From Mr Clive Bates
Sir: Gerald Clark, of the Uranium Institute, acknowledges that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has "contributed greatly" to the development of nuclear power in 30 countries (Letters, 23 February). He cheerfully concludes that "leaving arms control aside, this is good reason in itself to support indefinite extension of the treaty". The purpose of the NPT is to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and to secure nuclear disarmament, but in doing so it promotes nuclear power.
These aims are contradictory and the treaty ultimately self-defeating. There is no longer any doubt that nuclear reactors designed to produce electricity can be operated to produce plutonium for weapons. Reprocessing plants, waste management facilities, fuel enrichment centrifuges, glove boxes, technicians and engineers can all be switched from civil to military deployment.
The NPT is flawed precisely because much of the civil nuclear infrastructure it promotes is "dual use" and can be readily applied to the nuclear weapons- building it seeks to prevent. An aspiring nuclear weapon state can simply leave the NPT when its programme can no longer be concealed.
In April, the Government, apparently backed by Labour, will argue for an indefinite unconditional extension to the NPT, thus setting this absurd arrangement in concrete. The NPT should be redesigned to recognise that civil and military nuclear technologies are indivisible.
Instead of promoting nuclear power, the NPT could be changed to guarantee access to clean, secure and economic supplies of energy. Without a new approach to energy, the treaty's eventual and catastrophic failure is inevitable.