The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today gave a mixed reaction to Gordon Brown’s speech on nuclear power and nuclear proliferation. CND welcomes the increased priority being given to ensuring the success of the major Non-Proliferation Treaty talks in 2010, but is critical of current plans for internationalisation of the nuclear fuel-cycle which would place control in the hands of a few powerful nuclear weapon-possessing states.

Mr Brown also commented on the specification of the planned Trident replacement submarines for the first time, suggesting that the number of missile tubes would be cut from 16 to 12. Whilst a step in the right direction, CND notes that this is probably not a change to current deployment practice. It has long been suggested that the Vanguard class submarines are currently deployed with 12 of their 16 tubes filled. Each missile can carry multiple warheads, each with 8 times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb, so the destructive power of the payload remains of phenomenal size.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “We welcome any steps towards nuclear disarmament, but it is highly likely that the expansion of nuclear power will be counter-productive to this goal. If there is to be global expansion of nuclear power it is vital that weapons technologies don’t spread in its wake. It is welcome that Gordon Brown acknowledges the close link between the two, but if his plan for multilateral control of the nuclear fuel cycle is to succeed, he must switch his support to schemes that are truly international in nature and away from those run at the whim of the US or other nuclear weapon states.

She continued, “The Bush-era ‘Global Nuclear Energy Partnership’, which the UK has joined, will never achieve the universal buy-in needed for countries like Iran to join. Handing over the management of their nuclear fuel cycle – a right enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty – will never happen if states believe their ability to generate power will be reliant on the goodwill of the US and a few powerful states. If the Prime Minister is serious about real multilateral control, he must realise that plans that restrict fuel technologies to the few countries that already have nuclear weapons and seem determined to keep them, in spite of their obligation to disarm under the NPT, will fail. Only schemes that refrain from increasing the division between the nuclear ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ will have any chance of success.”