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China backs ‘no first use’ nuclear policy, calls on nations to cut warhead stockpile

China backs ‘no first use’ nuclear policy, calls on nations to cut warhead stockpile

Recent statement by former Chinese ambassador for disarmament suggests Beijing should rethink ‘no first use’ policy to counter US military presence in region
Position paper marks 50th anniversary of Beijing being awarded UN seat representing China over Taipei, SCMP, Liu Zhen in Beijing, 22 Oct, 2021 
 China has underlined its “no first use” nuclear policy in a position paper amid discussion over its commitments in a developing nuclear arms race.

In the “Position Paper on China and United Nations Cooperation” issued by the foreign ministry on Friday, China declared it had a history of initiating the no first use (NFU) principle, and said nuclear-weapon states should abandon pre-emptive deterrence policies.

“Bear in mind that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’,” the paper said.It called on all nuclear powers to reduce the role of nuclear weapons as part of their national security policy, stop developing and deploying global anti-ballistic missile systems and cease deployment of land-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles overseas. It called on them to promote global strategic balance and stability………….
Besides making a statement on NFU, Friday’s position paper continued to stress that “countries with the largest nuclear arsenals have special and primary responsibilities in nuclear disarmament”, with Beijing also under international pressure to do more in nuclear arms control and disarmament efforts……..https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3153387/china-backs-no-first-use-nuclear-policy-calls-nations-cut

October 23, 2021 Posted by | China, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

North Korea’s ongoing nuclear missile tests prove it’s time to normalize relations

North Korea’s ongoing nuclear missile tests prove it’s time to normalize relations

Given the history of repeated dead-end disarmament talks, déjà vu begs the question whether it is time to cut bait and accept the unacceptable. NBC News
By Bennett Ramberg, Former policy analyst at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs

Pyongyang’s recent flurry of missile tests — most recently, a submarine-launched ballistic missile South Korea says North Korea launched Tuesday — and the apparent resumption of nuclear weapons materials production at the Yongbyon reactor are reminders that North Korea remains a central perennial problem befuddling U.S. foreign policy. Despite North Korea’s acknowledged shaky economy — further weakened by strong international economic sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic — leader Kim Jong Un’s commitment to maintaining the country’s bomb program remains unbowed.

The Biden administration’s ill-defined “calibrated approach” looks unlikely to move the nuclear-elimination needle. Nonetheless, Washington continues soldiering on — reaching out to China for help with its efforts to draw North Korea back into disarmament negotiations.

Given the history of these repeated dead-end disarmament talks, déjà vu begs the question whether it is time to cut bait: accept the unacceptable — nuclear North Korea is here to stay — and complement current U.S. military containment with an offer of diplomatic relations unconditioned by Pyongyang’s nuclear status.

History demonstrates that not only do such ties keep contacts on an even keel in normal times, they can play a critical role in resolving nuclear crisis.

This path would build on precedent. President Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 opening of relations with China, for example, did not involve questioning Beijing’s nuclear program.

Today, blunting North Korea’s nuclear threat relies on deterrence and defense — embodied in the long-standing U.S.-South Korea alliance, bolstered by nearly 30,000 U.S. troops stationed in the South, an offshore nuclear umbrella and an emerging sea-based ballistic missile defense. What’s lacking is a durable diplomatic component.

With the exception of the United States and North Korea, all nuclear weapons states have diplomatic relations………  https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/north-korea-s-ongoing-nuclear-missile-tests-prove-it-s-ncna1282118

October 23, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

The nuclear industry might get taxpayers money by calling itself ”amber”, if it’s too hard to appear ”green”

possible compromises included creating an “amber” label for activity that did not win the green label but would still secure a place in the bloc’s transition and not discourage private sector investment.  ………..

Brussels to delay decision on how to classify nuclear power for green finance. Debate over energy has been supercharged by surging electricity costs, Ft.com   Mehreen Khan and Sam Fleming in Brussels, 20 Oct 21

Brussels will delay long-awaited proposals on how to classify nuclear power and natural gas under the EU’s landmark labelling system for green finance, as member states demand looser rules to help counteract the continent’s energy crisis. EU financial services commissioner Mairead McGuinness told the Financial Times that Brussels would take more time before deciding how to deal with the controversial energy sources under the so-called “taxonomy on sustainable finance” that had been due this autumn.  

The debate about how to classify low carbon natural gas and nuclear energy, which produces no CO2 [ ed.except in its long complex fuel and waste chains] but whose waste byproducts are toxic for the environment, has been supercharged by surging electricity costs that have prompted EU governments into emergency financial action to protect households. European leaders are due to debate the taxonomy and how to mitigate soaring prices at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. 

“As we come to the end of the year there will be more pressure to resolve this,” said McGuinness. “We don’t have a ready-made solution because this is, both technically but politically . . . one of those issues where you have very divided views.” Europe’s pro-nuclear countries, led by France, and pro-gas member states in the south and east, are demanding the taxonomy rules do not penalise technologies they say are vital in securing the transition to net zero emissions. Environmental groups, however, want the system to abide by scientific criteria to ensure the rules stamp out, rather than encourage, so-called “greenwashing” in the investment industry. ………..

Europe’s energy crisis is the latest challenge to the credibility of the EU’s green labelling system which was designed to be a “gold standard” for investors to know what counts as truly sustainable economic activity. But the rules have been mired in controversy as Brussels struggles to balance science with sensitive political decisions about whether to award some activities the highest green label — penalising those that do not. Ten countries, including France, Finland, Poland and Hungary this week said it is “absolutely necessary that nuclear power was included in the taxonomy framework”.  

McGuinness said it remained an “open question” as to whether the green label would be expanded to “accommodate nuclear and gas”. She said possible compromises included creating an “amber” label for activity that did not win the green label but would still secure a place in the bloc’s transition and not discourage private sector investment.  ………..

The rules are being closely watched by investors and regulators in the US and UK, who have also said they will come up with their own classification systems. Within the EU, the taxonomy will be used to judge whether investments made by member states are truly green and will form the basis for an EU “green bond standard” that will be used to issue €250bn in sustainable debt under the bloc’s recovery fund.  https://www.ft.com/content/898e6c53-8e85-4cfc-b00b-16a09d50b462

October 21, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, climate change, EUROPE, politics international | Leave a comment

Backlash against Japanese Prime Minister’s haste to dump Fukushima nuclear water into the ocean


Kishida triggers backlash by saying dumping Fukushima nuclear water can’t be delayed, Global Times, By Xu Keyue: O
ct 19, 2021   Only two weeks after taking office, Japan’s new prime minister Fumio Kishida pressed two hot buttons on the same day on Sunday – sending a ritual offering to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, and claiming the Fukushima wastewater release cannot be delayed, despite opposition from home and abroad.


Instead of taking full advantage of its own science and technology to process the Fukushima wastewater and deliver a qualified answer to the world over the water treatment, Japan has opted for its irresponsible plan to dump the wastewater as soon as possible and provided self-contradictory explanations for the decision, said Chinese experts.Speaking at his first visit to the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant since taking office, Kishida said the planned mass disposal of wastewater stored at the facility cannot be delayed, claiming his government would work to reassure residents nearby the plant about the technical safety of the wastewater disposal project, Asahi Shimbun reported Monday.

South Korea has expressed concern over Kishida’s plan to release the radioactive wastewater, according to South Korean media on Monday.

“Japan’s decision [to discharge the wastewater] was made without enough consultations with neighboring nations,” a senior South Korean foreign ministry official said. “We have expressed serious concerns and opposition to its plan, which could affect our people’s health and security as well as the ocean environment.”

The Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) has planned to build a one-kilometer undersea tunnel to release contaminated radioactive water out to sea, amid condemnation from fishermen, media reported in late August.

The plan again showed that Japan’s “explanation” over the safety of the water is “self-contradicting,” Liu Jiangyong, vice dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Monday.
Assuming the wastewater has been processed without any side effects or pollution as the Japanese government claimed, and that people can even drink it, why does the Japanese government not simply discharge the water into the sea but plan to dump the water 1 kilometer away from the local residents? asked Liu. He also questioned the claim that it will have no impact on the marine environment and life chain, and asked why the water could not be recycled on land if the wastewater can be processed so cleanly and safely.

Japan can’t answer any of these questions, said Liu, noting that dumping the nuclear water shows that the water is “unusual.”…………. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=rm&ogbl#inbox?compose=DmwnWsTJtkLTcgrqMkBKSqBpmgbKhMHpzMMgttqhvJHgDJrfsKrtFCCwkflZJkjjhwgvJbPrQhFV

October 19, 2021 Posted by | Japan, oceans, politics international, wastes | Leave a comment

Concern in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) about Australia’s nuclear submarines

Indonesia, Malaysia concerned about Australia’s nuclear subs.   By NINIEK KARMINI , 18 Oct 21,  

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The foreign ministers of Malaysia and Indonesia expressed concern Monday that Australia’s plan to obtain nuclear-powered submarines may increase the rivalry of major powers in Southeast Asia.

The U.S., Britain and Australia announced last month that they have formed a security alliance that will help equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. The alliance will reshape relations in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond……..

“This situation will certainly not benefit anyone,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said after meeting with her Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, in Jakarta. “We both agreed that efforts to maintain a peaceful and stable region must continue and don’t want the current dynamics to cause tension in the arms race and also in power projection.”

The two ministers said at a joint news conference that they agreed to strengthen the unity and centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and urged all members of the bloc to contribute to the stability, security, peace and prosperity of the region and respect international law.

Saifuddin said having a near-neighbor build new nuclear-powered submarines could encourage other countries to come more frequently into Southeast Asian territory………………………..


ASEAN’s members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Brunei is chair of the bloc this year.

ASEAN has formal partnerships with several countries including Australia, China, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and Pakistan as well as the European Union.

Malaysia and Indonesia share many similarities in religion, language and culture.  https://apnews.com/article/business-asia-australia-indonesia-global-trade-fbbf5b52e6822d01cdc11c8a5870ebb4

October 19, 2021 Posted by | ASIA, politics international | Leave a comment

The U.S. doesn’t need more nuclear weapons to counter China’s new missile silos

The U.S. doesn’t need more nuclear weapons to counter China’s new missile silos

Our current nuclear arsenal is more than enough for whatever Beijing is building.  WP, 18 Oct 21
, By Edward GeistEdward Geist is a policy researcher at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

The discovery of what appear to be hundreds of new missile silos under construction in China has inspired arguments that imply the United States needs more nuclear weapons. Matthew Kroenig, a Defense Department adviser during the Trump administration, suggested in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed that “the Pentagon should study whether it can meet its deterrence requirements with existing stockpile numbers” in case “an increase … is necessary.”……….

But there’s little reason for the United States to worry much about whatever the Chinese military is building in these silos — and plenty of alternatives to building more nuclear weapons for dealing with it. The current U.S. nuclear arsenal was designed to guarantee deterrence even in the case of surprises such as this one. The nuclear weapons the United States already has should be adequate to counter the threat posed by new Chinese missiles even under very pessimistic assumptions. And if U.S. officials eventually decide they have to target the Chinese silos, nonnuclear weapons and sensors would provide a more credible deterrent than building additional nuclear weapons would……………………………………………….

deploying more nuclear weapons might not be necessary. If a “shell game” is China’s aim, the United States could use remote sensing or other intelligence means to ascertain where the actual missiles are located. This could enable planners to avoid targeting empty silos and minimize the needed weapons.A real game-changer, however, would be a conventional weapon that could kill a silo without using a nuclear warhead. Such weapons were researched extensively during the late Cold War. They weren’t achieved with 20th-century technology, but progress in fields such as machine vision, terminal guidance and geospatial mapping may make them feasible in the not-distant future.A nonnuclear option would give a U.S. president a much easier choice for countering the silos. Such weapons would not violate the nuclear taboo or risk the hard-to-predict collateral damage of nuclear detonations……….   https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/10/18/china-silos-missiles-nuclear

October 19, 2021 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Demonising China is unhelpful while encouraging China to participate in Cop26

As Britain prepares to host the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow next month, it is pursuing two contradictory policies that undermine its chances of success. On the one hand, it is seeking a unified global response to the climate crisis with nations agreeing to targets for the reduction of their coal and petroleum emissions.

But at the same time, it has joined the US in escalating a new cold war directed at confronting China and Russia at every turn. The two policies have polar opposite objectives in trying to persuade China, responsible for 27 per cent of global carbon emissions, to cut back on building new coal-fuelled power stations, but at the same time demonising China as a pariah state with whom political, commercial and intellectual contacts should be as limited as possible.

 Independent 15th Oct 2021

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/opinion/china-russia-climate-cop26-b1939164.html

October 18, 2021 Posted by | China, climate change, politics international, UK | Leave a comment

AUKUS and the Philippines – sleepwalking into military-nuclear entanglements

From peaceful, nuclear-free Asean to battle-ready Indo-Pacific? Manila Times, By Dan Steinbock, October 18, 2021As the Duterte era is gradually ending, new arms races and nuclear proliferation cast a dark shadow over Southeast Asia. The Philippines may be sleepwalking into military-nuclear entanglements.

ACCORDING to the new trilateral security pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia (Aukus), Washington and London will “help” Canberra to develop and deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

The highly controversial $66-billion deal is expected to trigger arms races and nuclear proliferation in Asia. It violates the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ, 1995), effective since 1997. It would seem to violate the Philippine Constitution. And it is strongly opposed by China.

Yet, right after the Aukus, when Asean began to build consensus on the nuclear pact, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. welcomed the pact.

PH policies, Asean concerns

According to Locsin, the Philippines “welcomes Australia’s decision to establish” the Aukus. And he added: “Asean member states, singly and collectively, do not possess the military wherewithal to maintain peace and security in Southeast Asia.”

According to this logic, Asean is irrelevant in matters of regional peace and security and therefore each Asean should align with one or another major military power, irrespective of collective consequences.

Such logic shuns and could derail, inadvertently or purposefully, the ongoing work by the Asean and China on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea by 2022. Most importantly, the logic opens the door to the nuclearization of the region at the expense of the SEANWFZ treaty and the aspirations of the Asean community. That’s why Malaysia’s veteran statesman Mahathir Mohamad blasted the Aukus statement: “You have escalated the threat.”

The first reaction of both Malaysia and Indonesia was to warn of an impending arms race unleashed by such a pact. Australia’s nuclear decision prompted the Indonesian foreign ministry’s official note that it was “deeply concerned over the continuing arms race and power projection in the region.” So, why did Locsin choose to break ranks with the Asean?

ADRi: China the issue of 2022

The plan to drag the Philippines into the Indo-Pacific containment front against China seems to have evolved in the mid-2010s, but fell apart with the Duterte election triumph and the meltdown of the Liberal Party.

To avoid a déjà vu, former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario recently called on the Philippines to choose a leader who will reverse President Rodrigo Duterte‘s policy of “loving and embracing” China after the “’22 polls.”

In this quest, a key supportive role belongs to the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi), embedded with US business and national security interests. Through its board members and executives, Rosario’s ADRi is joined with its parent, Stratbase, an “advisory and research consultancy,” and Bower Group Asia led by Ernest Z. Bower 4th. Stratbase is the Philippine partner of Bower Group Asia.

Until the 2000s, Bower led the US-Asean Business Council. He is an ADRi board member and Southeast Asia advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a leading US think-tank close to the State Department, Pentagon, defense contractors and Wall Street.

The maritime dispute with China, said ADRi’s president Victor Manhit, is what “we will make an issue in the 2022 elections.” Due to interlocking leaderships, Manhit himself heads Stratbase and Bower Asia Group‘s Philippine branch.

The goals go back to the Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd government (2010 to 2016).


As the Duterte era is gradually ending, new arms races and nuclear proliferation cast a dark shadow over Southeast Asia. The Philippines may be sleepwalking into military-nuclear entanglements.

ACCORDING to the new trilateral security pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia (Aukus), Washington and London will “help” Canberra to develop and deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

The highly controversial $66-billion deal is expected to trigger arms races and nuclear proliferation in Asia. It violates the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ, 1995), effective since 1997. It would seem to violate the Philippine Constitution. And it is strongly opposed by China.

Yet, right after the Aukus, when Asean began to build consensus on the nuclear pact, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. welcomed the pact.

Such logic shuns and could derail, inadvertently or purposefully, the ongoing work by the Asean and China on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea by 2022. Most importantly, the logic opens the door to the nuclearization of the region at the expense of the SEANWFZ treaty and the aspirations of the Asean community. That’s why Malaysia’s veteran statesman Mahathir Mohamad blasted the Aukus statement: “You have escalated the threat.”

The first reaction of both Malaysia and Indonesia was to warn of an impending arms race unleashed by such a pact. Australia’s nuclear decision prompted the Indonesian foreign ministry’s official note that it was “deeply concerned over the continuing arms race and power projection in the region.” So, why did Locsin choose to break ranks with the Asean?…………..

Conflicts of interest, military entanglements…………..

…….. the Aukus pact does contribute to the ongoing arms races in Southeast Asia. It will foster nuclear proliferation in the region. It violates the goals of the nuclear-free Southeast Asia treaty. It is not in line with the Philippine Constitution.

President Duterte has pledged to end the bilateral military deal with Washington if US nuclear weapons are found in the Philippines. But his term will end by next summer.

Obviously, Australia, the US and UK seek to calm Asean members, arguing that nuclear weapons are not really for military purposes. But since 1945, assurances have not been reliable in nuclear matters. During the Cold War, US nuclear warheads were secretly stockpiled in the Philippines. Moreover, in the 1965 Philippine Sea A-4 crash, a US Skyhawk attack aircraft fell into the sea off Japan. Coming from the US Naval Base in Subic Bay, it was carrying a nuclear weapon with 80 times the blast power of the Hiroshima explosion.

It wasn’t until 1989 that the Pentagon disclosed the loss of the 1-megaton hydrogen bomb.

New policy? Two policies? No policy?

Today, the destructive power of these weapons is far greater, as stressed by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). In January, the Philippines ratified the ICAN’s legally binding Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). On May 19, Locsin stated that the Philippines welcomes the Aukus nuclear pact.

Only two days later, Locsin reaffirmed the Philippines’ “principled policy and commitment toward the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons as enshrined in the relevant provisions of the Philippine Constitution and the Treaty.”

The Philippines’ principled policy is crystal clear: The country definitely welcomes nuclear proliferation in Southeast Asia. And the country is absolutely committed against nuclear-free Southeast Asia. Where will that “principled policy and commitment” take us after the 2022 election?

https://www.manilatimes.net/2021/10/18/opinion/columns/from-peaceful-nuclear-free-asean-to-battle-ready-indo-pacific/1818773


October 18, 2021 Posted by | Philippines, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

India, China and the new missile silos

CHINA’S MISSILE SILOS AND THE SINO-INDIAN NUCLEAR COMPETITION, War on the Rocks, DEBAK DAS  15 Oct 21,  This summer, U.S. analysts using commercial satellite imagery discovered that China was significantly expanding its nuclear forces and building hundreds of new missile silos. With the new silos, China could potentially double the size of its arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The news sent shockwaves through Washington. The head of Strategic Command called the developments “breathtaking,” and the news is sure to embolden efforts to fund U.S. nuclear modernization efforts on Capitol Hill. While the United States has a much larger nuclear force than China — with 3,750 nuclear warheads in its nuclear weapons stockpile compared to China’s 350 warheads — it will still likely take a forceful response to China’s latest nuclear developments.

But how will India — China’s other nuclear armed adversary — react to Beijing’s new missile silos? India has a nuclear triad and is reported to have 150 nuclear warheads deployed on different air-, sea-, and land-based platforms. China, meanwhile, is estimated to have its nuclear weapons stockpile of 350 nuclear warheads deployed across different platforms. However, with the new missile silos and fears of an increase in Chinese nuclear warheads, the strategic asymmetry in the Sino-Indian nuclear relationship may become more stark.

Moreover, China and India continue to engage in hostilities in the Himalayas. In August 2021, over a hundred soldiers from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army crossed over to the Indian side of the border and damaged a bridge and other infrastructure before retreating. In June 2020, in the deadliest clash between the two countries in 45 years, more than 20 soldiers were killed in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh. This led to a heightened state of tensions and a war scare between the two countries. High-level military talks between the two nuclear states remain deadlocked, with regular hostilities at different points along the 3,488-kilometer Line of Actual Control. An increase in Chinese nuclear capabilities in this context has the potential to destabilize the region and spark a nuclear arms race. But will it?

India has been cautious in its nuclear relationship with China and is unlikely to have a dramatic response to the new missile silos at the moment. It has two nuclear-armed adversaries to consider, and its focus will remain on Pakistan. India will continue to modernize its nuclear arsenal with new counterforce nuclear delivery systems and to test multiple independently targeted re-entry ballistic missiles, which will allow it to manage its nuclear relationship with both nations. While the counterforce missiles and short-range nuclear delivery systems are aimed at Pakistan, India’s nuclear relationship with China will continue to be based on ensuring a secure second-strike capability.

No First Use, Second-Strike, and Caution 

Despite the continuing military engagements along the Line of Actual Control, the Sino-Indian nuclear relationship remains stable. This is because India’s nuclear relationship with China rests on its survivable second-strike nuclear doctrine. It has pledged not to use its nuclear weapons first as a part of a no first use policy. This doctrine means that as long as India has a secure-second-strike capability — that is, the capability to absorb a nuclear first strike on its soil and then retaliate using its remaining nuclear forces — it will not need to build a large arsenal of nuclear weapons. It just needs to make sure that its nuclear weapons systems are well dispersed and survivable……….

Manageable Historical Asymmetry 

China’s additional nuclear silos do not represent a new strategic problem for India………………….

Border Conflict Remains at Low Escalation Level ………..

………  https://warontherocks.com/2021/10/chinas-missile-silos-and-the-sino-indian-nuclear-competition/

October 16, 2021 Posted by | India, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

France building a pro-nuclear European alliance in lead-up to Cop26

France is building a pro-nuclear European alliance to overcome German resistance to new rules that would open the way for more [so-called] carbon-free atomic power. Nine other European countries have signed up to a nuclear power initiative at a time of spiralling energy prices, partly caused by EU
climate change policies that increase the cost of electricity generation using fossil fuels.

The countries are pushing for nuclear power, which produces no carbon emissions [if you just don’t count the full nuclear fuel chain] , and they want it to be classified as a greentechnology in EU industrial “taxonomy” ratings, which would clearprivate investment in atomic power to be linked to climate policy
subsidies.

 Times 12th Oct 2021

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nuclear-option-pits-germany-and-france-against-each-other-tmxwrkqkv

October 14, 2021 Posted by | climate change, France, politics international | Leave a comment

AUKUS nuclear submarines deal must be abandoned

AUKUS nuclear submarines deal must be abandoned, Pearls and Irritations, By Brian TooheyOct 13, 2021

Australia doesn’t need nuclear powered submarines, especially given the Australia’s long-standing support for the world’s nuclear non-proliferation goals.

The White House failed to think beyond its Anglo-Saxon allies in London and Canberra when agreeing to sell Australia eight nuclear submarines.

The US’s north Asian allies Korea and Japan are much closer to China and more at risk, however slight. The Japan Times responded with a cool headed article spelling out the folly of the decision. It said the US, “has put at risk long-standing but fragile global pacts to prevent the proliferation of dangerous nuclear technologies”.

It also reported that US Navy ships “use about 100 nuclear bombs worth of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) each year”.

Although the US or the UK is supposed to build Australia eight nuclear-powered attack submarines under as new agreement called AUKUS, there is no realistic way this can occur without trashing Australia’s long-standing support for the world’s nuclear non-proliferation goals.

One of the key problems is the US Navy insists it is essential to use uranium enriched to 93 per cent to obtain the main fissile isotope of U-235, the same level as in nuclear weapons. It also insists it couldn’t switch to low levels of enrichment without greatly increasing the costs and size of the submarines as well as the construction time.

This means the US Navy will reject Malcolm Turnbull’s suggestion to get the French to supply non-weapons grade fuel. The British can’t help as they get their HEU fuel from the US. The enrichment to 93 per cent compares to around 40 per cent for Russian and Indian submarines. The French only enrich to 7.5 per cent, China to about 5 per cent and civilian power reactors to around 3.5 per cent. Anything less that 20 per cent is defined as low level enrichment.

The White House’s attitude has changed since the 1980s when the US blocked Canada’s attempts to buy nuclear submarines from the UK or France.

Nevertheless, some members of the US Congress and senior officials want the navy to shift to low enrichment to eliminate proliferation problems.

A nuclear problem

In a letter to The New York Times, former US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security Rose Gottemoeller said the proposal to share HEU-fuelled submarines with Australia “has blown apart 60 years of US policy” designed to minimise the use of HEU uranium.

“Such uranium makes nuclear bombs, and we never wanted it in the hands of non-nuclear-weapon states, no matter how squeaky clean,” she said.

Of the seven nuclear weapons states, five have nuclear submarines. Australia will be the first non-nuclear weapons state to get nuclear submarines. The understandable concern is that other allies will want similar treatment, expanding the risk that weapons grade uranium will be stolen or diverted.

In some interpretations, a loophole exempts naval nuclear reactors from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s anti-proliferation requirements.

But there are numerous other agreements that Australia might have to comply with if it stores HEU in its submarines.

The AUKUS defence deal is almost wholly symbolic

In addition, the AUKUS agreement includes Australian access to other technologies, including Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles for the navy’s Hobart-class destroyers. Because the Tomahawk can be armed with nuclear or conventional explosives, this could make it difficult to comply with the Missile Technology and Control Regime which Australia has strongly backed.

Another hurdle stems from the Howard government’s passage of a parliamentary act in 1999 outlawing just about all nuclear activities, apart from mining and exporting uranium. If circumstances prevent the US from maintaining all the nuclear aspects of Australia’s future submarines, this might spark calls for the rapid construction of nuclear facilities here. But the necessary amendments to the 1999 act could be blocked in the Senate.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison can’t credibly commit Australia to never engaging in nuclear proliferation. In the 1960s, Liberal prime minister John Gorton took preliminary steps to develop Australia’s own nuclear weapons, explaining to the US secretary of state Dean Rusk that he did not trust the US to defend Australia if it had to use nuclear weapons. A prime minister sharing Gorton’s assessment could emerge at any time.

Perhaps the White House will overrule the navy after a protracted battle to ensure the new submarines use low enrichment uranium posing no proliferation problem.

Nuclear submarines are not essential

However, the deal would still make no sense for Australia.

Government sources are widely quoted as saying the cost of the new submarines will be well over $100 billion, yet the first one won’t be operational until after 2040 and the last until after 2060. By then, the submarines would be obsolete death traps, susceptible to detection and destruction by several existing and new technologies.

The time scale reinforces the entire air of unreality about acquiring these submarines, only a couple of which may be operationally available at any one time.

Some commentators suggest Australia must buy the submarines to help the US counter a Chinese threat to Taiwan.

But no one knows what will happen to China or the US in a radically uncertain future. By 2060, China may be the dominant country in Asia, it may have returned to its earlier policy of living in Confucian harmony with its neighbours………………..

October 14, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Finland’s Greens turn a lovely shade of nuclear yellow, as they back nuclear power as ”sustainable”

Finland lobbies nuclear energy as a sustainable source https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/short_news/finland-lobbies-nuclear-energy-as-a-sustainable-source/ By Pekka Vanttinen | EURACTIV.com, 11 Oct 2021

Following a previously secret decision, the Finnish government will lobby the European Union to declare nuclear power as a sustainable energy source.

Wind and solar have been approved as sustainable by the EU, but decisions on gas and nuclear have so far not been made. Even if plants are emission-free, nuclear is currently considered only a low-carbon energy source due to emissions caused by mining and transport.

Finland has four nuclear plants, and the fifth is nearing completion after years of postponements because of technical complexities. The future of nuclear energy remains important for the country. Its industry is highly energy-intensive, and Finland has a target of being carbon neutral by 2035. Currently, 30% of Finland’s energy is produced by nuclear energy.

As reported by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE), the government’s alignment to lobby nuclear as a sustainable source marks a near U-turn within the Green Party sitting in the current five-party cabinet. Traditionally the party has been fiercely anti-nuclear and has resigned from previous governments over the issue. Its views have become more pragmatic, and the Greens now claim to have a technology-neutral attitude when it comes to fighting climate change.

October 12, 2021 Posted by | climate change, Finland, politics international | 1 Comment

Preventing an accidental nuclear crisis in Iran and beyond

Preventing an accidental nuclear crisis in Iran and beyond, Bulletin, By Samuel M. Hickey | October 11, 2021 There has been no sign as to when nuclear talks with Iran may recommence. But after weeks of consultations, Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have reached a deal on “the way and the timing” for UN nuclear inspectors to service cameras installed at Iran’s nuclear facilities. This patchwork agreement has kept alive the possibility of recovering a complete picture of Iran’s nuclear program and of reviving the Iran nuclear deal since Iran cut inspector access in February. It is also the first real sign of cooperative engagement by Iran since President Ebrahim Raisi came to power in August.

The Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the latest experiment in how much UN nuclear inspector access states will tolerate. However, it is under exceptional stress from those who believe military coercion is more effective than systems of denial in stemming proliferation. Days after the least competitive presidential election in the Islamic Republic’s history, a drone attack at a centrifuge production facility on June 23 damaged the IAEA’s monitoring and surveillance equipment. While the Israeli government did not comment on the attack, the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company, located in the city of Karaj, was reportedly “on a list of targets that Israel presented to the Trump administration early last year.” Now, Iran has allowed the IAEA to service cameras in every location but the Karaj site.

Acts of sabotage are diametrically opposed to the global nuclear verification regime because states need to believe that punishment will cease if they comply with the agreed-to framework. Further, failure to revive the nuclear deal could remove the possibility of applying the verification tools gained to other proliferation challenges like North Korea or the next nuclear threshold state. The loss of these techniques would undermine efforts to improve the global nonproliferation regime. As the United States’ experiences in leaving Afghanistan make clear, accurate intelligence is critical to making informed decisions and avoiding a crisis. The wrong assumptions can have dire consequences.

Verification evolution: Iraq and the old gold standard. The current nuclear verification protocols are the strongest in history and prioritize the non-diversion of nuclear materials over sovereign jurisdiction; however, many of these legal instruments were born out of crisis and remain voluntary, not mandatory……………………..

Specifically, the Iran nuclear deal caps the quantity and level of enrichment of uranium as well as the number and sophistication of the centrifuges that are operating and limits heavy water production. It also provides continuous monitoring of centrifuges and centrifuge rotor tubes, continuous access to Natanz, the monitoring of the production or acquisition of any uranium ore concentrate and enhanced managed access, meaning the IAEA can inspect a suspected violation.

The deal also instilled two key principles that should be universalized. First, a civilian nuclear program should be commensurate to its energy or related needs. Second, the IAEA has the right to monitor a ban on “weaponization” activities, which are activities related to developing or procuring equipment for developing nuclear weapons. …………

These measures, at least until the deal expires, will provide a high degree of confidence that weapons-related activity is not occurring. They could also be promoted as a model for other countries wanting to give confidence in the peaceful nature of their own nuclear facilities………

If the politics of the Iranian nuclear program are too challenging, then the new verification tools will not be useful to solve a real crisis if one crops up in Iran or elsewhere. The great arms control theorist and developer of game theory Thomas Schelling opened his book Arms and Influence with the reflection: “One of the lamentable principles of human productivity is that it is easier to destroy than to create.” Let’s hope the groundbreaking verification and monitoring tools of the Iran nuclear deal are not a casualty of human initiative. https://thebulletin.org/2021/10/preventing-an-accidental-nuclear-crisis-in-iran-and-beyond/

October 12, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

It’s unfortunate that the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal looks like weakening global nuclear non proliferation.

Limiting the nuclear-proliferation blowback from the AUKUS submarine deal, The Strategist, 21 Sep 2021|Anastasia Kapetas  If the  If the architects of the AUKUS pact and its headline initiative to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines imagined it would be seen as proliferation neutral, the reality might not be so straightforward. The announcement was extremely sketchy on many critical details, particularly from a non-proliferation perspective.

Of course, how nuclear non-proliferation issues are addressed isn’t the sole test of this deal, but it will be part of managing its future trajectory. It’s notable that the State Department doesn’t seem to have been in the loop on negotiations. It has carriage of US non-proliferation commitments, so some of the proliferation consequences may not have been front of mind.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the deal will comply with Australia’s international non-proliferation commitments. That’s true, as there’s a massive loophole in Article III of the United Nations Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that exempts naval reactors from nuclear safeguards. However, the non-proliferation community has long seen the loophole as a major threat to one of the treaty’s key aims—to limit the production and use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used to make nuclear weapons………

There could also be implications for negotiations on the proposed fissile material cut-off treaty, historically supported by Australia, which aims to strictly limit the amount of fissile material that nucelar-weapon states can manufacture. Negotiations are locked in a stalemate, largely thanks to Pakistan. Nonetheless, the treaty’s goals have broad international support and the manufacture of more weapons-grade uranium to power Australia’s submarines will likely also set those goals back.

There seems to be an emerging consensus in the global arms-control community that the AUKUS submarine deal could have a hugely negative effect on non-proliferation norms and practices. Depending on how Washington responds, this could have an impact on how the program unfolds.

Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, says that the deal ‘will further intensify the arms race in the region and dynamics that fuel military competition’. Pointing to the sparse strategic rationale offered so far, he adds, ‘Other than fielding more and better weapons, does anyone have a plan?’

Similar views have rippled across non-proliferation and arms-control circles, driven by fears that the deal will set a precedent ushering in a dangerous era of loosened nuclear restraints.

Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, points out that if Australia gets a HEU submarine like the US Virginia class, it will be the first non-nuclear-weapon state to have such a capability.

What will Washington say to other allies, such as Israel, that might want the same technology? ………..

The US and Australia both recognise the importance of strengthening global rules and the institutions that allow existential nuclear-proliferation issues to be mediated. Conventional nuclear and military deterrence might make state adversaries think twice before using nuclear weapons, but it’s of little use in stopping acquisition and the attendant risks of catastrophic miscalculation.   https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/limiting-the-nuclear-proliferation-blowback-from-the-aukus-submarine-deal/?fbclid=IwAR2TrXJx7UbCJUDBUCMzhGJ0i_RFC188XE1Xotq9b-hP

October 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Growing pressure for Australia to scrap the plan for nuclear submarines fuelled by Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)

Experts warn Joe Biden supplying nuclear submarines to Australia threatens US security

Malcolm Turnbull says reactor not a ‘plug and play’ power pack as former US officials raise national security concerns, Guardian   Tory Shepherd, Fri 8 Oct 2021  Malcolm Turnbull says reactor not a ‘plug and play’ power pack as former US officials raise national security concerns.

There is growing pressure on the new Aukus partners to scrap plans to use weapons-grade uranium on submarines.

A group of former US officials and experts has written to the US president, Joe Biden, warning the deal could threaten US national security by encouraging hostile nations to obtain highly enriched uranium (HEU).

At the same time, the former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says if Australia does buy the submarine reactors without a domestic nuclear industry – and therefore the nuclear expertise – it will be “more plug and pray” than “plug and play”.

The former Nato deputy secretary general Rose Gottemoeller has called on Australia to make a new deal with France to use their uranium, which is not weapons grade. That would heal the rift with France and ease nuclear proliferation fears, she said.

In the letter to Biden, the seven signatories called on him to commit to using low-enriched uranium (LEU), which is what the French use in their submarine program.

“The Aukus deal to supply Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines fuelled with weapons-grade uranium could have serious negative impacts on the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and thereby on US national security,” wrote the group, which includes former White House officials.

At the heart of their concern is that if Australia, as a non-nuclear country, gets HEU then other countries would use that example to justify their own acquisition of the material.

Iranian officials intimated to the UN that, like Australia, they might want HEU for naval purposes.

France described Australia’s decision to ditch the $90bn submarine project in favour of the Aukus deal as a “stab in the back”, while Australia has argued that switching to nuclear-propelled submarines is strategically necessary.

There will now be an 18-month process to work out the details of the deal, which has come under heavy criticism.

Turnbull told Guardian Australia that the government should have stuck with the French deal, bought an initial three diesel-electric boats, then switched to their LEU technology.

That would be the “honest and straightforward” course, and would speed up the process because crews would already train in a very similar boat.

“(And) we wouldn’t have double-crossed France and destroyed people’s trust in Australia,” he added.

He said one of the reasons Australia had chosen France over Germany and Japan was the possibility of transitioning to nuclear……………

 Morrison has said Australia won’t need a nuclear industry because the reactor will be made overseas then put into the Australian-built boat.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/08/experts-warn-joe-biden-supplying-nuclear-submarines-to-australia-threatens-us-security

October 9, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics international | Leave a comment