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Academic Freedom Nuclear Nuisance Nuclear Shambles

The Ministry of Nuclear Defence ?

Regular as clockwork, almost, somebody wonders if Britain’s insane drive to build new nuclear power plants is linked to Britain’s “deterrent” nuclear weapons :-

https://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/query-over-uks-civil-and-military-nuclear-links/

“Query over UK’s civil and military nuclear links : By Paul Brown : Experts are asking whether the UK government’s determination to build more nuclear power stations is linked to its wish to maintain its nuclear deterrent : 13 September, 2015 : Electricity from proposed new nuclear stations in the UK will be more expensive than from any other nuclear reactors in the world, yet the government is pressing ahead with its plan to build 11 new installations, despite mounting criticism. […] The strange mismatch between Europe’s two largest economies, Germany and the UK, is puzzling experts, especially since the International Energy Agency and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency say in the 2015 Projected Costs of Generating Electricity report that Britain’s plans will make its nuclear electricity the most expensive in the world. […] The Conservative government, elected in May, lacks a coherent energy policy after cutting subsidies for on-shore wind and solar, but sticks to its line that nuclear power is essential for turning Britain into a low-carbon economy. […] Britain has much better renewable resources, yet has decided to opt for nuclear power, even though it is more expensive than on-shore wind or solar. Phil Johnstone and Andy Stirling, University of Sussex research experts in the nuclear policy area, have put forward the suggestion that the UK needs to continue to build and run civilian nuclear power stations to maintain enough nuclear expertise in the country to run its nuclear submarines independently, and so keep its status as a nuclear weapons state. This possible link between civil and military nuclear power has never been debated in public, although the British government has repeatedly drawn attention to the lack of young people entering the nuclear industry, and has spent millions of pounds on training programmes to attract them. Its declared position is that nuclear power is needed to combat climate change, and that there is no link between civil and military needs […]”

Several campaign groups have in fact regularly publicly aired the possibility of this very link between the UK’s military nuclear capability and its civil power programme. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) suggests that the UK needs to keep its civilian nuclear power programme in order to provide tritium for the Trident warheads (e. g. https://www.banthebomb.org/archives/trisaf/ch1.htm; https://www.cnduk.org/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=93&pop=1&page=0&Itemid=159). This would be an important consideration if the UK “divorced” itself from the “special relationship” with the United States at some point in the near future, owing to differences over waging unnecessary and disproportionately vindictive warfare. In the past the UK has imported tritium from the USA, but would be unlikely to do so if military ties were cut, especially if there were questions about the UK’s continued full membership of NATO. In addition, even if the UK-US relationship were to continue, nuclear power plants capable of producing tritium on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean could all be decommissioned within something like 20 years, so without new nuclear power plant builds, the tritium necessary for Trident warhead propellant would simply not be available.

After over a decade of disagreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has signed an agreement with Kazakhstan for a nuclear material repository :-

https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/UF-IAEA-and-Kazakhstan-agree-to-create-nuclear-fuel-bank-27081501.html
https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Kazakhstans-unique-contribution-07101401.html

At the current time this is only intended to be for LEU – low-enriched uranium – and would be used as a “third party” in the supply of “sensitive” states with the nuclear fuel needed for their civilian nuclear power programmes. Countries such as Iran…

However, if the repository in Kazakhstan became a global repository for nuclear waste and waste nuclear fuel as well as uranium fuel, then the UK might well wish to avail itself of this facility, as it is finding it expensive to manage the re-processing, storing and disposing of uranium, plutonium, mixed nuclear fuels, both spent and reprocessed, and vast barrel-loads of nuclear power programme irradiated waste :-

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30785623
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/12/nmp-lose-contract-clean-up-sellafield-nuclear-waste
https://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/05/analysis-how-decc-spends-its-annual-budget/

Even if DECC’s nuclear decommissioning and depository budget can be pared down, there remains the issue of the management of the nuclear warhead fissile material. Already the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Ministry of Defence are agreeing responsibility dividing lines :-

https://www.onr.org.uk/documents/2015/mod-agreement.pdf

Without a significant new civilian nuclear power programme in the UK, nuclear physicists and nuclear engineers might need to be imported – leading to various national security questions. However, the most important problem would be in the maintenance and decommissioning of the Trident “independent” nuclear deterrent. It could become very costly indeed. The best option is to scrap it. We don’t need it anyway.

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