Letter: Bullying by nuclear 'enforcers' brings non-proliferation treaty into disrespect

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Sir: You are to be congratulated on introducing a needed element of scepticism into the reporting of the illicit trade in nuclear materials ('A litt1e goes a long way', 19 August). This is a matter with potentially grave implications and deserves to be treated with greater seriousness than the prevailing spy thriller approach which we have seen in some quarters.

However, it is important that the matter should not be confused by the introduction of issues concerning the safe and legal transport of nuclear materials by the civil nuclear power industry.

The current issue, of the possible illicit trade in weapons-grade plutonium of presumed Russian origin, is unconnected with the transport of reactor-grade plutonium by the civil industry. BNFL and Cogema have long and clean records of handling this material which, unlike weapons material, is fully subject to the provisions of the IAEA and Euratom safeguards regimes. There have been no incidents leading to increased proliferation risk due to the operations of the international civil reprocessing industry or, indeed, from the storage of separated plutonium within national reprocessing regimes such as the long-running UK Magnox programme.

The limited amounts of plutonium delivered to Germany from France and the UK are the property of the German utilities involved and are in no way illegal.

Yours faithfully,


Secretary General

Uranium Institute

London, SW1

19 August