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Evidence that Britain’s nuclear power industry subsidises nuclear weapons

channelling revenues ultimately funded by electricity consumers towards a joint civil-military national nuclear industry base

Evidence from Andy Stirling and Philip Johnstone: As the early part of the process of the BEIS Committee Brexit Inquiry has unfolded, the salience of this civil/military link is being further underscored in statements in which a number of relevant senior civil servants and ministers are confirming that the priority attached to UK military submarine capabilities is deeply entangled in strategic commitments to civil nuclear industry strategy 6 . Several possibly serious implications therefore arise in relation to the particular circumstances of Brexit.

Parliament 27th Oct 2017  http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/business-energy-and-industrial-strategy-committee/leaving-the-eu-implications-for-the-nuclear-industry/written/71514.pdf

Written evidence from the University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Unit (BRN0015)

  1. We submit this evidence to the inquiry on Brexit and the Implications for UK Business.s. The content draws on a detailed submission by the same authors to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), discussed at the PAC witness session on Monday 9 th October 2017, which informed illuminating exchanges with senior civil service witnesses to that Committee and was subsequently published by PAC 1 . A number of potentially important implications arise in relation to issues under discussion around Brexit.

2: This earlier evidence to PAC addressed the otherwise difficult-to-explain intensity of Government commitments to civil nuclear power in the face of growing recognition of the relative competitiveness of alternative UK low carbon energy investments. Multiple grounds were found for inferring that this persistent Government attachment is due, at least in part (and with no public discussion), to perceived needs to engineer a cross-subsidy from electricity consumers to help cover costs of a national nuclear industrial base that is deemed to be essential for maintaining UK military nuclear infrastructures 2 .

 

3: The issues that arise are central to the general remit of the BEIS Committee. For instance, this recent evidence to the PAC documents significant statements by the National Audit Office, which suggest that UK military nuclear infrastructures are being bolstered by revenue flows to UK industry strategy in other sectors 3 . Many statements in support of this interpretation are cited from defence policy discussions, acknowledging incentives to “mask” costs of military industrial strategy behind civil energy programmes 4 . As a result, it is evident that Government-negotiated, high-price, guaranteed long-term contracts for civil nuclear power, are channelling revenues ultimately funded by electricity consumers towards a joint civil-military national nuclear industry base, whose full costs probably could not otherwise feasibly be covered by defence budgets alone. Resulting implications for wider industry strategy and energy policy have received effectively zero Parliamentary or other policy scrutiny.

 

4: Much other evidence was presented in submission to PAC, concerning this evidently significant-buthidden influence on civil industry policy by military nuclear considerations 5 . As a result, it seems that undetermined but likely large cross-subsidies are being engineered from UK electricity consumers, in order to cover otherwise insupportable costs of military nuclear industry strategies. In the present evidence we outline key implications for the BEIS Committee inquiry on nuclear implications of Brexit

 

5: As the early part of the process of the BEIS Committee Brexit Inquiry has unfolded, the salience of this civil/military link is being further underscored in statements in which a number of relevant senior civil servants and ministers are confirming that the priority attached to UK military submarine capabilities is deeply entangled in strategic commitments to civil nuclear industry strategy 6 . Several possibly serious implications therefore arise in relation to the particular circumstances of Brexit.

 

6: First, there are well-documented general concerns that Brexit-related pressures on the UK industrial base are likely to have a particular impact on large infrastructure projects, specifically including new nuclear build. If these developments unfold, then pressures are likely to intensify around the interlinkages between UK civil and military nuclear infrastructures. With foregone opportunities for industry strategy in other sectors (like offshore wind), the these Brexit-related implications for UK industrial strategy are central issues for the BEIS Committee, which remain unexplored elsewhere 7 .

 

7: Second, there are concerns that the economic effects of Brexit may include current and possible continuing future depreciation of Sterling. If these effects transpire as variously predicted, then economic pressures will likely intensify to find ways to cross-subsidise growing military nuclear costs in some fashion that mitigates the impact on public spending. Brexit may thus exacerbate incentives to ‘mask’ otherwise-unbearable wider industrial costs of military nuclear submarine infrastructures behind strategic support for civil nuclear supply chains ultimately funded by electricity consumers 8 .

8: Third, there are prospects that demand for UK access to overseas specialist nuclear skills may be aggravated by Brexit-related constraints on labour movement. If this occurs, then competition can be expected to accentuate between recruitment needs for national civil and military nuclear industries. Since key military nuclear skills in particular must for obvious reasons be disproportionately UKbased, so Brexit may reinforce upward pressures on costs of military nuclear infrastructures and so help further increase the pressures for cross-subsidy documented in the earlier PAC evidence 9

9: Fourth, there is the likely effect of Brexit in reinforcing pressures towards Scottish independence. If this transpires, then strong opposition in Scotland to continued associations with the current UK nuclear weapons infrastructure, mean that Brexit will make it more probable that a move will be required of key military nuclear facilities away from Scotland. The result will be a very large Brexitrelated increase in military nuclear costs, further exacerbating pressures for cross-subsidies 10 . 10: We hope it is useful to draw these emerging issues to the attention of the BEIS Committee – both in relation to the above specific repercussions around Brexit and to their wider implications for UK energy strategies, industrial policy and more general qualities of national democratic accountability 11 . October 2017

Extensive references are given on the original document .

 

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October 29, 2017 - Posted by | politics, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK, weapons and war

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