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WEAPONS

Nuclear weapons threat remains high: study

Swedish think tank SIPRI warns in a new report that meaningful nuclear disarmament remains unlikely in the near future, observing that 5,000 nuclear weapons are currently deployed worldwide.

Nuclear weapons threat remains high: study

“More than 5,000 nuclear weapons are deployed and ready for use, including nearly 2,000 that are kept in a high state of alert,” according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

SIPRI’s report said the world’s eight nuclear powers — Britain, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the US — possess more than 20,500 warheads.

As of January 2011, Russia had 11,000 nuclear warheads, including 2,427 deployed, while the United States had 8,500 including 2,150 deployed, the report said.

The US and Russia have signed a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that calls for a maximum of 1,550 warheads deployed per country.

However SIPRI argued that prospects for meaningful disarmament in the short term are grim as all eight countries seem committed to either improving or maintaining their nuclear programmes.

“The five legally recognised nuclear weapons states, as defined by the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty are either deploying new nuclear weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so,” the report said, referring to Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.

India and Pakistan are “expanding their capacity to produce fissile material for military purposes,” according to the report.

SIPRI Director Daniel Nord said south Asia, where relations between India and Pakistan seem perpetually tense, is “the only place in the world where you have a nuclear weapons arms race.”

While Israel, which has never conclusively declared itself a nuclear weapons state but is almost universally assumed to be one, “appears to be waiting to assess how the situation with Iran’s nuclear programme develops,” SIPRI said.

Nord argued that because “nuclear weapons states are modernising and are investing in their nuclear weapons establishments (it) seems unlikely that there will be any real nuclear weapon disarmament within the forseeable future.”

The report said that North Korea “is believed to have produced enough plutonium to build a small number of nuclear warheads, but there is no public information to verify that it has operational nuclear weapons.”

Nord identified Pakistan “losing control of part of its nuclear arsenal” to a terrorist group as a specific concern.

He also voiced worry over the potential consequences if “Israel or the United States decide that they will have to intervene and do something about the programme in Iran.”

Iran has repeatedly insisted that its nuclear programme is non-military, but several world powers have demanded closer international inspection of Iran’s nuclear sites to verfiy the claim.

SIPRI is an independent institution that receives 50 percent of its funding from the Swedish state.

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NUCLEAR

Russia’s ‘nuclear titanic’ sets off for Swedish coast

A Russian power plant dubbed a “nuclear Titanic” by environmental campaigners set off on Saturday on its way to Sweden’s Baltic coast.

Russia's 'nuclear titanic' sets off for Swedish coast
The Akademik Lomonosov nuclear power station sets off from St Petersburg on Saturday. Photo: Dmitri Lovetsky/TT/AP
Akademik Lomonosov, the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, left the Baltic Shipyard in St Petersburg on Saturday morning.
 
It is expected to reach the Swedish coast next week, before making its way through the narrow Öresund straits, across the Kattegat and into the North Sea. 
 
“We are following this closely through our cooperation with other countries and through our own national agencies,” Johan Friberg, Director of the Swedish Radiation Safety Agency told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT
 
Russia’s development of a floating nuclear power plant has generated alarm among its Nordic neighbours, with Norway’s foreign minister Børge Brende last June warning that the plan to transport it fully fuelled raised “serious questions”. 
 
Karolina Skog, Sweden’s environment minister, argued last June that floating nuclear power stations created “a new type of risk”. 
 
“It is important that Russia makes every effort to fulfil the criteria of international agreements, which should be seen as applying to floating nuclear power stations as well,” she said.  
 
After a meeting in Moscow that July, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom relented on its plans to drag the reactor through the Baltic fuelled, saying that the plant would instead be fuelled in Murmansk after it had arrived in the Russian Arctic. 
 
“We will carry out the transportation through the Baltic and the Scandinavian region without nuclear fuel on board,” Alexey Likhachev told the Independent Barents Observer.  
 
Jan Haverkamp, nuclear expert for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe, has attacked the plant as a ‘nuclear Titanic’, and “threat to the Arctic” 
 
“Nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change,” he said in a press release
 
After the plant is fuelled and tested, it will be pulled across to Pevek on the Eastern Siberian Sea, where it will be used to power oil rigs. 
 
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