- 1958 US–UK Mutual Defence Agreement
It was signed after the UK successfully tested its first hydrogen bomb during Operation Grapple. While the U.S. has nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries, including France and some NATO countries, this agreement is by far the most comprehensive.
The treaty is renewed every ten years, most recently extending the treaty to 2014.
Details of the agreement
The agreement enables the U.S. and the UK to exchange classified information with the objective of improving each party's "atomic weapon design, development, and fabrication capability".
This includes development of defence plans; training personnel in the use and defence against nuclear weapons; evaluation of enemy capabilities; development of nuclear delivery systems; and research, development and design of military reactors. The agreement also provides for the transfer of special nuclear material (e.g. plutonium, highly enriched uranium, tritium), components, and equipment between the two countries, and the transfer of "non-nuclear parts of atomic weapons" to the UK.
The agreement also covered the export of one complete U.S. submarine nuclear propulsion plant and its enriched uranium fuel which was installed in the UK's first nuclear powered submarine, HMS Dreadnought.
There are also confidential intelligence matters covered by the agreement. The UK government has not published these sections "because of the necessity for great confidentiality and because ... it might well assist proliferation".
This agreement replaced the earlier "Agreement for Cooperation Regarding Atomic Information for Mutual Defense Purposes" of 1955. A separate Polaris Sales Agreement was signed on 6 April 1963.
Assistance to UK nuclear weapons development
An early benefit of the agreement was to allow the UK to "Anglicise" the U.S. W28 nuclear warhead as the Red Snow thermonuclear weapon for the Blue Steel missile by 1961. In 1974 a CIA proliferation assessment noted that "In many cases [Britain's sensitive technology in nuclear and missile fields] is based on technology received from the U.S. and could not legitimately be passed on without U.S. permission."
The UK National Audit Office noted that most of the UK Trident warhead development and production expenditure was incurred in the U.S. who would supply "certain warhead-related components". Some of the fissile materials for the UK Trident warhead were purchased from the U.S. There is evidence that the warhead design of the British Trident system is similar to, or even based on, the U.S. W76 warhead fitted in some U.S. Navy Trident missiles, with design and blast model data supplied to the UK.
Special nuclear materials barter
Under the agreement 5.37 tonnes (11,800 lb) of UK-produced plutonium was sent to the U.S. in return for 6.7 kilograms (15 lb) of tritium and 7.5 tonnes (17,000 lb) of highly enriched uranium over the period 1960-79. A further 470 kilograms (1,000 lb) of plutonium was swapped between the U.S. and the UK for reasons that remain classified. Some of the UK produced plutonium was used in 1962 by the U.S. for the only known nuclear weapon test of reactor-grade plutonium .
The plutonium sent to the U.S. included some produced in UK civil Magnox reactors, and the U.S. gave assurances that this civil plutonium was not used in the U.S. nuclear weapons program. It was used in civil programmes which included californium production and reactor research. However, the UK did obtain military nuclear material in return, so via this barter UK civil power stations probably provided weapons material.
- Atomic Weapons Establishment
- Nassau agreement
- Quebec Agreement
- Project E
- Nuclear weapons and the United Kingdom
- Nuclear weapons and the United States
- Special relationship
- ^ "Amendment to the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement (on nuclear weapons' cooperation)". British American Security Information Council. June 2004. Archived from the original on 2006-11-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20061130073609/http://www.basicint.org/nuclear/MDAamend.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ^ "UK Mounts First Underground Nuclear Test (UGT)". Atomic Weapons Establishment. Archived from the original on January 18, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080118030522/http://www.awe.co.uk/main_site/about_awe/history/timeline/1962/. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ^ "UK-US Mutual Defence Agreement". Lords Hansard - column 1119. Hansard. 2004-06-22. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200304/ldhansrd/vo040622/text/40622-03.htm#st_27. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ^ "Yellow Sun MK.2 Enters Service". Atomic Weapons Establishment. Archived from the original on January 18, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080118030504/http://www.awe.co.uk/main_site/about_awe/history/timeline/1961a/. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ^ Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Special National Intelligence Estimate, CIA, 23 August 1974, p. 40, SNIE 4-1-74, http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB240/snie.pdf, retrieved 2008-01-20
- ^ "National Security Decision Memorandum 276". United States National Security Council. 1974-10-15. http://www.ford.utexas.edu/library/document/nsdmnssm/nsdm276a.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ^ "National Security Directive 61" (PDF). The White House. 1991-07-02. http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu/research/pdfs/nsd/nsd61.pdf. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ^ Dan Plesch (March 2006) (PDF). The Future of Britain’s WMD. Foreign Policy Centre. p. 15. Archived from the original on June 21, 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20060621034126/http://www.danplesch.net/articles/WMD/WMDMar10FINAL.pdf. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ^ a b Ministry of Defence and Property Services Agency: Control and Management of the Trident Programme. National Audit Office. 29 June 1987. pp. ara. 1.1, 3.27, A4.4. ISBN 978-0-10-202788-4.
- ^ "Britain's Next Nuclear Era". Federation of American Scientists. 2006-12-07. Archived from the original on 2007-02-06. http://web.archive.org/web/20070206035127/http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2006/12/britains_next_nuclear_era_1.php. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ^ "Stockpile Stewardship Plan: Second Annual Update (FY 1999)" (PDF). United States Department of Energy. April 1998. http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/images/W76req.pdf. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ^ "Plutonium and Aldermaston - an historical account" (PDF). UK Ministry of Defence. 2001-09-04. Archived from the original on 2006-12-13. http://web.archive.org/web/20061213032416/http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/B31B4EF0-A584-4CC6-9B14-B5E89E6848F8/0/plutoniumandaldermaston.pdf. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ^ "Additional Information Concerning Underground Nuclear Weapon Test of Reactor-Grade Plutonium". U.S. Department of Energy. June 1994. http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/websites/osti.gov/www.osti.gov/html/osti/opennet/document/press/pc29.html. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- Full text of treaty[dead link]
- Negotiations for extension to treaty
- US-UK Agreement, Atomic Weapons Establishment
- Mutual Defence Agreement and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - Legal Opinion[dead link]
- Plutonium and Aldermaston - An Historical Account
- Ross Hesketh - publicised UK plutonium exports to USA[dead link]
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