Letter: Nuclear folly

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Government is to be congratulated for its prompt condemnation of the Indian nuclear tests. However the contradictions in our civil nuclear policy are now even more apparent.

While committed by treaty obligations to stopping proliferation, Britain extracts plutonium from spent nuclear fuel and stockpiles it at Sellafield. According to the Royal Society, by 2010 the UK stockpile will exceed 100,000 kilogrammes, approximately two-thirds of the global stockpile. British Nuclear Fuels' "solution" to this obvious security problem is to fabricate plutonium oxide with uranium oxide and create an international market for this MOX fuel. MOX is not a solution. Plutonium can be extracted from MOX fuel assemblies and used to make nuclear weapons. A bomb can be made with just 4 kilos of this most potent nuclear explosive.

The Indian tests show the failure of the dominant approach to controlling nuclear proliferation pursued by the US and UK. This is based on the idea that a large carrot (technical and economic aid) and a big stick (sanctions and military interventions) will stop aspiring nations acquiring nuclear weapons.

The result is folly on a grand scale. We show that we believe nuclear weapons give Great Power status by modernising our nuclear arsenals, yet expect countries with Great Power aspirations not to follow us. We build up the plutonium trade, yet expect this will not lead to nuclear proliferation.

The alternative is to show our commitment to the non-proliferation regime and stop sending contradictory signals. A first step would be to halt our contribution to the trade in highly enriched uranium and plutonium by ending reprocessing at Dounreay and at Sellafield.

DAVID CHAYTOR MP

(Bury North, Lab)

ROSEANNA CUNNINGHAM MP

(Perth, SNP)

CYNOG DAFIS MP

(Ceredigion, Plaid Cymru)

Dr PAD GREEN

Friends of the Earth

DAVE KNIGHT

Chair, CND

Dr DAVID LOWRY

UK Representative, Nuclear Control Institute, Washington DC

MARTIN HEMINGWAY

Chair Nuclear Free Local Authorities

JILL STALLARD

National Secretary, CND Cymru

London N1

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