New Humanist

Permanent 5 members of the Security Council signal a nuclear energy bonanza, while remaining silent on Israeli weapons

By Tony Robinson

As the NPT gets well into its first week, anti-nuclear organisations become increasingly concerned at the amount of encouragement given to countries to develop nuclear energy. “We call for the development of nuclear energy in a culture of openness and transparency,… and stress the importance of promoting the sustainable development of peaceful nuclear energy”

Pressenza – United Nations, New York, 2010-05-05 – Today in New York a position statement was given by the so-called P5, permanent members of the UN Security Council – the USA, Russia, China, France and the UK.

While referring to “serious concern” over the Iranian nuclear programme, and “urging” North Korea to return to Six-Party talks as a way to achieve denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, the statement ignores the dangers of a conflict between India and an increasingly unstable Pakistan, and is silent on Israel. “We urge those States that are not Parties to the Treaty to accede as non-nuclear-weapon States,” reads the statement as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

Privately, anti-nuclear organisations see the NPT as increasingly out of touch with the realities of global politics and are seeking a paradigm shift out of the out-dated philosophy with which the NPT was written; a time in which it was little understood how serious were the dangers of nuclear energy and in which the thought of nuclear terrorism was unimaginable. Making a correlation between the way developing countries are moving directly to mobile phone technology and bypassing the stage of installing networks of telegraph poles and digging up the streets to lay cables, anti-nuclear advocates say the same thing can be done with nuclear energy. “There’s no need to use the old nuclear technology just because it’s there, it’s far better, economically, environmentally and medically to leapfrog over it and move straight to investments in renewable energy.”

Likewise, the NPT is stuck in the situation of having 4 nations with nuclear weapons who are not state parties to the treaty; Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea, and with the global political situation unlikely to favour the denuclearisation of these States any time soon, anti-nuclear organisations represented by Abolition 2000 believe it is much better to go straight to the heart of the matter, which is the elimination of the weapons, and initiate talks to implement a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC): a treaty to eliminate these weapons. “A NWC has the advantage of being something to which all States can sign up to without first having to go through the stage of forcing non-NPT countries to join as non-nuclear weapon states – something which is frankly unlikely,” said a spokesperson for World without Wars.

During the NPT some countries have stated that a NWC is a distraction from the NPT and even could undermine it, but proponents argue that this is no different from the treaty to ban land-mines which faced similar accusations before coming into effect, and no different to the Test Ban Treaty which made article 5 of the NPT redundant a few years back.

Alice Slater, New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, said that in reality even the NWC would give too much power to the nuclear lobby as all the clauses on how to remove and dispose of the bombs and material could be resolved very simply and are in any case an opportunity to salvage the nuclear material for possible nuclear energy purposes. “All it would take to get rid of nuclear weapons is three weeks,” she said, “all you need do is put them in a vat of molasses. They’ll never work again!”

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