Nuclear Proliferation and Dual-Use Technology
Even though there is no (known) nuclear weapons programme in the Netherlands,
the Dutch nuclear industry has somehow contributed to the development
of nuclear weapons in other countries, in at least three ways.
First, the participation in reprocessing programmes in France and in
the UK have induced commercial contracts with the same companies which
have supplied plutonium to the military programmes, notably COGEMA in
France. In Britain, it is clear that the commercial company BNFL has
benefited from subsidies and the R&D carried out for the weapons plutonium
user, the Atomic Weapons Establishment.
Secondly, when one looks at the legal aspects, according to the European
nuclear community agreements (Euratom), special fissile materials in
the European Union are the property of Euratom. However, Euratom lets
each member country manage its own fissile materials. The Netherlands
has sent its spent nuclear fuel - which contains uranium and other radionuclides,
including plutonium - to France and to the UK. Both these countries
have developed such an intricate industry that nuclear materials for
civil and military uses are in some conditions mixed together. For instance,
plutonium from the La Hague reprocessing plant; which has processed
spent fuel from commercial reactors in Europe and in Japan, has been
used for the French fast-breeder reactor programme. Fast-breeder reactors
in France (Phénix and Superphénix) have generated plutonium with characteristics
to be used in the military programme. The French Atomic Energy Commission
(CEA) has admitted that the Phénix reactor has not been subject to international
nuclear safeguards verifications because it has been used for defense
purposes. There is no legal constraint, no bilateral or multilateral
agreement, nor any technical constraint which could have forbidden or
prevented the use of Dutch materials in the French nuclear weapons programme.
Admitting this fact for Dutch authorities was an implicit participation
in the French nuclear weapons programme. The situation is similar in
the UK although it has no operating fast reactor to convert plutonium.
Thirdly, the Dutch-British-German company URENCO, which operates a uranium
enrichment plant at Almelo, has acted as a covert conduit of weapons
useable nuclear technology know-how. Blueprints for centrifuge technology
to enrich uranium - which can be used to generate highly enriched uranium
for military programmes - has been obtained illegally by both the military
programmes in Iraq and in Pakistan. For instance, in April 1979, the
US Government terminated military aid to Pakistan after it emerged in
1978 that the Pakistani uranium enrichment centrifuge technology had
been illegally and clandestinely obtained from a spy, Dr. Abdul Qadeer
Khan, based at the URENCO plant in Almelo. Dr. Khan is now considered
the father of the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme, which was made
public with the nuclear testing in Pakistan at the end of May 1998.
Also, a now retired German born engineer, Bruno Stemmler, five years
ago admitted that in 1988-89 he had assisted the Iraqi uranium enrichment
programme, using knowledge he had gained first during 1969-72, part
of which he worked at the early MAN-URENCO centrifuge project at Almelo.
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