March 17, 2009 / 11:21 AM / 11 years ago

Government wants to foster peaceful nuclear power use

LONDON (Reuters) - The government said on Tuesday that non-nuclear states should be helped to obtain civilian nuclear power and that it was prepared to include its nuclear weapons arsenal in multilateral arms control talks.

A sign is seen on the security fence of British Energy's Heysham nuclear power station, northern England April 14, 2008. REUTERS/Darren Staples

While Prime Minister Gordon Brown was speaking of his hopes for cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would rearm its military and strengthen its nuclear forces because NATO was expanding towards its borders.

“We have to create a new international system to help non-nuclear states acquire the new sources of energy they need,” Brown told a conference on nuclear energy in London.

The world would not meet its climate change goals without far wider use of low-carbon nuclear power, he said.

He said Iran was a test case for a new system he proposes — help for countries developing peaceful nuclear power but “clear, tough and immediate” sanctions for those that break rules designed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Brown said nuclear weapons states should take active steps towards disarmament at the same time as effective mechanisms were developed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

He welcomed calls by Russia and the United States for a new strategic nuclear arms reduction pact, saying he hoped this would pave the way for greater reductions in nuclear arms.

“As soon as it becomes useful for our arsenal to be included in a broader negotiation, Britain stands ready to participate and to act,” he said.

CONFLICTING SIGNALS

Moscow, which has sent conflicting signals to Washington since the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president, revealed plans on Tuesday to modernise its armed forces.

The commander of Russian strategic nuclear forces said Russia would soon deploy its first regiment of RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missiles, an upgraded version of the formidable Topol-M mobile complex.

Britain has cut its nuclear arsenal by half in the past 12 years and now has fewer than 160 warheads available. Yet it plans to spend 20 billion pounds on a new nuclear-armed submarine fleet.

“If it is possible to reduce the number of UK warheads further, consistent with our national deterrence requirements and with the progress of multilateral discussions, Britain will be ready to do so,” Brown said.

The two-day conference is looking at how countries can run nuclear power plants using nuclear fuel provided by foreign suppliers. This removes the need to develop their own uranium enrichment facilities that could be used for military purposes.

More than 100 officials from 37 countries are taking part, as well as experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the nuclear industry. Iran is not represented.

Six world powers have offered Iran civil nuclear cooperation and other incentives to try to persuade it to stop uranium enrichment, which the West fears is aimed at building a nuclear bomb. Iran says it only wants nuclear power for peaceful purposes and has pledged to press on with its programme.

Brown called Iran’s programme “unacceptable” and urged Iran to “take advantage of the international community’s willingness to negotiate, including President Obama’s offer of engagement, rather than face further sanctions.”

Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi as saying Brown’s remarks were “full of contradictions.”

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Kate Kelland)

Editing by Tim Pearce

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