The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Peace and nuclear disarmament

Nuclear technology was originally devised as a tool to fabricate weapons of mass destruction…. The transition to a “civilian nuclear program” was accelerated by President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” campaign, which was little more than what we now call a “corporate stimulus” program.The program promoted “peaceful uses of the atom” by introducing nuclear reactors to other countries. The first two that received nuclear reactors were Iran and Pakistan….

Despite generations of glowing publicity about “safe, clean electricity” and the “peaceful atom,” the nuclear industry remains fatally intertwined with nuclear weapons proliferation. In the 1950s, the Pentagon called for the creation of a “civilian” nuclear energy program to fill a plutonium shortage that was slowing the production of nuclear weapons.195 Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program directly promoted nuclear weapons programs in India, Israel and Pakistan…

The linked nature of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons was underscored with the revelation that Abdul Qadeer Khan, “the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb,” obtained his blueprints for a uranium enrichment centrifuge from URENCO, a Dutch nuclear-power company. (Khan later sold these designs to other countries, including Libya.) The enduring unity of the Military-Nuclear-Industrial Complex was further underscored when AREVA, France’s cash-strapped nuclear firm, announced plans to build reactor equipment in Virginia with a new partner—U.S. arms manufacturer Northrop Grumman.


The five original nuclear powers  (U.S., Russia, UK, France, China,) encouraged the spread of nuclear-fueled power plants but, to protect the nuclear status quo,Article 4 of the 1967 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty declared that, while all signatories would be allowed to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy, only the Big Five could possess nuclear bombs.

Under Article 6, the NPT’s signatories pledged to work towards complete nuclear disarmament. Fortytwo years later, the nuclear powers have still not disarmed (and the U.S. has actually embarked on new nuclear weapons programs).

The only countries to have abandoned their nuclear weapons ambitions are Argentina, Brazil, Libya, South Africa and Taiwan.210 As a signatory to the NPT, Iran is legally entitled to build and operate nuclear power plants. Israel, however, has refused to sign the treaty and has refused to permit international inspections of its nuclear site at Dimona…..

On February 6, 2006, George W. Bush announced the creation of a Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) to address the problem of nuclear waste by reviving the U.S. reprocessing program(while preventing other countries from building their own enrichment and reprocessing plants).

Far from being proliferation-resistant, the GNEP actually threatened to boost stockpiles of enriched uranium and plutonium because it allowed some of the 25 GNEP members (including the U.S. and France) to retain the “right” to reprocess uranium to supply other GNEP countries. [The GNEP has recently been discredited, and abandoned. However, it has more or less been reborn as The International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC)]

The problem is that reprocessed plutonium is easily weaponized.The 250 metric tons of plutonium already produced worldwide are sufficient to build 40,000 atomic bombs. Under GNEP, the amount of additional plutonium from reprocessing U.S. spent fuel would top more than 500 metric tons. The Bush Administration announced plans to build a new $80 billion reprocessing plant to handle at least 2,000 tons of spent fuel a year but the U.S. has tried, and failed, to build reprocessing plants on three previous occasions…The first facility in West Valley, New York, was shut after six years (taxpayers have so far spent $4.5 billion to clean up its contamination) and the other two plants were declared inoperable.

Ending the threat of nuclear proliferation requires the closure of all enrichment and reprocessing facilities….. - excerpt from  Nuclear Roulette: The Case Against a “Nuclear Renaissance”

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