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UK Statement to the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

Statement by Ambassador John Duncan Ambassador for Multilateral Arms Control and Disarmament

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

UK progress towards the “13 practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI”

The Final Document of the 2000 Review Conference set out thirteen practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI of the NPT. The following sets out the UK’s progress to date against the Thirteen Steps towards nuclear disarmament.

  1. The importance and urgency of signatures and ratifications, without delay and without conditions and in accordance with constitutional processes, to achieve the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The UK signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996 and ratified it in 1998. We have called on those that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the treaty without delay.

  1. A moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions pending entry into force of that Treaty.

The UK has a voluntary moratorium in place; we have not carried out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion since 1991

  1. The necessity of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in accordance with the statement of the Special Coordinator in 1995 and the mandate contained therein, taking into consideration both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation objectives. The Conference on Disarmament is urged to agree on a programme of work which includes the immediate commencement of negotiations on such a treaty with a view to their conclusion within five years.

The UK regards a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty as a priority, and has repeatedly called for the immediate start of negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament on the basis of the programme of work (CD/1864) adopted by consensus in 2009.

The UK has a voluntary moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and has not produced fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices since 1995.

  1. The necessity of establishing in the Conference on Disarmament an appropriate subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament. The Conference on Disarmament is urged to agree on a programme of work which includes the immediate establishment of such a body.

The UK supported the establishment of a working group on nuclear disarmament as part of the programme of work (CD/1864) adopted by consensus at the Conference on Disarmament in 2009 and calls upon the Conference on Disarmament to agree a programme of work for 2010 on that basis.

  1. The principle of irreversibility to apply to nuclear disarmament, nuclear and other related arms control and reduction measures.

The UK has not reversed any of its nuclear disarmament measures and has reduced to a single delivery system, single warhead design, and single launch platform.

  1. An unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all States parties are committed under Article VI.

The UK has set out its unequivocal commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons in national statements and multilateral declarations (including the 2009 L’Aquila G8 statement and UNSCR resolution 1887).

  1. The early entry into force and full implementation of START II and the conclusion of START III as soon as possible while preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons, in accordance with its provisions.

Not applicable to the UK

  1. The completion and implementation of the Trilateral Initiative between the United States of America, Russian Federation and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Not applicable to the UK

  1. Steps by all the nuclear-weapon States leading to nuclear disarmament in a way that promotes international stability, and based on the principle of undiminished security for all:

The UK hosted a conference in September 2009 for the P5 to discuss confidence building measures towards nuclear disarmament. The conference brought together nuclear weapons scientists as well as senior policy makers from the nuclear-weapon States for the first time to consider the confidence-building, verification and compliance challenges associated with achieving further progress towards disarmament and non-proliferation, and steps to address those challenges.

The UK has also sponsored independent academic research into the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons and global security in a world with low numbers of nuclear weapons.

i) Further efforts by the nuclear-weapon States to reduce their nuclear arsenals unilaterally

The UK has reduced the number of operationally available warheads to fewer than 160. The explosive power of the UK’s nuclear arsenal has been reduced by around 75% since the end of the Cold War.

ii) Increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States with regard to the nuclear weapons capabilities and the implementation of agreements pursuant to Article VI and as a voluntary confidence-building measure to support further progress on nuclear disarmament.

The UK is transparent about its fissile materials holdings and operationally available warhead numbers. We have produced historical records of our defence holdings of both plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

iii) The further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons, based on unilateral initiatives and as an integral part of the nuclear arms reduction and disarmament process

The UK does not possess any non-strategic nuclear weapons.

iv) Concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems

The UK has significantly reduced the operational status of our nuclear weapons system. Normally only one Vanguard class submarine is on deterrent patrol at any one time. All of the UK’s nuclear weapons are held on several days’ notice to fire and are not targeted at any state.

v) A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimize the risk that these weapons ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination

The UK has publicly stated that “we would only ever contemplate using nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances of self-defence or in defence of our allies”. The UK’s nuclear weapons are not designed for military use during conflict but instead to deter and prevent nuclear blackmail and acts of aggression against our vital interests that cannot be countered by other means.

The UK stated its policy on negative security assurances in a formal letter to the Secretary-General of the UN in 1995 (noted in UN Security Council Resolution 984). In addition to this, the UK has signed and ratified the Nuclear Weapon Free Zone protocols in respect of Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), South Pacific (Treaty of Rarotonga) and Africa (Treaty of Pelindaba), giving treaty-based negative security assurances to almost one hundred countries.

vi) The engagement as soon as appropriate of all the nuclear-weapon States in the process leading to the total elimination of their nuclear weapons

The UK supports multilateral disarmament and has stated that we stand ready to include our nuclear arsenal in broader multilateral negotiations when it will be useful to do so.

  1. Arrangements by all nuclear-weapon States to place, as soon as practicable, fissile material designated by each of them as no longer required for military purposes under IAEA or other relevant international verification and arrangements for the disposition of such material for peaceful purposes, to ensure that such material remains permanently outside of military programmes.

The UK has declared 4.4 tons of fissile material surplus to defence requirements, including 0.3 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium, has placed this material under European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) safeguards and made it liable to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The UK also announced in 1998 that it would cease exercising its right to withdraw fissile material from safeguarded stocks for nuclear weapons.

  1. Reaffirmation that the ultimate objective of the efforts of States in the disarmament process is general and complete disarmament under effective international control.

The UK subscribes to this principle and has a strong record of fulfilling its non-nuclear/general disarmament commitments.

  1. Regular reports, within the framework of the NPT strengthened review process, by all States parties on the implementation of Article VI and paragraph 4 (c) of the 1995 Decision on “Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament”, and recalling the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice of 8 July 1996.

The 2006 White Paper sets out the UK’s nuclear doctrine and current posture. The UK provides regular reports in our national statements to NPT PrepComs and RevCons.

  1. The further development of the verification capabilities that will be required to provide assurance of compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

The UK is conducting research in this area at the Atomic Weapons Establishment through a trilateral project with Norway and VERTIC (a verification NGO) on the technical and non-technical aspects of verifying nuclear warhead dismantlement. Work includes warhead authentication, monitored storage, chain of custody issues and ensuring access to nuclear sites without compromising national security.

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Published 21 May 2010