Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Government in denial still over effects of detonating nuclear weapons

The Guardian newspaper reported on 30 December  that the Home Office dismissed the threat of a “nuclear winter” impact of the use of nuclear WMDs as “scaremongering”, as recorded in the National Archive papers release for 1984
(“Home Office dismissed nuclear winter threat as scaremongering, files show, “
Unfortunately, the current Government  appears to have the same ‘in- denial’ response to this very real threat to humanity in its obsession to retain - and replace - the Trident nuclear WMD system.
At the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, hosted by the Austrian Government from 8 to 9 December 2014 - which received  powerful supportive messages from both The United Nations’ Secretary General and Pope Francis -  the British representative, Ambassador Susan le Jeune  d'Allegeershecque, told delegates of nearly 160 countries - along with hundreds of representatives of civil society -  that she had “listened to the debate very carefully”  but nonetheless concluded :" We will  maintain a minimum credible nuclear  deterrent for as long as it is  necessary". (
Amongst the conclusions by international scientific experts convened by Austria for the conference, based on evidence collectively presented, was that any use of nuclear weapons could cause gravest humanitarian emergencies and have catastrophic global consequences on the environment, climate, health, social order, human development and the global economy.
Dr. Michael J. Mills of the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research gave a chilling presentation on the likelihood of global famine after even a “limited” nuclear exchange of nuclear WMDs - 50 out of the global stockpile of some 17,000 nuclear warheads. It would lead to global crop yield losses of tens of percent, leading to worldwide famine, in great part due to the “nuclear winter “ effect of sooty smoke and ozone layer loss.
This would have the combined  effects of colder temperatures; shortened frost-free growing seasons; cold spells during growing seasons; slower growth causing lower yield; increased daytime darkness and less rainfall.
Dr Micah Lowenthal of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the US National Academy of Sciences observed after presenting a scenario of a single  (comparatively) small (10kt) nuclear bomb detonated over Washington DC: “We have a poor understanding of what infrastructure would still be effective after such an event.”
Our Ambassador told me after her presentation, when I asked her whether she was indeed listening, as her presentation seemed singularly detached from reality,  that she was merely conveying official government policy, which seems a dereliction of duty to me.
The late, great cosmologist and astronomer Professor Carl Sagan, contemplating the nuclear winter threat, said three decades ago: “Elementary planetary hygiene demands that we eliminate nuclear weapons faster.” I agree.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Trident and Murphy's law

A week ago Jim Murphy, the new Labour leader in Scotland recoursed to the old saw that he wants a world free of nuclear weapons, but is "not a unilateralist," in an interview with The Guardian Saturday review, (20 Dec.

This unhelpful contrast with a multilateralist, is a hang-over from Cold War politics, but as  Mr Murphy, despite protestations towards change, wants to hark back to the past, it is worth pointing out that since the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty ( NPT, drafted under a Labour government, who lobbied hard for its merits at the United Nations)was signed in 1968 requiring all signatories to negotiate nuclear disarmament in good faith and at an early date, not one British nuclear weapon or warhead has been negotiated away in any multilateral nuclear disarmament forum.

When Murphy was shadow defence secretary last year he strongly affirmed in an interview in the New Statesman Labour was going to retain and renew Trident nuclear WMDs. ("Jim Murphy: Labour is sticking with Trident," NS, 7 March 2013) (

A week on, and The Guardian front page on 27 December headlined:  

Labour set for a bloodbath in Scotland in general election, poll says

The article revealed that, based on an ICM Unlimited online interview sample of 1,004 Scottish adults aged 18 and over, that 43% want Trident scrapped and 37% want it retained. Mr Murphy should take good note.

Earlier this month at the  Vienna conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, the British representative, Ambassador to Austria and the IAEA, Susan le Jeune  d'Allegeershecque   told delegates of over 150 countries - along with hundreds of representatives of civil society -  that :"We will work to create the conditions in which nuclear weapons are no longer needed. We will also maintain a minimum credible nuclear  deterrent for as long as it is  necessary".

The ambassador was representing the policy of the UK government.  That is identical with the position of Mr Murphy. From the Scottish referendum debate, it does not seem to be the view of most Scottish residents, or indeed, most people living in the UK, over Trident, as the new poll demonstrates.


Friday, 19 December 2014

Why does Pakistan tranport its nuclear warheads in delivery vans?

Given the horrors of the Pakistan situation, accentuated by this week's terrorist trauma,  this is chillingly apposite :
In 2011 in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder wrote just about the most frightening sentence I’ve ever read: “In a country that is home to the harshest variants of Muslim fundamentalism, and to the headquarters of the organizations that espouse these extremist ideologies,” they wrote, “nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads.” That’s right: Pakistan uses delivery vans, as secure as the ones you and I might use to move furniture, to move its nuclear arsenal. This in a country where the Taliban routinely assaults hardened facilities with great success, where Al Qaeda feels entirely at home, and where the Islamic State was recently embraced by six senior Taliban commanders.

 fro more, see 
Sleepwalking as Nukes Spread

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

What Chilcot should make public‏

I submitted this letter to The Times on 17 December

I  was very pleased to read your front page report revealing the background to the inordinate delay in publishing the Chilcot Inquiry report into the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ("Whitehall shockwaves over Chilcot draft report," Dec17)
I submitted memorandum to the Chilcot Inquiry  on what Tony Blair and Jack Straw must have known about Iraqi WMDs, and when they  knew it.  These are documented facts, the timeline of which is essential to grasp.
Gen. Hussein Kamal, the former director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corporation, in charge of Iraq's weapons programme, defected to Jordan on the night of 7 August 1995, together with his brother Col. Saddam Kamal.
Both were sons-in-law of the then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Hussein Kamal took crates of documents revealing past weapons programmes, and provided these to UNSCOM, the United Nations’ inspection team looking for WMDs in Iraq.
Iraq responded by revealing a major store of documents that showed that Iraq had begun an unsuccessful crash programme to develop a nuclear bomb (on 20 August 1995). Hussein and Saddam Kamal surprisingly agreed to return to Iraq, where they were assassinated by the thug  and Saddam henchman  known as ‘Chemical Ali’ on 23 February 1996).
Before their fateful return to Iraq, they were interviewed in Amman on 22 August 1995, 15 days after Kamal left Iraq. His interviewers were: Rolf Ekeus, the former executive chairman of Unscom (from 1991 to 1997); Professor Maurizio Zifferero, deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of the inspections team in Iraq; plus Nikita Smidovich, a Russian diplomat who led UNSCOM's ballistic missile team and former Deputy Director for Operations of UNSCOM.
During the interview, Major Izz al-Din al-Majid (transliterated as Major Ezzeddin) joined the discussion. Izz al-Din was Saddam Hussein's cousin, and defected together with the Kamal brothers. The full transcript of the interview may be read at:
The key output was the documented revelation that : "all weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed"
Tony Blair, in a misleading statement to the House of Commons on 25 February 2003, said: "It was only four years later after the defection of Saddam's son-in-law to Jordan, that the offensive biological weapons and the full extent of the nuclear programme were discovered."  (
Former Labour MP Llew Smith, for whom I then worked, asked the Prime Minister about  the information provided by Hussein Kamal on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and if Mr Blair  if he would  place in the House of Commons  Library the text of the Kamal interview.
Mr Blair answered “Following his defection, Hussein Kamal was interviewed by UNSCOM and by a number of other agencies. Details concerning the interviews were made available to us on a confidential basis. The UK was not provided with transcripts of the interviews.” (Hansard, 26 March 2003: Column 235W)
But it  was known to Mr Blair and his security advisors that eight years earlier Saddam’s son-in-law Hussain Kamal had fessed-up in an interview with the UN’s international weapons inspectors and intelligence agents to the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological WMDs, and the nascent nuclear weapons programme too.
The question apologists for Tony Blair’s need to ask is: why did Mr Blair so blatantly disregarded this information when pressing for war, except for the obvious reason it undermined his stated reason to support an invasion?

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Nuclear Killing Fields

I submitted this text, along with a much longer detailed country-by--country profile of the uranium producer-country uranium legacies, to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Human Weapons, held on 8-9 December 2014, Hofburg Palace Vienna, Austria,

“I want make this submission following on the presentation by Dr Arjun Makijani of the US-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in the US in session 1b, who highlighted the often overlooked environmental degradation, lack of remediation and health hazards posed by uranium mining for the raw materials to make nuclear explosives for the nuclear arsenals of the nuclear weapons states (NWS). I note that this joint human health and environmental concern is the focus of an excellent and disturbing  poster exhibition outside the main door to the stage of this Conference Hall.


I also note the conclusions of the interpretation of existing environmental law to military nuclear activities discussed in depth and breadth by the excellent panel in Session  IV.


Both this conference and the predecessor Civil Society Conference in Vienna over the weekend  have heard the moving testimony of radiation victims from the testing and belligerent us eof  nuclear weapons: the Japanese “Hibakusha”, direct victims of nuclear wepons deliberately used upon on their communities,  and the US, Marshallese Islanders, Australian indigenous peoples, and  Kazakh “Downwinders, who have suffered from nuclear testing.


But there are hundreds of thousands of radiation victims worldwide  from the production of nuclear weapons, even if  we remain lucky enough that they are never used by deliberate decision, or detonated by accident.


I raised this matter of concern with the United Kingdom delegation, representing the country of which I am a citizen, in the margins of this conference, to be told the exposure to radiation from uranium procurement was a long time ago. That is true, but the impact of exposure lives on through  genetic transfer across  generations, as the compensation agreements  in the United States ( surprising not mentioned by the US Ambassador to this conference in either  contribution he  made from the floor)  have demonstrated  recognise the responsibility of current political administrations for past administration’ actions.

Therefore, as my own Government has declined to  take moral responsibility for the significant deleterious impact of the production process for the procurement of the raw uranium that, in its converted form, now makes up the nuclear explosives in each of the
UK ‘s 180 nuclear warheads, I will set out below  some examples of the impacts, especially to inform my own Government why they have a duty to wider humanity to  take responsibility for the desecration of sacred land and for damaging the heath of exposed indigenous peoples and their successor generations, especially as indigenous people’s land  in former colonies were used as the sources of the UK’s uranium used in nuclear warheads.

Governments have accepted the importance of recognizing and mitigating the carbon  footprint of the production process of commercially tradable goods; they also need to accept the radiological footprint of past nuclear explosive materials production needs to be mitigated, and act accordingly in a moral fashion.

Nuclear warheads, even if never detonated, have not only an extraordinary financial cost, but even more importantly , an ecological, environmental, and enduring health cost – both radiological and toxicological -  to the people whose communities have been exploited for the procurement of the uranium, which in processed and manufactured form, currently sits in the  global nuclear arsenals of over 16,000 warheads, with no positive benefit, but huge detriments, for the human communities from which it was expropriated.”

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Nuclear option needed to save economy

The respected, independent respected Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated that as a result of its detailed assessment of the Chancellor’s  Autumn Statement, Spending cuts on a colossal scale with £55 billion to come, post 2015 election, on top of the £35 bn of painful cuts already inflicted on the public sector over the lifetime of our Conservative-led coalition Government. (

As Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has already committed any incoming Labour Government, should they win the election,  to follow the first year spending plans of the outgoing Government, then what is now required is to identify the least socially painful cuts any new Government could chose to make.

My own choice to make huge inroads into the £55 bn that needs to be saved from projected spending is to firstly, cancel the Trident  nuclear weapons programme replacement, which if completed will cost at least £100 bn and  on which this week the Ministry of Defence admitted in a written answer  to Labour MP Paul Flynn it has already spent some $59 million on missile  launch tubes from the US company, General Dynamics Electric Boat, even before any final decision to go ahead with the Trident replacement is made in 2016.( Questions: 215790, 2 Dec)

New ministers should immediately cut further massive losses on coming into office, if the Coalition has not already cancelled the programme and sought more sustainable security policies for the nation.

Secondly, ministers should cancel the civilian nuclear programme, which is due to cost at least £24 bn for each twin reactor, with huge taxpayer–funded subsidies. Buried in the voluminous Autumn Statement announcements was one from the Department for Energy and Climate Change that the Treasury has agreed to underwrite a new £10 bn loan guarantee for the joint venture between Japanese  company Toshiba-Westinghouse and French company GDF SUEZ,  for a proposed new nuclear power plant at Moorside, next to Sellafield, on top of an identical £10 bn  being provided to another French company, EDF Energy

With very limited sums of public money available as we move into a continuing  austere economic future, why is British taxpayers money  being promised to US, Japanese and French nuclear  companies?

Monday, 1 December 2014

Atomic Armageddon still threatens us all‏

Eric Schlosser’s chilling Guardian Journal article on our precarious planetary existence under the shadow of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) ought to concentrate the minds of our high-level decision makers in Whitehall .(“Armageddon waiting to happen,” 28 November, 
They have been warned before! Ten years ago a blood curdling exhibition was hosted at the National Archives at Kew in London, called ‘Secret State,’ unveiling some of the most terrifying secrets of the Cold War.
One stunning revelation in original official documents from the 1950s and 1960s listed the 20 major cities in a Top Secret report ‘Probable Nuclear targets in the United Kingdom: Assumptions for Planning’- prepared by the Joint Intelligence Committee. (Annex A, File TNA: DEFE 4/224, dated 2nd November 1967).
One document –the ‘Strath Report’- prepared in 1955, so secret it was not publicly released until 2003,  was the best estimate of the atomic boffins of what would have happened if Britain was attacked by the Soviet Union with just 10 Hydrogen (H-) bombs. Its conclusions, made available only to ministers in strictest confidence, detailed in graphic terms the disaster that would have befallen Britain. 
The combined explosive power of these 10 H-bombs would, the ‘Strath Report’ stated, be the “equivalent of 100million tonnes of TNT explosive,” going on to reveal “This would be 45 times as great as the total tonnage of bombs delivered by all the allies on Germany, Italy and occupied France throughout the whole of the last war.”(ie World War II)
Twelve million people would be incinerated in the first few seconds with another four million seriously injured, even before the radiation clouds had made their poisonous way across the country. Atomic Armageddon indeed!
Thankfully, amidst the horror stories, there were some instances of black humour: scientists working on an atomic land mine - meant for deployment underground in Germany’s northern plains - realised that it could fail in winter if vital components become too cold, so they explored ways of keeping the inner workings warm.
One proposal put forward consisted of filling the casing of the mine with live chickens, which would give off sufficient heat - prior to suffocating or starving to death - to keep the delicate explosive mechanism from freezing. Odd times still continue
(Document reference: INF 13/281/7

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Proscribing foreign fighters‏

This comment was submitted to the Daily Telegraph on 25 November
In his commentary “Can Theresa May get the right balance between liberty and security?” ("Can Theresa May get the right balance between liberty and security?"Daily Telegraph, 25 Nov. Johnson emphasised that the Home Secretary told the Daily Telegraph that “Islamist fighters returning from Iraq or Syria represent a greater threat than any previous terror group, including al-Qaeda-trained extremists or the Provisional IRA.”
But the problem for Government legislation is how do you discriminate between one group of British citizens who chose to go abroad and fight for one  foreign power and  others fighting for a different foreign power?
Labour MP for Newport West, Paul Flynn, tried to  clarify this in a question he  submitted on 29 August to the Home Secretary, asking what estimate she had made of the number of (a) British citizens, (b) British residents holding dual passports and (c) British residents holding foreign passports who left the UK in 2014 to fight for the (i) Israeli Defence Force in Gaza, (ii) Koma Komalên Kurdistan (KKK) in Syria and Iraq and (iii) ISIS Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in 2014.
The question was finally answered on 20 November  questions are usually answered within 5  days) by junior Home Office minister James Brokenshire, who said:
“We do not hold data on British nationals fighting with the Israeli Defence Force: many foreign nationals (including British nationals) serve in the IDF, and also hold dual (Israeli) nationality. We do not hold data on British nationals fighting with the Koma Komalên Kurdistan in Syria/Iraq.”

But he had a lot more to say on those who have  joined up with ISIS, stating:
“We believe that more than 500 individuals from the UK have travelled to Syria since the start of the conflict. It is estimated half of these have returned. We judge that a significant minority of UK extremists currently fighting in Syria are affiliated with ISIL. British citizens fighting with proscribed terrorist organisations would clearly pose a threat to the UK should they return. Such individuals are among our primary counter-terrorism concerns… Those who become involved in fighting abroad can potentially be prosecuted under UK law on their return including under terrorism or other offences.”
He then stressed that: “Fighting in a foreign conflict is not automatically an offence but will depend on the nature of the conflict and the individual's own activities." adding:
"Any allegation of an offence will be a matter for investigation by the police. Whether an individual is arrested or prosecuted will always depend on the facts and circumstances of the case and is an operational decision for the police and Crown Prosecution Service. Safeguards are built in to our legislation and we rely on the police and Crown Prosecution Service to make sure that prosecutions are pursued in appropriate cases. Whether any specific act falls within the definition of terrorism and whether any individuals or groups have committed an offence will always depend on all facts and circumstances of the case. Prosecutions can only be sought where the Crown Prosecution Service is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence of any offence having been commissioned and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.” (question number: 207355)
Mr Cameron told MPs in the House of Commons on 25 Nov. that the new counter terrorism controls will ensure those suspected of fighting abroad will only  be able to return “on our terms.”(
The conclusion to be drawn is if you go abroad to fight for parties with whom our Government agrees, such as Israel in its fight with Palestinians, or with freedom fighter groups such as the Kurdish KKK, that is fine.
But if you chose to fight for entities whom the Government do not agree, or are totally hostile to the United Kingdom, such as the extremist ISIS - fighting, raping and murdering for an Islamic State caliphate - expect to be in trouble sometime very soon.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

How France still assists Iran’s uranium enrichment programme

Today, Nov.24, is D-Day 2014. That’s (nuclear) Disarmament for Iran, after years of painstaking negotiations.

 As Monday’s deadline loomed, it concentrated diplomatic minds. Secretary of State Kerry and Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif postponed planned departures from Vienna on Friday evening to extend face-to-face negotiations, not wanting to leave the details to high-level diplomats. (

Iran wants a deal to  lift the severe economic sanctions that are curtailing its hard pressed economy, while the US–led  5+1 negotiating team want to shackle Iran’s  nuclear programme to  halt any chance of a break out from civilian nuclear activities into a nuclear weapons program. Iran has persistently denied it has any military nuclear intentions, but the 5+1 negotiating team point to the magnitude and scope of Iran’s various nuclear activities, arguing such a significant program is unneeded for a purely civilian program. Iran has only one commercial scale reactor, at Bushehr, designed by German engineering company, Siemens, and finished-off by Russian nuclear expertise from state-supported company, Rosatom.

Earlier this month Russia announced Rosatom  has agreed to build two new  nuclear plants for Iran, for which Russia will provide the enriched uranium fuel under International atomic energy Agency control, thus reducing future indigenous demand for Iranian uranium enrichment capacity (

Foreign secretary Philip  Hammond has said he was not optimistic that a comprehensive agreement could be finalized by Monday but expressed the hope that there might yet be “some significant movement” that might warrant yet another deadline extension.

Hammond added: “There is clearly an interest on the Iranian side to get a deal done. The prize for Iran is huge. Access to very large amounts of frozen assets, the ability to trade freely with the world again, and the ability to reset relationships with the international community, so there is a huge prize on the table for Iran.”

The United States  provided Iran - then called Persia - with its first small research reactor, in 1957 under President  Eisenhower's much lauded Atoms-for-Peace support  program - at a time when Iran was a strong American ally.  US President Gerald Ford took atomic co-operation further when he signed a directive in 1976 offering Iran the chance to buy and operate a US-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. ( The Ford strategy paper said the "introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran's economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals."

Britain also provided Iran with research reactor nuclear capability at the end of the 1950s, under the Tehran atomic pact. (

France’s Foreign minister Laurent Fabius, a former prime minister, reportedly remained the most sceptical of the 5+1 ministers intensively involved in the nuclear negotiation.


[Advertisement from the 1970s by American nuclear-energy companies, using Iran's nuclear program as a marketing ploy]

The New York Times remains cautious about prospects of success, its specialist writers observing “the forces arrayed against a deal are formidable — not just Mr. Khamenei and the country’s hard-liners, but newly empowered Republicans, some of his fellow Democrats, and many of the United States’ closest allies.”

The NY Times authors further argue that the US’ allies are on board, but “the notable exception are the French, who have publicly argued for tougher terms in the negotiations and say they see their role as to serve, in the words of one Western diplomat, as ‘a significant counterweight on the impulse of Obama to make concessions’.”

If so, this is a very curious state of diplomatic affairs.

Among the several reasons the Vienna talks on Iran's nuclear programme have had to be reconvened this month was that France objected to the deal being closed-off with Iran earlier because of Tehran's contested plutonium production plant at Arak.

Whatever doubts the French have over Arak, they seem to be sanguine about Iran’s involvement in uranium enrichment, so much so that they are in industrial partnership with the Iranians in this technology, and have been for four decades since the agreement was initiated by the Shah of Iran in 1975.

Oddly, this deal never gets reported in the context of the Iran nuclear negotiations. Is there any good reason why not? It ought to be center-stage in any public diplomacy, but isn’t.


The origins of the deal are illustrative of the dangers of international nuclear collaboration.  A joint-stock uranium enrichment Eurodif (European Gaseous Diffusion Uranium Enrichment) Consortium was formed in 1973, with France, Belgium, Spain and Sweden the original shareholders.

In 1975 Sweden’s 10% share in Eurodif was sold to Iran. The French government subsidiary company Cogema (now Areva) and the then Iranian government established the spin-out Sofidif  (Société Franco-Iranienne pour l'enrichissement de l'uranium par diffusion  gazeuse ) with 60% and 40%  shares, respectively. In turn, Sofidif acquired a 25% share in Eurodif, which gave Iran its 10% share of Eurodif.

The former Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, lent $1 billion (and another $180 million  in 1977) for the construction of the Eurodif factory to have the right of buying 10% of the site’s production.

Although  Iran's active involvement in Eurodif was halted following the 1979 Iranian  Revolution, Iran has retained its active involvement in Sofidif -  headquartered  in Rue La Fayette in Paris -  to the present day. Its current annual report is audited by KPMG. Dr Ali Daee of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran was appointed Iran’s new Permanent Representative to Sofidif as recently as September 2012.
Iran's stake in Eurodif was exposed in a report written by Paris–based German nuclear expert Mycle Schneider for the Greens and the European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, issued in March 2007.(The Permanent Nth Country Experiment, Paris March 2007;

Fast forward to November 2014
Crossbench ( non-party) Peer, British lawyer Baroness Deech raised the issue of Sofidif in the Lords - the Second chamber of the British Parliament - on  Oct. 30, during questions on Iran. She received no answer from the minister, Baroness Anelay of St Johns;  ( so she submitted a further written question which received the following reply on Nov.11:

“The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and Areva, a French company, jointly own Sofidif  [which]  in turn has an interest in a uranium enrichment facility in France. The collaboration between AEOI and Areva pre-dates the 1979 Revolution in Iran. We do not believe it has a bearing on P5+1 talks with Iran.” (emphasis added)

Really? How convenient!  The hypocrisy of France, as a nuclear technology supplier to Iran, ganging up on its customer client with the other self-appointed permanent-5 members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany, would be funny if it wasn't so serious.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Supping with the Medievalist Devil

I read with disquiet The Times' energy editor's report ("French give Saudis nuclear option for Hinkley Point plan," Nov 18, ttp://
that "Saudi Arabia has made a late attempt to bankroll EDF Energy’s project to build Britain’s first nuclear reactor for a generation" at Hinkley Point in Somerset, instead of the proposed Chinese state investment in the plant.
This came one day after Mr Cameron proudly told the House of Commons that he was "the Prime Minister who has restarted the nuclear programme, by going ahead with Hinkley Point C, after 13 years of a Labour Government who talked and talked about nuclear power but never did anything about it," and in the same statement to MPs rightly utterly condemned "the sickening murder of American aid worker Peter Kassig" by beheading by the Islamic State terrorists.(Hansard, 17 Nov. columns 33 et seq;

But Saudi Arabia has both beheaded  far more  people this year, as part of its judicial execution policy, than ISIS, which is just as medievally barbaric as the Islamic State; and indeed has permissively allowed funds from Saudi Arabia to fund the ISIS terrorists.
Ministers such as the Foreign Office's  Tobias Ellwood have myopically repeated Saudi denials of this,such as in September when he told Labour backbencher Paul Flynn " Saudi Arabia has a comprehensive set of laws in place to prevent terrorist financing, which they vigorously enforce." (Hansard, 9 Sept 2014 : Column 590W).
Indeed the UK has a very close military co-operation arrangement with Saudi Arabia, having nearly 200 personnel involved in Saudi in the collaborative Saudi Arabian National Guard Communications (SANGCOM) Project and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Saudi Armed Forces Projects (MODSAP) according to a written reply to Green Party MP Caroline Lucas (9 Sept: Column 584W)
Mr Cameron also  told  Ms Lucas in Parliament in September  “We would of course take a very different view on many of the domestic rules and regulations in Saudi Arabia.”  (Hansard, 1 Sept. 2014. Column 34).

If new nuclear in the UK comes at the cost of inward investment from either an authoritarian Communist regime in Beijing that ruthlessly oppresses political dissent ,or a misogynistic, medievalist, authoritarian regime in Riyadh, that regularly beheads criminals in public squares and funds terrorist organizations, is that a price our nation really wants to pay for supping with these deadly investors?

The views of EDF energy, who "declined to comment“ to The Times'  energy editor, would be most interesting.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Mutual indefensible treaty: the World’s first Pro-Proliferation Nuclear Co-operation Treaty

Yesterday Parliament debated for the first time in 20 years  an obscure  treaty between the UK and US on mutual support for their programmes of nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)

It ought not to be obscure, as it underpins the entire Trident nuclear WMD project.

Let me put this in a historical context, as its importance in 2014 can only be understood by comprehending  what happened  to lead us to this important moment for security policy, diplomacy and Parliamentary scrutiny of British nuclear weapons of mass destruction

When the United States detonated the first atomic bomb in anger over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on that fateful day of 6 August  1945, the then British Prime Minister Clem Attlee and former Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a joint statement.

It revealed that:

“under the general arrangements then in force for the pooling of scientific information, there was a full interchange of ideas between the scientists carrying out this work [on the atom bomb]  in the United Kingdom and those in the United States.”

They added:

“It is now for Japan to realize in the glare of the first atomic bomb which has smitten her what the consequence will be of an indefinite continuance of this terrible means of maintaining a rule of law in the world.

This revelation of the secrets of nature long mercifully withheld from man should arouse the most solemn reflections in the mind and conscience of every human being capable of comprehension. We must indeed pray that these awful agencies will be made to conduce to peace among the nations and that, instead of wreaking measureless havoc upon the entire globe, they may become a perennial foundation of world prosperity.”.


A few weeks later, Mr Attlee wrote in a secret memorandum:
"The only course which seems to me to be feasible and to offer a reasonable hope of staving off imminent disaster for the world is joint action by the USA, UK and Russia based upon stark reality. We should declare that this invention has made it essential to end wars. The New World Order must start now. A
ll nations must give up their dreams of realising some historic expansion at the expense of their neighbours. They must look to a peaceful future instead of to a warlike past. This sort of thing has in the past been considered a utopian dream. It has become today the essential condition of the survival of civilisation and possibly of life on this plant."
[Extracts from a memorandum on the Atom Bomb from Prime Minister Clement Attlee, 28th August 1945

Catalogue ref: CAB 126/257]


When Winston Churchill returned as British Prime Minister in autumn of 1951 following the October General Election, he also took on the responsibility as Defence Secretary.


A year later, in a statement on the first UK atomic bomb test in Australia,  he told Parliament of his discovery of the secret nuclear weapons programme the post war Attlee Government had  pursued, saying:


“As to the cost, I was astonished that well over 100 million pounds should be dibursed without Parliament being aware of it (Official Report, 23 October 1952  column 1271)


[ATOM BOMB TEST, AUSTRALIA, Official report,  23 October 1952 vol 505 cc1268-71 1268 ]


By the mid 1950s, the atomic collaboration between the UK and US, which had been blocked post war in 1946 by the draconian US Atomic Energy Act, which sought to protect American atomic secrets from all, including its allies, was resumed on civil nuclear technology. A detailed  deal was signed on 14 June 1956  at the British Embassy in Washington DC between the chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, Rear Admiral Strauss, and the British Ambassador, Sir Roger Makins (later Lord Sherflield), broadening the collaborative scope of the more tentative initial atomic energy support agreement of 1955.

Then in  1958 the powerful  Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy  held detailed hearing for five months- from end of January to end of May- on loosening the American grip on nuclear secrets with its allies, in particular, the UK.

The full text of the hearing to amend the US-UK MDA the first time, is found at:

[Amending the Atomic Energy Act of 1954: exchange of military information and material with allies hearings before the United States Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, Subcommittee on Agreements for Cooperation, Eighty-Fifth Congress, second session, on January 29-31, February  4, 5, 27, March 5, 26-28, April 17, May 28, 1958.



By contrast, the UK held no debates at all.

Indeed, when the MDA was debated for the first and only time twenty years ago, , Alan Simpson, then the member for Nottingham South, who initiated the debate – which started at 1.56 am! -  pointed out:


Parliament is systematically deceived and has been so ever since the first signing of the agreement. The systematic and consistent refusals by the Leader of the House to hold a full debate before Parliament in Government time are part of a process which goes back almost 40 years.”

(Official Report, 15 December 1994, c1236 onwards )


We can now make that 60 years, so uncooperative has  this Coalition Government been in timetabling a debate. We should be grateful to the Back bench Business Committee for showing greater wisdom than the Government in arranging our debate today.


And this exchange in atomic technology was no mere theoretical option.


Within a month of the US Congressional hearing ending, the British Parliament was let into the implications


In the UK Parliament in June 1958, Labour ‘s Roy Mason, asked  why Her Majesty's Government had


“decided to modify atomic power stations, primarily planned for peaceful purposes, to

produce high-grade plutonium for war weapons; to what extent this will interfere with the atomic power programme; and if he will make a statement.?”


to be  informed by the Paymaster General, Reginald Maudling

“At the request of the Government, the Central Electricity Generating Board has agreed to a small modification in the design of Hinkley Point and of the next two stations in its programme so as to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted should the need arise.

The modifications will not in any way impair the efficiency of the stations. As the initial capital cost and any additional operating costs that may be incurred will be borne by the Government, the price of electricity will not be affected.

The Government made this request in order to provide the country, at comparatively small cost, with a most valuable insurance against possible future defence requirements. The cost of providing such insurance by any other means would be extremely heavy.”

(Official Report , 24 June 1958 vol 590 cc246-8)

This was challenged by Mr Mason, but the minister retorted:

“The hon. Gentleman says that it is an imposition. The only imposition on the country would have arisen if the Government had met our defence requirements for plutonium by means far more expensive than those proposed in this suggestion.”

The headline story in the Bridgwater Mercury, serving the community around Hinkley, on that day (24 June 1958} was:

 “MILITARY PLUTONIUM to be manufactured at Hinkley”

The article explained:

“An ingenious method has been designed  for changing the plant without  reducing the output of electricity…”

CND was reported to be critical, describing this as a “distressing step” insisting

 “The Government is obsessed with a nuclear militarism which seems insane.”

A year later, after the MDA was first amended amended on  7 May 1959 to permit special nuclear materials for military uses to be exchanged, the following   took place in Parliament:

The minister, Mr Maudling,  told Tory back bencher, Wing Commander Eric Bullus, who had asked the Paymaster-General what change there has been in the intention to modify three nuclear power stations to enable plutonium suitable for military use to be extracted should the need arise.

“Last year Her Majesty's Government asked the Central Electricity Generating Board to make a small modification in the design of certain power stations to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted if need should arise. Having taken into account recent developments, including the latest agreement with the United States, and having re-assessed the fissile material which will become available for military purposes from all sources, it has been decided to restrict the modifications to one power station, namely, Hinkley Point.” (emphasis added)

(Official Report, 22 June 1959 vol 607 cc847-9 848)

The Times  science correspondent  pointerd out  on 8 May 1959 under the headline

 ‘Production of Weapons at Short Notice’

“The most important technical fact behind the agreement is that of civil grade -  such as will be produced in British civil Click and drag the image to move around the pagenuclear power stations- can now be used in weapons…”

(Click and drag the image to move around the page

A team of research scientists, in the US and UK - led by Professor Keith Barnham at Imperial College, London - subsequently demonstrated from complex number crunching of reactor operation data and US sources, that around 7,000 kilogrammes of plutonium from the first generation of UK CIVIL nuclear reactors, including Hinkley A,  was sent to the United States under the MDA  for military uses. Their work has been published and updated in articles in the respected scientific journal, Nature.

[Details may be found in Nature, 19 September 1985, pp21314; 5 September 1985, p406; 6 March 1986, p9]

A nuclear bomb with explosive capacity of the one that immolated Hiroshima needs around 5 kilogrammes, to put this 7,000 kilos in context.

And so the US-UK MDA  became the world’s first Pro-Proliferation Treaty, and remains its most notorious example of promotion of the spread of  nuclear weapons of mass destruction.


The history is important to understand just how cynically perverse and staggeringly hypocritical the new amendments are.

The whole 1958 MDA was an enabling treaty created at the height of the Cold War to  facilitate the mutual assistance by two states  possessing nuclear weapons of mass destruction to  re-inforce their nuclear elite status. That is, to help each other build and operate nuclear weapons of mass destruction, like Polaris and now Trident.

Yet one of the proposed amendments on

Intelligence and information-sharing on nuclear counter-proliferation”,

“aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons technology”

Thus, c
hanges to the broad scope of the Agreement includes a  modification to the MDA's introduction reaffirming  that

“the spread of atomic weapons technology, potentially including State and sub-State actors, imperils the defense and security of both nations". 

The modified Agreement confirms that ongoing nuclear Threat Reduction activities between the US and the UK includes

“evaluation of potential enemies, whether state or non-state actors”,

providing a framework for the exchange of information and intelligence on nuclear proliferation and security risks.

And at the same time the amended MDA would underpin the entire sharing  between one state possessing nuclear WMDs , the US, with another nuclear armed state, the UK  nuclear technology, designs, nuclear explosive material such as plutonium and enriched uranium,

Plus the key material Tritium, required to make  hydrogen bomb such as used in Trident, detonate.

How should the over 190 non-nuclear weapons states observing their commitment not to try to obtain nuclear  weapons under the nuclear non proliferation treaty (NPT), consider the British and United  States compliance with their own obligations under Article One of the  NPT, which states in full:

“Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.”

The MDA is clear violation of this obligation, as each of the mutual exchanges it promotes is at least an “indirect transfer“, but in several instances, as a “direct transfer”.

It should be stressed that this article specifies an undertaking that no such transfer shall take place

“To any recipient whatsoever”

Ie that means nuclear weapons states are prohibited in providing each other such nuclear weapons assistance, as well as not providing  such military nuclear capability to nations without nuclear weapons, or indeed non state actors such as ISIS

As Alan Simpson told the House 20 years ago

“Yet that is precisely what the [Mutual Defense] agreement sets out to do.”

(Official Report, 15 December 1994, c1236 onwards )

In a debate in Westminster Hall a week ago, on  Arms Exports and Controls, by the minister answering the debate, Tobias Ellwood, said:


“…It is Britain’s long-term intention to reach that position [ the removal of all nuclear weapons].”

(Westminster Hall, Thursday 30 October 2014, Official Report, Column 144WH)


In a written answer to Paul Flynn MP for Newport West last month, MrEllwood asserted that :

We have made clear that our goal is a world without nuclear weapons.”

(Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, question number Commons

Answered on: 27 October 2014)


But amending and extending the MDA as proposed is an act diametrically opposite to trying to achieve this stated aim.

Dr Miguel Marin Bosch, the Head of Mexico’s delegation to the NPT review conference in 1995. He argued at the time that:


 “the MDA is inconsistent with the spirit and letter of the NPT. There should be a full and transparent public debate before the UK government decides to renew it. Perhaps and advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice would help the UK government in its decision”


How can ministers possibly  reconcile these two mutually incompatible policies ?


Responding to the debate 20 years ago, the then  minister  David Davis-  currently the Tory MP  for Haltemprice and Howden- responded by justifying the planned ten year extension to the MDA  being brought in by the 1994 amendment saying:

We intend that Trident will provide a minimum strategic nuclear deterrent for the United Kingdom. Our strategic deterrent provides the ultimate guarantee of our national security and contributes to NATO's strategy of war prevention…”


And added


“we believe that our independent nuclear deterrent remains our ultimate guarantee of national security as well as a fundamental element of the defence of the alliance of which we are proud to be part. We will not accept that that should be put into question by a procedural objection to the agreement that forms the basis of our nuclear defence co-operation with the United States of America.”

In September this year, Angus Robertson, SNP defence spokesman and MP for Member for Moray was told by the minister in a written answer that

”In line with long-established practice, and as accepted by Parliament during the 2004 renewal, the annexes of the MDA cannot be placed in the libraries because of the sensitivity of their contents

(USA, question number 209761, Answered on: 26 September 2014)


Alan Simpson had some interesting things to say about these annexes – which he had obtained via Freedom of Information Submission in the United States - 20 years ago in the earlier debate, when he pointed out:


The document is entitled The technical annexe to the agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the United States of America for co-operation on the use of atomic energy and mutual defence purposes of July 3rd 1958". The title is followed by nine pages, all of which are blank apart from three, which have just titles at the top…. What concerns me is that the British Government have never even admitted that such an annexe exists. The information about it has systematically been kept from Parliament and there has been no discussion about the implications it might have for the governance and defence of the United Kingdom.”

Alan Simpson also added:


It has been a serious error of judgment and a serious dereliction of duty for the Government to think that they could simply ratify an extension of such an agreement without giving the House an opportunity, in Government time, to raise fundamental questions about the ethics, advisability and acceptability—in global terms—of moving along that path.”


Sadly, it seems nothing has changed in the minds of the current crop of ministers or their Whitehall advisors.


This week a group of 24 MPs from several parties has submitted an early day motion (EDM 459 on the Follow this EDM by:

US-UK Mutual Defense Agreement – defence is spelled with an ‘s’ even in theBritish version (!) giving a hint where it originated, tabled by the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas which states:
 “That the Amendment, done at Washington on 22 July 2014, to the Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the government of the United States of America for Cooperation on the Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defense Purposes (Cm. 8947), a copy of which was laid before this House on 16 October 2014, should not be ratified.”

In light of what all these concerns over the validity of the amending of the US-UK MDA described above, this  process needs to be postponed beyond the planned date of ratification 20 November until the questions raised  are resolved.

Just why are ministers so keen to extend a deal that promotes nuclear proliferation? What

kind of message does that send the increasingly insecure world?