Anglo-French nuclear co-operation agreement: New briefing from NIS

Under the terms of a new treaty Britain and France intend to collaborate on nuclear warhead technology for the next 50 years. The agreement, announced by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, commits the two nations to undertake a joint programme of co-operation on nuclear weapon technology at a new hydrodynamics research facility at Valduc in France and a joint Technology Development Centre at the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston.

NIS has prepared a new briefing on the Anglo French co-operation agreement (copies of briefing and original treaty documents available below), highlighting the following key points:

  • The new facilities are intended to be operational from 2015 and represent the beginning of a long term programme of co-operation, named Teutates.
  • The treaty will be laid before Parliament, allowing MPs to discuss it as part of the ratification process, and the text of the treaty will be made public.
  • The agreement is limited to collaboration at nuclear weapon research facilities, and does not enable exchanges of strategic information, co-operation on the deployment of nuclear weapons or submarine patrols, or the exchange of nuclear materials or warheads.
  • "Several dozen" British and French scientists would work together at Valduc and Aldermaston and the facilities would cost both countries several million Euros, although the long term aim of the programme is to save money.
  • Both the Valduc and Aldermaston facilities will enable each country to undertake sensitive work in support of their own national programmes in a secure environment, without necessarily exchanging information from their experiments, although one of the aims of the joint programme is to allow direct co-operation between teams from the two nations.
  • Costs of the new project will not be released at this stage for reasons of commercial sensitivity, but the costs of building, operating over several decades, and dismantling the facilities will be shared equitably between the two countries.
  • Over the next few years both nations intend to modify their respective national programmes as a transition to Teutates.  Any expenditure already incurred will be optimised for the mutual benefit of the joint programme.
  • Despite the Teutates programme, work on the planned 'Project Hydrus' hydrodynamics facility at AWE will continue.  AWE takes a positive view of the proposals for co-operation, seeing them as a pragmatic step forward, with its role being to sort out and implement the details underpinning the high-level treaty agreement.
  • The USA has been consulted on the proposal, which has met no resistance from either the Obama Administration or the military, who were fully satisfied that it met the reservations that they might otherwise have had.  There was also discussion whether the US, UK, and France should co-operate on nuclear weapons on a trilateral basis.
  • The UK and France are open to accusations that the planned arrangements for co-operation break the spirit of both the Non Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Download NIS's briefing on the Anglo-French nuclear co-operation programme and copies of the treaty documents here: