For years, British proponents of nuclear power have strenuously denied any connection between the production of nuclear weapons and that of electricity. Remember that compelling slogan Atoms For Peace?
The first public concession came at a select committee hearing in the House of Commons in 2015 when Stephen Lovegrove first became the permanent secretary for defence. Having just transferred from energy, he plainly acknowledged that the absence of trained personnel in the civil field had serious repercussion for skills within the military. This was clearly a taboo subject, as never again in the UK has any official, let alone politician, subsequently even hinted at the suggestion there was any linkage at all.
Such reservations are not entirely shared in Washington DC. For instance, last month the Centre for Strategic & International Studies held a high level symposium together with the Naval Historical Foundation. It focussed entirely upon the ‘”impact the commercial nuclear energy industry has on the navy” . Nuclear reactors are to be found in over 100 submarines and aircraft carriers. “This capability is tied to the fate of commercial nuclear energy “ – specifically to its “nuclear fuel cycle, vendor base and engineering talent”.
Originally, the event was titled 'Atomic Power Near Critical'. Over the past 30 years, many elderly power stations have been retired, without any news one opening – very largely due to their appalling economics. So the official blurb emphasised that “ nuclear energy production is directly connected to the US ability to exert geopolitical influence.”
The crux of the symposium was to discuss “US government action moving forward to mitigate the impact of a declining nuclear power industry upon the Navy and national security”. In other words, what subsidies can the military press for to keep atomic power struggling on.
It was President Eisenhower, way back in 1959, who warned about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.” Sixty years on, you couldn’t have a more blatant example of that conspiracy. And it won’t surprise you to learn that what was initially intended as an open symposium swiftly became strictly 'invitation only.'