Monday, February 27, 2006

New British nuclear test - interesting timing

New nuclear missiles and new nuclear power stations at the same time? Well there's a coincidence.

U.S. and British government scientists performed an underground nuclear experiment, short of a nuclear blast, last Tuesday at the Nevada Test Site.

This makes the Low Carbon Kid wonder, not for the first time - is the real reason for Labour wanting more nuclear power stations, to have a reprocessing chain with a new generation of Trident missiles? Bush is also planning a new generation of nuclear missiles.

If the need for 'energy security' is the reason given for us having our own new nuclear power stations, it's a funny kind of security being offered to the world for more WMDs to be stored around our not-so-green and waste-strewn land.

You can watch a video of preparations for the subcritical experiment here. The operation, dubbed without irony, "Krakatau," involved detonating high explosives around a radioactive material in a vault about 1,000 feet below ground at a remote part of the desert testing range. What fun.

The MoD described it as an "experiment by a responsible government insuring the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear warhead stockpile". It was designed to examine the effects of ageing, "in no sense" linked to any possible successor to the Trident nuclear force, said a spokesman. Well, quite. As in, giving my old banger an MOT in no way makes me think about whether I should replace the old crock.

John Ainslie, of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, wasn't fooled: "This is sending the wrong message to countries that are considering whether to build their own nuclear deterrent."

"This test could be the latest in a series of developments designed to secure Britain's new generation of nuclear weapons before parliament and the public has had a chance to debate the issue," said the executive director, Ian Davis, of British American Security Informational Council (Basic).

£1bn has been invested at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and Burghfield, "to keep safe the existing Trident warhead stockpile". However, given the government's stated intention to decide about a replacement for Trident before the end of this parliament, it's a sure bet that new warhead designs are on the drawing board there.

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