MoD admits flying nuclear materials between UK and US via The Guardian

Campaigners highlight safety risks after defence minister admits there have been 23 such flights in the last five years

Materials used in nuclear weapons have been flown between the UK and the US 23 times in the last five years, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.


Experts say that the UK and the US regularly exchange tritium, plutonium and enriched uranium under a mutual defence agreement. Anti-nuclear campaigners have tracked road convoys transporting nuclear materials between the nuclear bomb plants at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire and RAF Brize Norton.

The independent nuclear engineer, John Large, argued that the MoD’s air shipments would not comply with international safety regulations for civil nuclear transports. A crash could “contaminate large tracts of land with potential radiological consequences for unprotected members of the public”, he said.

Tom Clements, who heads a group monitoring a nuclear weapons plant at Savannah River in South Carolina, claimed that the MoD flights would not meet US standards for civil nuclear shipments. The flights had “disturbing” implications for the world’s attempts to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons, he said.

Peter Burt from the UK Nuclear Information Service, a not-for-profit group, highlighted the high risks of air shipments. “The RAF regularly fly nuclear materials over large urban areas such as Bristol, Cardiff, and Swansea, which raises serious questions about what would happen in the event of an accident involving one of these flights,” he said.

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