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.” (www.consilium.europa.eu)

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?

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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: https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-dorfman-147423

 

 

 

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March visitors

People from six countries visited the site in March.

There were twice as many American visitors than from UK, the next on the list

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Invitation from the Iona Community: February 17th: TRIDENT – WISE?

Posted on January 25, 2018

The Iona Community invites you to this Midlands Regional Event to hear Commander Rob Forsyth RN Rtd Saturday 17th March. 10am – 4pm at the Priory Rooms, 40 Bull Street, B4 6AF.  

Rob Forsyth commanded a Polaris Nuclear Submarine (below, on the bridge of HMS Alliance using a compass). He will explain the reasons why he is opposed to Trident (see his website www.whytrident.uk ).

 

Read on: https://nuclearindustries.wordpress.com/2018/01/25/invitation-from-the-iona-community-february-17th-trident-wise/

 

 

 

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Use of nuclear weapons: seeking clarity on United States’ position

Recently, Elizabeth Way, a member of WMCND referred to Donald Trump’s statement that he would stand by ‘no first use’ of nuclear weapons.

Other listeners were not so sure. But In November, the Los Angeles Times editorial board, after expressing alarm at President  Trump’s bellicose statements and impulsive governing style, reminded readers that in a pre-election televised debate with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump said:

“I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.”

On the other hand, while disregarding the president’s off the cuff remarks about the button – a search finds (Non-Proliferation Review, 2/2018) that the United States has long embraced calculated ambiguity over the conditions under which it might use nuclear weapons against adversaries.

The LA Times also drew attention to legislation introduced by two congressional Democrats that would prohibit the president — any president — from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress explicitly endorsing such an attack.

The most recent, in November 2017, was the No First Use bill,  sponsored by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, expressed in one sentence “To make it the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first”.

GovTrack.us explains that the bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on November 15, 2017. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole and m its progress tracked on their site.

Most readers, whatever their position on No First Use, will agree with the Los Angeles Times editorial board, which – though preferring a position of ambiguity – writes:

“We shudder to think about the human consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, even in self-defense, which is why we support arms-control agreements and efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. We also believe that, as a general matter, Congress needs to be more assertive in exercising oversight over the use of military force”.

 

 

 

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Protests as highly enriched uranium is flown to America and Australia

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The Scottish Express reports that four US Air Force flights carrying highly enriched uranium bound for South Carolina have taken off from Wick John O’Groats Airport, in Caithness, at weekends as the base is closed to civilian aircrafts on Saturdays.

The John O’Groats journal reported in 2016 that about £8 million had been spent to strengthen the runway at the airport to accommodate the transatlantic flights and there would be monthly flights over the next 18 months to move the  700 kilogram stockpile of fuel.

The deal was made by former prime minister David Cameron and ex-US president Barack Obama, arranging for highly enriched uranium – the basic building block for a nuclear bomb – to be flown from Wick to the US in return for “medical grade” uranium to make radioisotopes for detecting cancer. The runway at the Scots airport was too short for the giant US Air Force C-17 Globemaster to take off with full fuel tanks do the plane has to stop at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray to top up with fuel before flying on to the US.

Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said: “Transporting nuclear waste is a risky business. “By using two airports you are doubling the take-offs and landings in this country, which doubles the risk. “It is disturbing to discover we are now using an extra airbase in heavily populated areas for a stop-off to transport nuclear waste.”

The airport was sealed off and dozens of armed police stood guard as the fuel was loaded

The Highland Council has by law to inform the public about road closures around the airport and the order posted last week is code for “nuclear waste on the move”. The public notice reads: “The order has been made by reason that the Council, as highway authority, is satisfied that traffic on the road should be restricted due to the likelihood of danger to the public.” The order stepped into force yesterday and will run until the end of September 2019. However, road closures are not expected to last more than five hours at a time.

Protests have been made by MPs, MSPs and Friends of the Earth and aboriginal Australians are also challenging proposals to transport nuclear waste from northern Scotland to a sacred site at Wallerberdina, 280 miles north of Adelaide, identified as a potential location for Australia’s first nuclear waste dump as part of a deal that returns spent fuel processed at a nuclear reactor in Dounreay, Caithness, to its country of origin. Read more here.

 

More here in the Sunday Post. https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/toxic-cargo-of-nuclear-waste-leaves-for-us/

 

 

 

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Russi tests new nuclear missile NATO calls ‘Satan 2’

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Bruce Kent emphasises: “The 1968 NPT obliges us to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons “in good faith”

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In the Guardian, Bruce Kent, Vice-president CND, asks if Owen Jones (Corbyn has to lead on nuclear weapons, 29 March) really means that Labour Party policy can’t be changed. He continues:

The only argument for Trident, and any successor, is a false sense of national prestige.

Can’t some major trade unions think of anything else to make than weapons of mass destruction?

Far from our nuclear weapons being independent, without the regular loan of US missiles we would have nothing on which to put our warheads.

They are no answer anyway to suicidal groups or to nuclear accidents.

It was Robert McNamara, at the end of a life devoted to nuclear planning, who said that we were only saved by “good luck”.

If we have over £205bn to spend, it makes much more sense to spend those billions on the NHS, housing and poverty at home and abroad.

The 1968 NPT obliges us to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons “in good faith”. A replacement of Trident does not sound like good faith to me.

 

 

 

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