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Title: British attitudes to nuclear proliferation, 1952-1982
Author: Walker, John Ronald
ISNI:       0000 0004 6454 594X
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1987
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British attitudes to proliferation cannot really be understood without reference to the historical, strategic and economic background of Britain's own nuclear programmes. The experiences and lessons learned during the civil and military programmes in the 1950s and 1960s played a crucial role in shaping British perceptions of, and attitudes to, the proliferation issue. The relationship between civil and military technology is important here because nuclear energy cannot be used as a source of power without simultaneous production of material suitable for use in a bomb. Two issues are revelant here; first, the actual relationship between the British civil and military programmes; second, British conception of the longterm proliferation implications of these relationships. Successive British governments have regarded possession of nuclear weapons as fundamental to British national security, but they have also sought to prevent their spread to other states. However, in the British case American policies between 1946 and 1953, and subsequently, were instrumental in encouraging independent nuclear programmes. These sought to maintain the US monopoly over nuclear materials and technology by making it illegal for the US to provide either to other countries including Britain. However, this only encouraged proliferation. US unreliability and policies based on denial appear to have persuaded successive British governments of the value of a stable and predictable international non-proliferation regime. Consequently it was considered important to maintain stability and predictability in international nuclear trade through assurance of supplies of nuclear materials, equipment and information subject to legitimate security considerations. This, it was thought, would reduce states' incentives to build indigenous sensitive fuel cycle facilities, and reduce hostility to the nonproliferation regime. British nuclear policies have remained basically unchanged, and have been instrumental in moulding British attitudes to proliferation. In the 1950s the perceived unreliability of the coal industry posed a threat to British energy security. This was the context in which the first nuclear power programme was launched. Nuclear power was thought to have potential benefits for energy security since it could provide reliable and predictable energy supplies. Reactor and fuel exports have always been a major objective of British nuclear policy notwithstanding the potential proliferation implications. British governments have never opposed the principle of nuclear exports on nonproliferation grounds; on the contrary, British nonproliferation policies have sought to defend UK commercial interests. During the 1960s commercial objectives became integrated with non-proliferation policy: there is no contradiction between commercial objectives and security requirements. They are mutually reinforcing. It is necessary to examine the British civil-military relationship; programme rationales and objectives; nuclear export policy and the military programme, before seeing how these have influenced British attitudes to, and policies on, proliferation. Part 2 examines the relationship between these factors and the British role in the Non- Proliferation Treaty negotiations and its 1975 and 1980 Review Conferences; the IAEA and Euratom safeguards systems; the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation; the Nuclear Suppliers' Group; Multinational/Regional Fuel Cycle Centres; International Plutonium Storage and the Committee on the Assurance of Supply.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Political science