could be deliberately or inadvertently struck in the event of military conflict.

1 June 2017, 'US-Korea Letter',

Resistance Camp, August 7–16, Gedelitz/Wendland

The Resistance Camp will involve workshops and an action day on the subject of nuclear waste, nuclear transports, uranium mining and human rights. We hope to live the integration of the issues and activists of the Wendland and to carry out some networking covering all continents and issues.

The people around Gorleben, Germany, have experienced 40 years full of anti-nuclear resistance against the plans of the atomic industry. The temporary nuclear waste disposals threaten to become permanent disposals. The nuclear power plants continue to produce nuclear waste and the German nuclear industry is still allowed to supply fuel rods to nuclear power plants on a worldwide scale.

Joint actions will take place at the nuclear facilities on Saturday, August 12, from 11am.



Symposium on Human Rights, Future Generations & Crimes in the Nuclear Age

A Symposium on Human Rights, Future Generations & Crimes in the Nuclear Age will be held at the University of Basel, Switzerland on 14-17 September 2017. Organizers include the Uranium Network and the Swiss chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The Symposium program and other details are posted at

‒ Akio Matsumura