Jeffrey LewisUK-France Nuclear Weapons Coop

The UK and France have signed a Defense and Security Cooperation Agreement (English|French) that provides, among other things, for common stockpile stewardship activities:

7. We have decided:

[snip]

b) to collaborate in the technology associated with nuclear stockpile stewardship in support of our respective independent nuclear deterrent capabilities, in full compliance with our international obligations, through unprecedented co-operation at a new joint facility at Valduc in France that will model performance of our nuclear warheads and materials to ensure long-term viability, security and safety – this will be supported by a joint Technology Development Centre at Aldermaston in the UK;

The new facility at Valduc is apparently going to be called EPURE and will replace France’s current hydrodynamic test facility, AIRIX, and presumably obviate the planned Core Punch facility at Aldermaston.  The talking points issued by the Elysée (and posted by a local news site) are after the jump — en français, évidemment!

Communiqué de l’Elysée :

La France et le Royaume-Uni décident de réaliser et d’exploiter conjointement l’installation de physique expérimentale EPURE et un centre de recherche

Londres

Mardi 2 novembre 2010

La France et le Royaume-Uni ont ratifié le traité d’interdiction complète des essais nucléaires (TICE) et coopèrent pour en promouvoir l’entrée en vigueur et l’universalisation. Compte tenu de leurs obligations aux termes du traité qui interdit les explosions nucléaires expérimentales, les deux pays ont besoin de se doter d’installations de simulation pour garantir la crédibilité de leur dissuasion respective. Ces installations leur permettront de s’assurer de la fiabilité et de la sûreté de leurs armes sans réaliser d’essais nucléaires.

Après une analyse conjointe il est apparu que les besoins techniques et calendaires des deux pays étaient très similaires et qu’un programme commun pouvait les satisfaire simultanément. C’est pourquoi les gouvernements britanniques et français ont décidé de s’associer pour construire et exploiter en France une installation de physique expérimentale, dénommée EPURE ainsi qu’un centre de recherche au Royaume-Uni.

EPURE sera construite sur le site de la Direction des applications militaires du CEA (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique) à Valduc. Elle sera exploitée conjointement par une équipe de scientifiques, ingénieurs et techniciens des laboratoires AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment) et CEA/DAM (Direction des applications militaires).

Cette installation de physique expérimentale permettra de mettre en œuvre des expériences de laboratoire indispensables à la garantie du fonctionnement des armes nucléaires et à leur sûreté. Aucun dégagement d’énergie nucléaire ne se produira durant ces expériences, conformément aux engagements internationaux souscrits par la France et le Royaume-Uni,

Le centre de recherche implanté à Aldermaston, au Royaume-Uni, et exploité conjointement permettra aux deux pays d’engager des travaux pour développer les technologies nécessaires à l’adaptation de l’installation EPURE tout au long de sa vie opérationnelle.

Le Royaume-Uni et la France unissent leurs moyens

En unissant leurs moyens, le Royaume-Uni et la France disposeront d’une installation de pointe, rassemblant des technologies expérimentales françaises et britanniques : EPURE permettra de mesurer avec la plus grande précision l’état et le comportement des matériaux qui constituent les armes, dans des circonstances de température et de pression extrêmes.

La décision prise aujourd’hui est une importante source d’économies.

Les deux pays ont en effet décidé de partager, à parts égales, les coûts de construction, d’exploitation – pendant plusieurs dizaines d’années – et de démantèlement de cette installation.

Chaque pays conserve en revanche la propriété et la responsabilité des produits testés et des sous-produits générés.

Une preuve que la confiance est forte entre ces deux pays

Cela permettra aussi aux scientifiques et experts des deux pays de partager leur savoir-faire en matière de technologies de mesure et de mise en œuvre des expériences. Cela créera un climat de confiance entre les équipes propice au débat scientifique et à l’émulation et permettant de préserver sur le long terme la qualité et la motivation des scientifiques en charge de la garantie des armes sans essais nucléaires. EPURE est toutefois conçue pour permettre aux deux pays de conserver pour chaque expérience la pleine souveraineté sur les résultats.

Ce projet ne remet en aucune manière en cause l’indépendance des deux dissuasions.

Cette coopération dans un domaine de très haute sensibilité s’inscrit dans le cadre de l’accord de défense signé ce jour par la France et le Royaume-Uni. En contribuant au maintien de la crédibilité de la dissuasion des deux nations, elle témoigne de la confiance exceptionnelle qui existe entre nos deux pays.

Comments

  1. FSB (History)
  2. bradley laing (History)

    Both countries have nuclear secrecy laws. But are they written in such a way that the U.K. government would end up releasing French secrets? Or in such a way that the French government would release U.K. secrets?

  3. FSB (History)

    FYI, John “Douchebag” Bolton is screaming at the Brits re. the deal:

    “John [“Douchebag”] Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the UN, told the Mail the deal to share nuclear secrets and aircraft carriers with France is not supported by large sections of the American defence community.

    He claimed the deal – dubbed the Entente Frugale because it saves money – will lead Washington to cut intelligence sharing with the UK and lead to the subordination of British sovereignty.

    ‘People don’t appreciate how much U.S.-UK co-operation relies on intelligence sharing and how much information we share with the UK that we don’t share with France or Germany.

    ‘Inevitably the risk with this is that American methods and sources will be compromised and it is going to have a very profound effect.

    ‘The question will be: Who can the U.S. rely on? This is a further subordination of British sovereignty.’

    see:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1326033/UK-defence-pact-French-risks-alliance-US-warns-ex-UN-ambassador.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

    • kme (History)

      Bolton needs to look again, and notice that the agreement specifically avoids mentioning intelligence.

  4. Jarhead (History)

    Three brief comments/queries:

    (a) Isn’t this collective-security and collaboration thingee also known usually as N-A-T-O…

    (b) If France seeks to invade England (again) what proportion of the British Army and Navy will be obliged to assist them?

    (c) Given events of 1870-1914-1939, when German seeks to seize France again, when will the US Army be obliged to show-up this time to assist the Brits-French?

  5. jeannick (History)

    .
    Jarhead ,
    (a)…. NATO is an U.S. organization to muster the European militias ,
    It’s a kind of geopolitical kindergarten run by Washington
    neither France nor Britain would leave their nuclear programs under the veto of Slovenia or Latvia

    (b) the last time the French invaded England was in 1066
    usually it’s the English who do the invading , probably to escape to a better place climate wise

    (c)I’m not aware of American or British help during the 1870 Franco Prussian war ,
    neither in 1939 (the U.S. were neutral until the Japanese dragged them into it circa December 1941

  6. Jarhead (History)

    Jeannick –

    Technically you are correct (you’re not a social scientist by chance?!?) on all counts but dismiss not the big picture from an altitude of 30,000 feet on those points.

    Yes, 1066 was the last French adventure across the Channel, but Napolean had his eyes on the prize, and now the French have the Chunnel to come across on with ships.

    Yes, there were some Confederates and Union veterans that got a taste for the Gatling guns and decided they missed horrific war and crossed to participate in the Franco-Prussian War as mercenaries (at least one, so). The 58,251 Yanks who served in France and fell in WWI, and the 400,000 Americans from WW2 who missed their next birthday while in Europe and the Pacific helping the Brits and French (and Russia and US et al), well, does it really matter if they arrived in 1939 or 1941?

    Ask their mothers, ask our Anglo-Franco friends who were there then, if they made a difference.

    But aside from all that, your points are well taken.

    We still need to figure out though, if the Brits and French are no longer colliding their nuclear subs, who will they collide with now?? Cheers.

    • bradley laing (History)

      The French and British subs will now collide with

      1.) China’s new subs.

      2.) India’s new subs.

      3.) Russia’s new subs.

      4.) And inevitably, the free-lance, stateless drug smuggling Semi-submersible “submarines” of Latin America.

      If anyone reading this doubts 4.), make a thoughful argument, please. They’ve been intercepting them for years.

  7. rwendland (History)

    I wonder how this fits in with the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement? There must have been US-UK discussions and agreement clearing this announcement.

    Some of the interviews for the CSIS “U.S.-UK Nuclear Cooperation After 50 Years” book refer to the historic restrictions on the UK about discussing nuclear matters, that may involve U.S. derived information, with the French:

    Michael Quinlan said that under the MDA, the U.S. did not want UK to talk to the French (much) about nuclear technology. (18:55 to 20:20 on the audio interview)

    Kevin Tebbit confirms this, saying the MDA placed the UK under an obligation not to pass info onto any third-party, including the French. (07:20 to 08:40 on the audio interview)

    Sig Hecker refers to the restriction, but calls it more of a book-keeping problem that a substantial issue, to make sure info is properly controlled. He notes that there are also less comprehensive U.S.-French and UK-French nuclear information exchange agreements, hence the “book-keeping” to correctly abide by the three agreements. (28:45-31:55 on the audio interview)

    But it appears the restrictions are now a bit more relaxed, compared to cold war and De Gaulle times.

    http://csis.org/program/us-uk-nuclear-cooperation-after-50-years

    http://media.csis.org/poni/Michael_Quinlan.mp3
    http://media.csis.org/poni/Kevin_Tebbit.mp3
    http://media.csis.org/poni/Siegfried_Hecker.mp3

  8. kme (History)

    This appears to be the UK playing the same game it always has, of acting to maintain the Continental balance of power. Germany’s recent re-emergence as the big economic power on the continent, without a threat from Russia, means that the UK needs to push gently down on the French side of the scales.

  9. jeannick (History)

    .
    Social scientist ..God forbid!

    On the subject of Anglo French cooperation , that still rank as small potatoes compared to the Euro-corps/ French German brigade and putative European defense project

    I fail to see how an aircraft carrier can be time shared unless it’s on a joint mission ,even then command and political oversight have to be unified unless one want a snafu I suppose a certain amount of interoperability training would be needful but as you point out joint exercises are not exactly new .

    kme is right about the Brits playing the coy flirt to try to break the French-German axis , but they have been batting their eyelashes for a long long time now ,usually to rush back to their U.S. sugar daddy
    Britain European credentials are zilch

    • Jarhead (History)

      Jeannick –

      Of course you can share an aircraft carrier, without it being on a joint-mission, it’s called zig-zagging. This way for a while, that way for a while…

      And far be it for a Marine to defend European sensibilities on matters defense, but… if we had lost 36 million in WWI and another 60 million in WWII from among those around us, us being in this case being the US of us, then you’d be jittery about any loud noises or hints of more of the same again.

      Unrelated, I do thing the potential plan by some in Belgium to split itself is a far greater act of uncountenanced selfishness by some.

      I mean, this means the Germans will have to overrun yet ONE MORE COUNTRY next time rather than the usual count.

  10. jeannick (History)

    .
    It seems that there is no sharing at all , simply an understanding to stagger the maintenance so that a minimum of one carrier should be available at all time .
    that pretty much cost nothing and means nothing either
    The time sharing of the testing facilities is the real deal
    there is some rather vague mention of the Brits using French sites for training .
    That logically should apply mostly to armor and aircraft

    All together ,the package is underwhelming
    No mention of an European defense structure
    it has the look , smell , feel and taste of a lot of media spin for not much at all .

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