Three reports put nuke plans back at the centre - GulfToday

Three reports put nuke plans back at the centre

Illustrative image.

Illustrative image.

Three reports by think-tanks, two on nuclear arms and the third on nuclear energy, have been released the same day. Two of the reports reveal that the nuclear-armed states are spending more on increasing their arsenal, and it is money that could be better used to feed the poor and hungry in the world.

The third report says that China is outsmarting the United States in setting up nuclear reactors and in improvising on the nuclear reactor technology. Though the United States still has the largest number of nuclear reactors, 99, it has not build a new reactor for more than a decade. That leaves China outpacing the United States and the West. And China is also on the verge of sharing its new know-how of building compact nuclear reactors are also ready to exported to developing countries at prices far less than that of the Western ones.

The two reports on the nuclear arms race are from International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and the other is from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which has been a watchdog of nuclear weapons in the world. Both the reports suggest that there is an increase in the number of nuclear warheads, though the increase has been marginal, and that governments of nuclear weapons states have increased their spending in the five years between 2018 and 2023. SIPRI’s figures showed a decline in the total number of nuclear warheads from 12,512 to 12, 121. But the disturbing news emerged from that 2,100 nuclear missiles have been kept on “high operational alert”. One of them is Russia when President Vladimir Putin threatened a nuclear war even as the Ukrainian war turned into one of attrition. It was clarified later Putin had only put the nuclear weapons on high alert. It is difficult to know whether the Americans followed suit because they could not be found napping. It is indeed a war of nerves, but one which could spin out of control any time without the major players in the dangerous game being aware that “high operational alertness” was inching beyond its stated purpose. It is believed that even China has put part of its nuclear arsenal in a state of alertness, which is a small step away from holocaust.

The number of nuclear missiles which are now part of the deadly arsenal are antiquated remains of the Cold War between the United States and then Soviet Union, and most of them are set to be decommissioned and dismantled. But the money spent on maintaining the old arsenal and adding new weapons to them is humongous to say the least. ICAN says that the spending on the nuclear weapons increased by $10,8 billion in 2023 over the previous year. And the United States accounted for 80 per cent of the increase. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based research institute said that China is 10 to 15 years ahead of the United States in terms of innovations in nuclear reactor technology. China has got increased its nuclear patents from 1.3 per cent to 13.4 per cent between 2008 and 2023. The ICAN report said, “China’s government has assigned considerable priority to domestic nuclear reactor construction as part of Beijing’s broader energy strategy.” The West has been reluctant to fall back on nuclear energy even as Germany had decided to decommission all its reactors more than 20 years ago.

The ICAN report has also noted the fact that the Americans and others in the West had assumed that China can only copy technology but it is not capable of innovations. But that is exactly what China has done. And like other dual-technology exports, China is only too willing to share its innovations in the nuclear reactor field. It is its way of broadening its footprint along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that Chinese President Xi Jinping launched. The BRI is meant to establish China as a global player.

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