General Synod backs the UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, July 8th 2018


General Synod Debate on the UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

This is the first time since 2007 that nuclear weapons have been debated and the focus of the debate is the UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. Bishop Stephen Cottrell proposed the following motion. 

The motion read: 

That this Synod, mindful that a faithful commemoration of the centenary of the 1918 Armistice must commit the Church afresh to peace building; and conscious that nuclear weapons, through their indiscriminate and destructive potential, present a distinct category of weaponry that requires Christians to work tirelessly for their elimination across the world:

(a) welcome the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the clear signal it sends by a majority of UN Member States that nuclear weapons are both dangerous and unnecessary;

(b) call on Her Majesty’s Government to respond positively to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by reiterating publicly its obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its strategy for meeting them; and

(c) commit the Church of England to work with its Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners in addressing the regional and international security concerns which drive nations to possess and seek nuclear weapons and to work towards achieving a genuine peace through their elimination.

The Bishop of Chelmsford’s motion was passed 260 for, 26 against, 21 abstentions. 

See General Synod 2095 briefing:





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Ireland: scientific and political concern about the environmental impact of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station.


Since the 1950’s Sellafield (above) has pumped a quarter of a tonne of plutonium and a cocktail of other radioactive isotopes out of twin sea discharge pipes into the Irish Sea. Because the radioactive pollution is detectable the pollution can be traced as it flows into the seas around Britain. In April 1997 the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Nova Scotia found Sellafield radiation had reached the Arctic. Lead researcher Dr John Smith from the Bedford Institute told the BBC last year that radioactive iodine from nuclear reprocessing plants in the UK and France has been detected deep in the waters near Bermuda. The Institute’s latest study is part of an international project called GEOTRACES that uses geochemical markers to follow ocean currents. Its findings were presented at the Goldschmidt2017 conference in Paris. As the radioactivity levels are extremely low it is believed that they present no danger.

Concern is now being voiced about the Hinkley Point project – one of five new nuclear plants planned for locations on the west coast of the UK facing Ireland.

The Times has reported that Ireland’s leading climatologist John Sweeney, emeritus professor of geography at Maynooth University, a climate change expert, told the Oireachtas committee on planning – during the recent UK government consultation – that estimates used by the UK to assess its impact were not credible. The Journal reports that the Oireachtas committee will write a submission expressing its concerns to UK authorities about plans to build the new power plant on the west coast of England.

The £20 billion Hinkley Point C facility, the first British nuclear power station to be built in 30 years, is less than 250km from Rosslare, Co Wexford. Professor Sweeney  described the scientific models used by the UK authorities to assess the risk posed by the planned nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, branding them “inadequate”:

  • Combinations of rare events occur, as demonstrated by Fukushima in 2011, where total atmospheric releases are now estimated to be between 5.6 and 8.1 times that of Chernobyl.
  • Meteorological data used was “inadequate”, relying on wind figures for three years when 30 years was the standard period required. “It’s rather dangerous to draw conclusions from a very short period. Three years of data, even ten years of data, is insufficient to characterise the wind climate at an individual location, and any modelling based on this is highly suspect.”
  • the UK government failed to take account of climate change in estimating extreme high and low water levels when the difference between the annual high water mark and a once in a 10,000-years high water level at the site of the plant was just 1.3 metres.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted sea levels would continue to rise for centuries, with increases of up to three metres possible, which meant the UK’s estimates were not credible, he said.

Professor Sweeney said claimed the failure to acknowledge that there was a known flood risk meant there were “serious implications for the safety of spent fuel which is intended to be stored on site for up to a century”. The UK had failed to make any reference to the potential impact of a nuclear accident on Ireland and given its proximity this was “a serious omission”, adding that this was unlikely but should be considered.

In 2016, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) said that the UK had failed to meet its obligations to discuss the possible impact of an incident at Hinkley on neighbouring countries and a year later added that  the UK should consider refraining from further works on the site of the new reactors.




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Just Defence Charter signatory: Air Commodore Alistair Mackie, 1922-2018, with respect




.As those who seek to contribute to our national security in Parliament or other positions in public and professional life, the signatories of this Charter agree: 

1. The defence of our country and of our way of life must be strong and effective. This is the right of the British people and nothing less will enjoy their support. 

2. Defence policy must be for defence only, and clearly seen as non-provocative to others. Modern technology, which has changed so much of our industrial and social life, has also transformed the nature of warfare. Conventional defence can now become doubly powerful to deny success to an aggressor through the intelligent use of new and cost-effective technology. 

3. A non-provocative doctrine of ‘defence only’, will reduce international tension and substitute policies of political detente for those of political confrontation. 

4. Those who are clearly non-provocative in their policies will be best placed to stabilise any crisis and prevent it escalating into major conflict either through fear or misunderstanding. 

5. Since weapons of mass destruction are, by their nature, threatening and provocative, British defence policy should not depend on the use of nuclear weapons. To this end Britain should phase out the storage or operation of such weapons. 

6. The early reduction to a strict minimum of strategic nuclear weapons confined to the two superpowers would be a major and welcome step towards creating the conditions of detente and mutual security which will allow for the ultimate elimination of all such weapons. 

7. World security depends on the progressive reduction of all offensive weaponry, whether nuclear or non-nuclear. A ‘Just Defence’ policy for Britain would be a significant contribution to that end; and we should seek to persuade other countries with whom we are allied or associated to adopt a similar policy. 

8.  ‘Just Defence’ must accord with the principles of international justice, as defined in the Charter of the United Nations and the judgments of the International Court of Justice. 

9. Non-provocative defence and progressive disarmament could release very large resources for the support of social, educational, and health services, and the relief of poverty and hunger in the Third World. 

We, the signatories, look forward to the emergence of a new consensus on Defence Policy in Britain whereby – whatever the differences in their detailed proposals – all political parties will construct their policies within the framework of the principles of ‘Just Defence,.

Published by ‘Just Defence’: 7 Pound Place, Eltham, London SE9 5DN.  (Address no longer in use)



Initial signatories, in their personal capacity, include:

 Lord Beaumont

Rt Rev John Bickersteth  (Bishop of Bath & Wells)

 Professor J.W. Boag (London University)

 Rt Rev Stanley Booth-Clibborn (Bishop of Manchester)

 Sir Hugh Casson KCVO PRA

 Rev Dr Don Cupitt (Cambridge)

 Dr Bernard Dixon

 Rt Rev Tony Dumper (Bishop of Dudley)

 Colonel Sir John Figgess KBE , CMG

Professor Duncan Forrester (Edinburgh)

Cardinal Gordon J. Gray

 Rev Dr Kenneth Greet

Rt Rev Victor Guazelli (Titular Bishop of Lindisfarne  in East London)

Brigadier Michael Harbottle OBE

 Rt Rev Michael Hare-Duke (Bishop of St Andrews)

 Malcolm Harper

Professor Dorothy Hodgkin OM FRS (Oxford)

Sir Raymond Hoffenberg MD PRCP (Oxford)

Rt Rev Monsignor Patrick Kelly (Bishop of Salford)

Dr Anthony Kenny (Oxford)

Air Commodore Alastair Mackie CBE DFC

Rt Rev Hugh Montefiore (Bishop of Birmingham)

John Mortimer CBE QC

Professor John Nye FRS (Bristol)

Most Rev Keith 0’Brien (Archbishop of Edinburgh)

Jonathon Porritt

Professor Harry Ree  CBE DSO Croix de Guerre

Professor Joseph Rotblat  CBE (London)

Rt Rev David Sheppard (Bishop of Liverpool)

Rev Dr Kenneth Slack  MBE

Professor Hugh Tinker (Lancaster)

Rev Canon Kenyon Wright (Scottish Churches Council)


Undated but preamble included a reference to the 1987 election





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Seven years ago, the Environment Agency warned that 12 of our 19 nuclear sites were in danger of flooding and erosion

In the Guardian recently, Paul Brown reminded us that in 2012 a document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the Environment Agency was warning that 12 out of the UK’s 19 nuclear sites were in danger of coastal flooding and erosion because of climate change. Among them was Hinkley Point in Somerset, one of the eight proposed sites for new nuclear power stations around the coasts.

The analysis was conducted by officials from the floods and coastal erosion team (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Defra) as part of a major investigation into the impact of climate change on the UK. But when the results were published in January 2012 only summary numbers for the 2080s were mentioned and no individual sites were named.

That was before the increasing volume of melting of the Greenland ice cap was properly understood and when most experts thought there was no net melting in the Antarctic.

Now we read that melting ice sheets are hastening sea level rise and satellite measurements and that warmer seas are eroding ice shelves and glaciers. Estimates of sea level rise in the next 50 years have gone up from less than 30cm to more than a metre, well within the lifespan of the nuclear stations the UK government has planned.

The ‘high risk’ Sizewell nuclear power plant, seen from Southwold, Suffolk. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Defra has now released its full analysis in response to a request under freedom of information legislation. As a result, the department’s assessments of the risks for individual sites can be disclosed for the first time. Seven of those sites containing radioactive waste stores are judged to be at some risk of flooding now, with a further three at risk of erosion by the 2080s.

Experts suggested the main concern was of inundation causing nuclear waste leaks.

“Sea level rise, especially in the south-east of England, will mean some of these sites will be under water within 100 years,” said David Crichton, a flood specialist and honorary professor at the hazard research centre at University College London. “This will make decommissioning expensive and difficult, not to mention the recovery and movement of nuclear waste to higher ground.”

The extra coastal erosion and threat of storm surges that this increase in sea level will bring to our shores might make sensible people think twice about siting any buildings in vulnerable places, let alone nuclear power stations.

So far, however, the government has yet to respond and is pressing ahead with its plans.

The Moseley reader who drew attention to this issue sends a useful link to a government report on rising sea levels (cover above right) with reference to nuclear issues on Page 15 and comments: “Worrying, as it demonstrates yet more short term thinking by government, the members of which will be long gone when the problems are evident.

“Perhaps they should be forced to make all decisions based on the lives of their grandchildren; which would be forfeit should things go wrong!”




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Goal: a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of actual and potential weapons of mass destruction

Dr David Lowry Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, MA, US, noted a serious omission in the Financial Times recently.

He pointed out that a recent article  about Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation on Iran’s alleged covert nuclear weapons programme did not mention that Israel is a nuclear-armed state, with analysts claiming it has 200 operational nuclear weapons.(“‘Last Secret’ of 1967 War: Israel’s Doomsday Plan for Nuclear Display”).

In April the US issued a working paper to the preparatory committee for the review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) in Geneva. The seven-page paper asserts: “Over the course of recent decades, a number of regional States, including Iraq, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Libya and the Syrian Arab Republic, have all pursued undeclared weapons of mass destruction-related programs and activities, in violation of arms control obligation.”

It omitted to mention Israel, the only nation in the region possessing nuclear weapons, which refuses to join the NPT.

The Trump administration argues that a regional WMD-free zone would best be achieved outside the auspices of the NPT. Such an initiative was floated nearly 10 years ago in a Paris Summit of Mediterranean countries under the co-presidency of France and Egypt and in the presence of Israel, represented by then PM Ehud Olmert.

Signed by Mr Olmert, it concluded supporting “regional security by acting in favor of nuclear, chemical and biological non-proliferation through adherence to and compliance with a combination of international and regional nonproliferation regimes and arms control and disarmament agreements..” and added: “The parties shall pursue a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems.” (

Dr Lowry ends by presenting this agreement as one on which all parties, Iran included, could build constructively.






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America’s plutonium: bury it, dilute and dispose or use it to produce MOX fuel?

A Moseley reader draws attention to this Reuters special report by Scot J. Paltrow, summarised here with added material.

The United States has a vast amount of plutonium and, under the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, agreed to transform it into mixed oxide fuel (MOX) for civilian reactors that generate electricity. Russia agreed to destroy the same quantity using a MOX reactor. Plutonium must be made permanently inaccessible because it has a radioactive half-life of 24,000 years.

The agreement was suspended by President Putin in 2016, according to this video. Forbes reported that Putin publicly accused the U.S. of failing to live up to its non-proliferation commitments and told journalists that Russia had already built its own MOX-producing facilities to fulfil the treaty (in 2015 Russia completed its first commercial MOX fuel fabrication facility). He added that any alternative method, like disposal in New Mexico, would allow the U.S. to retrieve weapons grade material if we wanted.

The United States had never before built a MOX plant and no U.S. civilian reactor had ever used MOX as fuel. An Energy Department panel reported in 2016 that there is no US market for MOX. To use MOX fuel rods, civilian power plants would have to modify their reactors, requiring lengthy relicensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The report said the best the Energy Department could hope for was to give the stuff away.
There have been cost overruns; in 2007 the Energy Department said the total cost would be $4.8 billion, but now the estimated cost is more than $17 billion. There have also been severe delays (see below, the Savannah River complex); work began in 2007 to build a MOX plant that was to be operational by November 2016. The Energy Department now estimates that, if allowed to proceed, it will not be finished until 2048. A detailed account of reasons for the delay is given in an article on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists website.

The U.S. Energy Department’s Savannah River Site, with the unfinished building which was meant to make plutonium safe seen in this aerial image, taken near Aiken, South Carolina, U. S. January 31, 2018.

In Energy Department facilities around the country, there are 54 metric tons of surplus plutonium. Pantex, the plant near Amarillo in Texas, holds so much plutonium that it has exceeded the 20,000 cores, called “pits,” regulations allow it to hold in its temporary storage facility. There are enough cores there to cause thousands of megatons of nuclear explosions. More are added each day.

The Energy Department, during the Obama administration, favoured closing down the MOX project, but Congress overruled it. The federal budget adopted in February, however, specifies a means for ending the project, if a study shows that dilute-and-dispose would be at least 50% cheaper than making MOX. President Donald Trump has sided with the Energy Department in wanting to kill the MOX project because of the extreme cost overruns and delays.

The MOX project at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina employs about 2,000 people. It has been kept on ‘life support’ by Congress due to the influence of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and other Congress lawmakers who say MOX is the best way to keep plutonium out of the hands of terrorists and note that the pact with Russia requires the United States to use MOX as the method for disposal.





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Nuclear news: 2017 European cloud of radioactive pollution, bushfire threatening reactor, Dr Paul Dorfman

Lefteris Karagiannopoulos writing from Oslo for Reuters, reports that international experts have not been able to find what caused a cloud of radioactive pollution that spread over Europe last year and prompted fears of a nuclear leak, Swedish authorities said on Monday.

Monitoring stations recorded high levels of a radioactive isotope in the air over most European cities at the beginning of October. Scientists from France said soon afterwards they thought the source was an accident at a nuclear facility in Russia or Kazakhstan – a suggestion dismissed by both countries.

A group of experts formed to investigate the incident had now decided there was not enough information to pinpoint the origin, Sweden’s radiation safety authority, one of the group’s members, said on Monday.

The Express reports that Australia is struggling to contain a growing bushfire that is racing towards a nuclear reactor, amid fears that the blaze could expand beyond their control.

Firefighters failed to stop the out-of-control blaze from burning through a major military base – Lucas Heights nuclear reactor (above) is the next at-risk location.

Recommended: the information-packed tweets of Dr Paul Dorfman, Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Energy Institute, University College London (UCL); Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) Nuclear Policy Research Fellow; Founder of the Nuclear Consulting Group (NCG); Member, European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER); Advisory Group Member, UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) nuclear Submarine Dismantling Project (SDP); Member, served as Secretary to the UK government scientific advisory Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters (CERRIE). Continues:





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