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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Scotland’s tax-payers to pay for new nuclear power?

text-my-money-2flag-ScotlandRow over contract to help nuclear firms, Herald Scotland, Daniel Sanderson Wednesday 23 July 2014

 FIVE years ago the First Minister branded nuclear power “a busted flush”.
 However, Scottish Enterprise, the quango that received £233million in Scottish Government funding in 2012-13, apparently holds a different view to that of its paymasters.

The body is to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds of public cash in a project aimed at helping Scottish firms move into the nuclear power industry.

As part of its Nuclear Supply Chain Phase II initiative, Scottish Enterprise has advertised for expert companies to come forward to assist Scottish firms to win business in the sector. In a document provided to firms interested in winning the three-year contract, worth up to a third of a million pounds excluding VAT, it says that as well as extensive opportunities for businesses to play a role in decommissioning old plants, there is also “considerable commitment to nuclear new-build” in the UK and overseas that could be exploited.

The contract has been offered despite Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing saying last year that support for nuclear was “misguided” after the UK Government announced it planned to build another plant in England. Mr Ewing added that economic powerhouses, including France and Germany, were scaling back or eliminating their reliance on the power source and that investment should instead be diverted to renewable energy sources.

While Scottish Enterprise said it believed the “vast majority” of new activity would involve the decommissioning of old plants, environmentalists have hit out at the agency, accusing it of wasting public money by “chasing the nuclear dream”.

Meanwhile, opposition MSPs have accused the SNP of “hypocrisy” after details of the project emerged. Murdo Fraser, energy spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “The Scottish Government continually argues that nuclear power is declining, yet is now looking for a firm to deliver a programme designed to help businesses take advantage of nuclear power opportunities.”

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends Of The Earth Scotland, said he believed the Scottish Enterprise project was “a waste of time”, and said the cash would be far better spent on creating jobs in green energy. He said: “Scotland is a world leader in renewable energy but has no useful expertise in new nuclear. Scottish Enterprise should concentrate on playing to our strengths in renewables and not be distracted by the nuclear white elephant.”……..http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/row-over-contract-to-help-nuclear-firms.24830973

July 23, 2014 Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

Arrests of peace activists blocking nuclear convoy in Scotland

radiation-truckPeace Activists Detained For Blocking Nuclear Convoy, Morning Star  Saturday 12 July 14, TH FOUR peace activists were arrested yesterday after blockading a military convoy transporting nuclear weapons through Scottish streets under the cover of darkness. The four were picked up after briefly halting nuclear warhead-laden lorries near Loch Lomond in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Monitoring group NukeWatch said they believed the four converted lorries — part of a convoy of more than 20 military vehicles — were carrying around half a dozen warheads.

The convoy snaked up the M74 through south Glasgow en route to Coulport — part of a Ministry of Defence project to overhaul its nuclear arsenal.

Scottish CND co-ordinator John Ainslie said it was hard for people in Glasgow to imagine the peril they had endured while they slept. …..

an internal report from a 2011 dry run released last June described “major difficulties,” with emergency services at the scene in Glasgow stranded without help from the ministry’s weapons experts for more than five hours.

An MoD spokesman declined to comment on the movement of material “for national security reasons.” http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-271d-Peace-activists-detained-for-blocking-nuclear-convoy#.U8HV5ZRdUnk

July 12, 2014 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, UK | Leave a comment

Britain’s Ministry of Defense finally to clean up Dalgety Beach radiation

flag-ScotlandMoD will clean up radiation at Dalgety Bay beach The Scotsman by DAVID MADDOX 11 July  2014 THE Ministry of Defence is to pay an estimated £10 million to clean up radiation on a Fife beach, following a campaign by local residents concerned about health risks.

Some 3,500 radioactive particles have been found at Dalgety Bay over the past two decades.

The material is thought to date back to when parts of Second World War aircraft, including their radiated instruments, were dumped at the site.

Defence chiefs have now confirmed that work will include removing the particles from the beach, and building a wall and slipway to prevent other radioactive material from reaching the area.

It should start later this year and will continue in phases until 2018.

A report on the work does not specify costs but local MP and former prime minister Gordon Brown believes the clean-up total will be around £10m.

“After three years of intensive campaigning, including four debates in the House of Commons, I welcome the Ministry of Defence agreement to spend what I believe will be £10m to clean up the pollution caused by radiation at Dalgety Bay,” he said.

“The pollution resulted from dumping 800 wartime planes with radiated dials and other hazardous equipment into the sea. Subsequent coastal erosion has brought the pollution to the surface.”………

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said it was not a “complete solution” but praised the local community for their campaigning.
He said: “Some radioactive waste will be left entombed on site but it should finally put an end to the danger faced by humans and wildlife in what should be one of Scotland’s more attractive seaside spots.
“All credit to the community and to Sepa for their dogged persistence in getting the MoD to finally do the right thing.”
SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said: “Residents of Dalgety Bay and Fifers from across the Kingdom have been waiting decades for this mess to be cleaned up, so I am glad that some progress has been made on this issue and that the MoD has finally accepted
responsibility.” http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/mod-will-clean-up-radiation-at-dalgety-bay-beach-1-3473378

July 12, 2014 Posted by | environment, UK | Leave a comment

Secretive transport of nuclear bombs through centre of Glascow

logo CNDThis is the stuff of nightmares, says CND’s Scottish co-ordinator http://glasgow.stv.tv/articles/282363-nuclear-weapons-driven-through-scotlands-streets-cnd-chief-john-ainslie/?fromstreampost=141179By David Bateman on Friday 11 July 2014  Here John Ainslie, Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) coordinator, blogs about claims of nuclear weapons being driven through Scotland’s streets, and why his group opposes it.

‘In the early hours of this morning I was driving along the M74, through the centre of Glasgow, just behind a convoy of more than 20 military vehicles.

At the heart of the convoy were four special transporters carrying nuclear bombs which had a total explosive power equivalent to 42 of the bombs which destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

Nuclear weapons are kept out of sight as much as possible. They are normally onboard Trident submarines or in an underground bunker at Coulport, overlooking Loch Long. But from time to time they need to be moved.

This means driving them by road across the length of Britain from the nuclear weapons factory at Burghfield in Berkshire to the Clyde. Britain is currently upgrading all the Trident bombs. The latest convoy was probably carrying these upgraded Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The detonation of just one Trident bomb would cause far more destruction than was seen in Japan at the end of the Second World War. There would be virtually no survivors within one mile of the explosion. Lethal radiation would be scattered for hundreds of miles, and eventually around the globe.

This is only the second time that the nuclear convoy has taken this route, along the M74 then across the Erskine Bridge. But the Ministry of Defence will be planning many more convoys in the future and some will be scheduled to travel through the heart of Scotland’s largest city.

This is the stuff of nightmares.

A few drivers who were on the motorway in the earlier hours will have seen the flashing lights, the line of police vans and the armoured cars escorting Trident. But most residents of Glasgow would have been in their beds, oblivious to the nuclear arms travelling through Rutherglen, Kinning Park, Bellahouston and Renfrew as they weaved their way along Glasgow’s newest motorway.

In 2011 the Ministry of Defence held an exercise which simulated a nuclear convoy accident at the Raith interchange on the M74. This envisaged a situation where plutonium was released, but there was no nuclear explosion.

Their post-exercise report showed that emergency services were unable to deal adequately with the scenario and that coordination of the response was disorganised.

The timing of the latest convoy shows that the MOD are not really concerned about public safety. They choose to send these vehicles across England on the one day that firefighters were on strike.

The MOD may try to keep these nuclear lorries out of sight, but they can’t keep them out of the minds of the people of Glasgow, a city which has a long tradition of opposing nuclear weapons.’

A MoD spokesperson said: “We take the safety and security of our nuclear convoys very seriously, and at no point has the security of nuclear materials been put at risk.”

July 12, 2014 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

32 years of the peaceniks’ camp and civil disobediance against nuclear weapons

flag-ScotlandTHESE HIPPIES ARE CAMPING IN THE FOREST TO RID SCOTLAND OF ITS NUKES VICE By Alex Rodin Jul 8 2014 On the banks of Gare Loch, on the west coast of Scotland, a bunch of anti-nuke hippie peaceniks are taking on the might of the British armed forces and its nuclear submarines by living in camper vans. Faslane Peace Camp has occupied the roadside verge preceding HM Naval Base Clyde, home to the UK’s Trident nuclear missile submarines, for 32 years—more than three decades of sleeping in the forest in an effort to rid the UK of nukes.

poster-cut-Trident

This year’s independence referendum, which would make Scotland its own country, raises the possibility that the Scots could actually get rid of the nukes on their soil. Meanwhile in London, the government is striking a deal tying the UK’s nuclear future closer to the US. I decided it was a good time to pay the camp a visit. ……

Last March, two Peace Campers, Heather Stewart and Jamie Watson, broke into the naval base and climbed onboard a nuclear powered Astute submarine. They stood on the deck ringing its bell as a gaggle of surprised police officers came running.

“How the hell did you get in here?” one of the officers asked as they were being arrested. It seemed a logical question, given the razor wire, the security cameras, the motion-activated alarms that run along the perimeter fence, and the patrols that circle the base……

having been arrested and after 33 hours in custody, the pair emerged to discover that nobody else cared. The media wasn’t much interested in publicizing their exploits and, except for some backslapping within the peace movement, the world moved on without noticing………

The activists are holding out for Scottish independence. September’s referendum is returning Trident to the limelight as the Yes Scotland campaign dangles promises of a nuclear-free country. But in London, government ministers have other plans. They’ve been quietly meeting with their American counterparts to renegotiate a treaty that would wrap up Britain’s nuclear future with the United States. The 1958 UK-US Mutual Defense Agreement (MDA) has long facilitated cooperation between the US and the UK on nuclear technology. However, according to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), “collaboration between the two countries under the MDA has evolved to the extent that the boundary between the design and construction of UK and US warheads has blurred.”

RUSI paper published in March explained that many of the “components within the UK’s current warhead are supplied by the US under the MDA, and the UK presently lacks the capability to develop domestic alternatives.” As such, “The future of the UK’s nuclear arsenal is therefore inextricably linked to that of the US.” The revised MDA is likely to be signed any day now…….http://www.vice.com/read/faslane-scotland-peace-camp-independence-619

July 9, 2014 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, UK | Leave a comment

UK Religious Society speaks out against Trident Nuclear Missile plan

pray-rad British Quakers reject report advising UK to retain ‘Cold War relic’ nuclear deterrent, Ecumenical News, Peter Kenny Monday, July 07 2014 Quakers in Britain strongly disagree with the conclusion of a report published July 1 that says the UK should retain its nuclear deterrent.

A group of former ministers, diplomats and generals in the parliamentary-approved Trident Commission say holding on to nuclear weapons could help deter threats to the UK’s security in future…….

“Quakers say that Trident is a relic of the Cold War and that the Trident Commission has failed to consider the legal obligations of the UK under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to negotiate in good faith for the elimination of nuclear weapons,” said a Quakers’ statement after the report was released July 1.

“Quakers in Britain strongly disagree with the conclusion that Trident is necessary and urge the Commission to rethink its recommendations.”

While welcoming deeper debate around the missile issue, Helen Drewery, general secretary of Quaker Peace & Social Witness said: “The Trident Commission has failed to properly consider alternatives to Trident.

“These are weapons of mass destruction which can never be used and have proved to be a poor deterrent against acts of terror or against recent political events. Trident is a relic of the Cold War.”

The Quakers said they were disappointed the report did not address the legal and moral obligations of the UK under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to negotiate in good faith for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

A final decision on whether to renew Trident nuclear missile system will be taken in 2016……

Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. The group is known for its  commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth. http://www.ecumenicalnews.com/article/british-quakers-reject-report-advising-uk-to-retain-cold-war-relic-nuclear-deterrent-25462

July 7, 2014 Posted by | Religion and ethics, UK | Leave a comment

UK National Archives release chilling list of the nation’s nuclear targets

Chilling documents reveal Newquay was “probable nuclear target” during Cold War http://www.cornishguardian.co.uk/Documents-reveal-Newquay-probable-nuclear-target/story-21329076-detail/story.html  By CGAlex  July 04, 2014 RAF St Mawgan was one of 106 cities and military targets the UK government thought would be hit in a nuclear war with the USSR in the 1970s, according to documents released by the National Archives.

During the cold war, a list of the places thought most likely to come under nuclear attack by the Soviet Union was agreed by the intelligence services, military commanders and the Cabinet Office under Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath. The list of “probable nuclear targets in the United Kingdom” approved by the Cabinet Office was issued to defence chiefs marked “top secret” by air commodore Brian Stanbridge in May 1972. It included 38 towns and cities, 37 UK and US air bases, 25 control, communications and radar facilities and six naval sites. Experts expected London to be devastated by two to four bombs of up to five megatons each exploding over the city.
Map-UK-nuclear-targets-1970
Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham were each said to be in line for one or two “airbursts” of up to five megatons – 333 times more powerful than the 15-kiloton US nuclear bomb that flattened the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 1945, killing 140,000 people. According to military planners, some of the UK’s more remote regions could also have been blasted. RAF St Mawgan, near to Newquay, was down to be hit by a three-megaton bomb. A military base in Plymouth was also apparently doomed as it too featured on the chilling list. Other top secret memos from 1971 said that the target list was drawn up for military planning purposes and to help “contingency planning particularly in the field of home defence.” According to former nuclear weapons design engineer Brian Burnell, who discovered the documents, the real aim was not to defend civilian targets. Military planners wanted to try to ensure that UK-based nuclear bombers survived to launch a counter-attack against the Soviet Union, he said. He added that the Whitehall planners were confused about Soviet military intentions. “I’m baffled by the omission of targets like power plants, or other major infrastructure.” A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said: “These are historical records and like many other documents released every year by the National Archives have little or no relevance to the present day.” Read more at http://www.cornishguardian.co.uk/Documents-reveal-Newquay-probable-nuclear-target/story-21329076-detail/story.html#5Yc6go2PAiOqKmZF.99

Read more: http://www.cornishguardian.co.uk/Documents-reveal-Newquay-probable-nuclear-

July 5, 2014 Posted by | UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Safety and secrecy concerns about China owning and managing Britains nuclear reactors

flag-Chinaflag-UKCHINA NIGHTMARE http://tomburke.co.uk/2014/07/03/china-nightmare/ July 3, 2014 by tomburke The prospect of the Chinese becoming owners, managers and even constructors of nuclear power stations in Britain has caused anxiety in some unexpected places. Both the right and the left, united in their determination to press ahead with more nuclear, have raised objections. Carefully wrapped in a blanket of security rhetoric, their argument boils down to an Augustinian ‘Bring me nuclear, but not by them’.

Meanwhile, a truly substantial reason why we should worry about Chinese involvement in the nuclear industry is yet to be noticed by anyone but the French Nuclear Safety Authority. They have just complained publicly about the lack of communication with their Chinese counterparts. Explaining this to the French Parliament they pointed out that ‘one of the difficulties in our relations is that the Chinese safety authorities lack means. They are overwhelmed.’

This led one of the French regulators to worry that ‘It’s not always easy to know what is happening at the Taishan site.’ (where Areva are constructing a reactor of the same type as they want to build in Britain). Another French inspector reported seeing big machinery such as steam generators and pumps not being maintained at ‘an adequate level.’

So why does this matter to us? We have very good safety regulators with an impressive track record of managing nuclear facilities well. We should worry about it because the Chinese are currently building only 28 reactors at the same time. This is the fastest rate of reactor build anywhere ever. Even so, they intend to double this build rate before the end of this decade. This is likely to make ‘overwhelmed’ seem like an understatement.

The importance of a rigorous regulatory regime has long been understood by the nuclear industry to be essential to retaining public confidence. ‘ An accident anywhere is an accident everywhere.’ has long been a mantra of industry leaders. Among the many contributors to the seriousness of the accident at Fukushima were failings in the nuclear regulatory culture.

Britain’s nuclear reactor programmes may have been a regulatory success but they have been an economic failure. A former head of the then nationalised electricity industry told Parliament that the AGR programme was ‘the worst civil engineering disaster in British history’. But this had one huge, if unlooked for advantage. No-one else had reactors like them. This meant that when the accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima happened we were well placed to argue that it couldn’t happen here.

If we go ahead with the reactor at Hinkley this comfortable position will no longer be defensible. Hinkley will be a pressurised water reactor (PWR) just like most of the reactors in operation around the world and all those the Chinese are building. If the already stretched  Chinese nuclear regulators prove unable to prevent a nuclear accident in China it will have  direct repercussions here.

This compounds the gamble that the British government is taking with Hinkley. Not only are we selling 35 years of index linked tax receipts to the French government in return for electricity at twice the price we are currently paying for it but we are also placing the security of our future electricity supply into the hands of China’s ‘overwhelmed’ nuclear regulators.

If they fail to prevent an accident at a PWR in China it is very unlikely that the people of Somerset, or the rest of the country for that matter, will consent to one continuing to operate in Britain.

July 5, 2014 Posted by | China, safety, UK | Leave a comment

Britain’s $170 billion Trident nuclear missile program totally dependent on USA

Buy-US-nukesUK’s nuclear deterrent fully depends on US, cross-party commission finds Rt.com July 01, 2014 Britain’s $170 billion Trident nuclear missile program has won the support of an independent cross-party commission, but found to be totally dependent on US

Britain’s $170 billion Trident nuclear missile program has won the support of an independent cross-party commission tasked with identifying the value of the UK’s deterrent, due for renewal in 2016. This comes despite the commission’s acknowledgement of Britain’s total dependence on US systems.

The commission’s findings come as a blow to anti-nuclear campaigners, who are calling for the program to be drastically scaled back or the total disarmament of the UK’s nuclear-armed submarine fleet, arguing the money spent on an extremely costly system could be better spent on social needs and jobs at a time of austerity throughout the UK.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) estimate that the £100 billion required to renew Trident could employ 150,000 nurses, build 1.5 million homes or 30,000 new primary schools in the country………

The report notes that Britain’s deterrent is “a hostage to American goodwill.”

It adds: “If the United States were to withdraw their cooperation completely, the UK nuclear capability would probably have a life expectancy measured in months rather than years”.

“The UK is dependent on the United States for many component parts of the guidance and re-entry vehicle, and for the Trident ballistic missile system itself.”………..

It is lamentable that three years of hard work has not moved on the debate around Britain’s weapons of mass destruction,” said Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) general secretary Kate Hudson, reacting to the commission’s findings.

“The Trident Commission should have listened to the majority of the British people who oppose Trident replacement – and the overwhelming majority internationally who want to see a world free of these monstrous and outdated weapons. Instead the Commission has produced a rehash of Cold War thinking which fails to acknowledge that the world has moved on.”

“The Government’s own National Security Strategy downgraded the likelihood of a state-on-state nuclear attack: prioritizing terrorism, climate change and cyber warfare. To suggest that the UK should spend £100bn on a weapons system which we could never use and which doesn’t meet the threats we face is mindboggling.”

Scottish CND also criticized the Trident Commission for supporting Britain’s continued possession of nuclear weapons, based in Scotland, suggesting the report makes September’s independence referendum more pertinent.

John Ainslie, Coordinator of Scottish CND, said: “Malcolm Rifkind, Des Browne and Menzies Campbell are stuck in the past. The future is in the hands of the people of Scotland. We can vote Yes and kick out these indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction.” http://rt.com/uk/169688-trident-deterrent-dependent-on-us/

 

July 5, 2014 Posted by | UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Should China be designing, owning, and running Britain’s nuclear power stations?

MPs’ concerns mount over deals with China to run British nuclear power stations, THE INDEPENDENT 24 June 14,   MARK LEFTLY  Monday 23 June 2014 The Government has been accused in Parliament of “accepting money tainted with blood”, after agreeing a deal that will allow Chinese firms to design, own and run British nuclear power stations.

The Chinese premier Li Keqiang struck the bargain as part of a three-day trade visit to the UK last week, which also included an £11.8bn contract for BP to supply gas to China National Offshore Corporation over 20 years. The state-owned China Development Bank wants to fund new nuclear plants directly, as well as the no-less-controversial £42.7bn London-to-the North High Speed Two rail link.

But campaigners are furious the Government has been wooing China without demanding improvements to the country’s notoriously poor human rights record. Mr Li’s Government was accused of placing “arbitrary curbs on expression, association, assembly, and religion” by Human Rights Watch in a recent report.

China-civil-liberties

Paul Flynn, the anti-nuclear power Labour MP for Newport West, motioned in the House of Commons last week for the Coalition to cancel any proposed nuclear agreements with China. “This House… believes, in light of appalling human rights violations, that accepting money from the Chinese State Investment Bank to invest in UK new nuclear is accepting money tainted with blood,” said the motion.

This echoes concerns of union leaders, who said last year that giving the Chinese access to UK power plants meant they had the power to “turn the lights on and off” and so put national security at risk. …..http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/mps-

June 24, 2014 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Britain’s nuclear waste cleanup spirals above £110 billion

Britain’s nuclear clean-up bill soars to £110bn http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/10921309/Britains-nuclear-clean-up-bill-soars-to-110bn.html Spiralling costs at Sellafield site in Cumbria contribute to £6.6bn increase in bill for tackling Britain’s nuclear waste By Emily Gosden

8:16PM BST 23 Jun 2014 The bill for cleaning up Britain’s nuclear waste has topped £110bn, after a £6.6bn increase in the cost estimate for work required over the next 120 years

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said that the biggest increase derived from a fresh assessment of the work required at Sellafield, the country’s biggest and most toxic nuclear site.

Sellafield, in Cumbria, is now estimated to cost £79.1bn to clean up, but the NDA warned that the total would “increase significantly next year” once it had fully assessed a new “performance plan” for the site.

money-in-wastes-2

The NDA controversially renewed a contract with Nuclear Management Partners to manage Sellafield despite fierce criticism from MPs on the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office of the company’s performance.

The NDA’s annual report and accounts make clear the huge scale of uncertainty that exists over the ultimate bill for Britain’s civil and military nuclear waste.

It says it has “reviewed a number of scenarios with a range of possible outcomes” and found that “the estimated cost could have a potential range from £88bn to £218bn”.

The figure of £110bn is on an “undiscounted” basis. Once discounted, the total is £65bn.

June 24, 2014 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Legal case against UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

money-in-nuclear--wastesUK nuclear body faces £200m damages claim from Energy Solutions. Ft.com By Gill Plimmer 15 June 14,Britain’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is facing a £200m damages claim from one of the bidders who lost out on a £7bn deal to clean up Britain’s oldest nuclear power plants.

Energy Solutions, a Salt Lake City-based company, filed a High Court writ last week after losing the 14-year contract to engineering company Babcock and Texas-based Fluor. The deal is one of the largest and most sensitive government contracts ever put out to tender.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the government-funded body responsible for Britain’s state-owned nuclear sites, started the competition two years ago and work is expected to start by Babcock in September.

But Energy Solutions, which has been managing the nuclear sites for the past 14 years, has alleged in documents filed to the High Court last week that the NDA’s point scoring system is flawed and that it didn’t follow its own procedures. It competed for the contract in partnership with the US company Bechtel but is taking legal action alone……..http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d7394394-f483-11e3-a143-00144feabdc0.html#axzz34qaWV0UC

 

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Legal, UK | Leave a comment

Questions raised about UK independence as it co-operates closely with USA over nuclear warheads

Exclusive: UK to step up collaboration with US over nuclear warheads Documents released under FoI reveal ‘enhanced collaboration’ plans, raising questions over independence of UK deterrent   The Guardian, Friday 13 June 2014 Britain is stepping up its cooperation with the US over the design of nuclear warheads, raising new questions about the independence of the UK deterrent, according to documents disclosed after a freedom of information request.

Increased cooperation on warhead design and the exchange of material crucial in the manufacture and stockpiling of nuclear weapons will be sealed in a pact being drawn up by senior officials from the two countries.The pact, renewing the 1958 mutual defence agreement (MDA) between the UK and US, is expected to be signed in a discreet ceremony in Washington in the next few weeks. It does not have to be debated or voted on in parliament. Though the agreement is incorporated in US law, it has no legal status in Britain.

A document prepared for a visit by a senior American nuclear official to the Aldermaston atomic weapons establishment (AWE) refers to “enhanced collaboration” on “nuclear explosive package design and certification”, on “maintenance of existing stockpiles”, and the “possible development of safer, more secure, warheads”.The partially censored document refers to a letter Tony Blair wrote to George Bush in 2006 asking for US help in maintaining Britain’s “nuclear delivery system” and the white paper of the same year, which gave the green light for replacing the existing fleet of Trident nuclear missile submarines.

One document describes the MDA as an agreement that enables Britain and the US “nuclear warhead communities to collaborate on all aspects of nuclear deterrence including nuclear warhead design and manufacture”.

A briefing paper drawn up for ministers and Ministry of Defence officials argues that physical “movements under the MDA do not involve nuclear weapons or devices” and therefore the agreement does not contravene the letter of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

Most of the documents now released were drawn up at the time of the last renewal of the MDA in 2004. They make it clear Whitehall did not welcome a debate in parliament about the mutual defence pact……

Peter Burt of Nuclear Information Service, who obtained the papers, told the Guardian: “The UK and US are setting a dreadful example to the rest of the world by renewing the MDA, and are seriously undermining the credibility of international efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.”

He added: “If Iran and North Korea had signed a similar agreement for the transfer of nuclear weapons technology, the UK and US would be branding them pariah nations and screaming for the toughest of international sanctions to be imposed.”

Renewing the MDA showed the “worst kind of two-faced hypocrisy” and demonstrated that neither nation was serious about meeting its legal obligations under the NPT, Burt said.

The MoD said the agreement would be renewed by the end of the year http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/12/uk-us-mutual-defence-agreement-exclusive

June 13, 2014 Posted by | politics international, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UK government’s secret list of ‘probable nuclear targets’

Atomic-Bomb-Smflag-UKUK government 1970s made a list of 106 cities, towns and military bases thought to be at risk of attack contained in documents shared by National Archives    The GuardianFriday 6 June 2014  The UK government drew up a top secret list of 106 cities, towns and bases across the country seen as “probable nuclear targets” in the early 1970s, according to documents released by the National Archives.

During the cold war, a list of the places thought likely to come under nuclear attack by the Soviet Union was agreed by military commanders, the intelligence services and the Cabinet Office under Conservative prime minister Edward Heath………
London was expected to be devastated by two to four bombs of up to five megatons each exploding over the city. Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester were each said to be in line for one or two “airbursts” of up to five megatons. That’s 333 times more powerful than the 15-kiloton US nuclear bomb that flattened the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 1945, killing 140,000 people…….
Another target was Orford Ness on the Suffolk coast, which was involved in an experimental US radar system known as Cobra Mist and is now a nature reserve. Nuclear submarine bases on the Clyde near Glasgow were on the list, along with nuclear airfields like those at Greenham Common in Berkshire and Machrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre.

Other high-level memos from 1971 said that the target list was drawn up for military planning purposes and to help “contingency planning particularly in the field of home defence”. Home defence meant protect and survive measures such as shelters to help civilians under nuclear attack.

But according to the researcher who found the documents, formernuclear weapons design engineer Brian Burnell, the real aim was not to defend civilian targets. Military planners wanted to try to ensure that UK-based nuclear bombers survived to launch a counter-attack against the Soviet Union, he said……..

 

June 6, 2014 Posted by | UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Britain taking risks in extending safety limits of old nuclear reactors

safety-symbol1UK will have to gamble with nuclear safety to provide power, analyst warns http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/04/uk-may-need-to-gamble-with-nuclear-safety-to-avoid-blackouts Safety limits of Britain’s ageing nuclear power plants may have to be extended to avoid major blackouts  The GuardianThursday 5 June 2014 Britain may have to stretch safety limits on nuclear power stations to keep the lights on, warned a leading energy analyst on Wednesday.

Dorian Lucas, a nuclear specialist at energy consultancy, Inenco, made his comments after it was revealed that power group, EDF, had won permission to change the rules for its Dungeness B station.

flag-UK“Britain has no choice but to gamble with extending the safety limits of the country’s ageing fleet of nuclear power plants to avoid the looming spectre of 1970s-style blackouts,” said Lucas.The atomic power station in Kent has come to an agreement with the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) that it can have the margin increased on the shrinkage of the graphite bricks inside the reactor from 6.2% to 8%.

The bricks are losing weight due to decades of radiation but a spokeswoman for EDF said the new limit was only a “teeny little step” that was well within the most conservative safety case.

In a statement, the nuclear regulator said: “ONR would not allow continued operation of any nuclear reactor unless it was safe to do so. We recognise the challenges presented by ageing of the Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) fleet in the UK, and we continue to pay close attention to the problems associated with the graphite core of the reactors. We are satisfied that the reactors are safe to operate.”

But Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, told the BBC: “It doesn’t feel good when we come up against limits and the first thing they [the ONR] do is to move the goalposts.”

June 5, 2014 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

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