Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons


The problem of proliferation is not simply with the breeder programmes. There are two other key routes.

Firstly, the reactor grade uranium for fuel rods is produced using enrichment technology, increasing the levels of Uranium (U)235 compared to U238. This technology can also beused, if the uranium is fed back through the very same equipment, to produce bomb-grade highly enriched uranium. No plutonium is needed. This is the key problem behind the dispute with Iran.

Second, the waste from conventional reactors includes both uranium and plutonium. The plutonium can be recovered using reprocessing (chemical) technologies, whcih can then either be used to create MOX (mixed oxide, plutonium and uranium) fuel for burning in conventional reactors... or to create weapons grade plutonium.

Nuclear power and nuclear weapons technology are inextricably linked. The non-proliferation regime (realised by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) depended upon trust that no longer exists. So we have to find alternatives to nuclear power if we are to prevent proliferation, and this will only be seen as an honest position if the UK abandons reprocessing, enrichment and the nuclear fuel cycle ourselves.

- Paul Ingrams, Defence and Security adviser to the Green Party

© 2001 R. Lawson This page was last updated on 29.5.05