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Anti-nuke activists begin month-long blockade of atomic facility

RT | June 6, 2016

Anti-nuclear activists are starting a month-long protest against Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons program, arguing it should not be renewed by Parliament later this year.

Peace campaigners are descending on AWE Burghfield in Berkshire, where Britain’s nuclear warheads are maintained and go through their final stage of assembly.

Throughout June, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) supporters will join activists from Trident Ploughshares and groups from across Europe to “blockade, to occupy, and to disrupt” the weapons manufacturing base.

Activists claim the renewal of Britain’s at-sea nuclear deterrent is expensive, unsafe, ill-suited for contemporary warfare and in violation of international commitments.

The nuclear site at Burghfield is run by the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), a controversial weapons company which is partly owned by US firm Lockheed Martin.

Last August, AWE was censured by UK regulators for failing to show a long-term plan for handling radioactive waste at its Aldermaston site.

The nuclear weapons factory also faces further action for failing to meet legal obligations to treat radioactive waste by 2014, according to a report published by the ONR last July.

Among the activists will be veteran peace campaigner Pat Arrowsmith, who was the organizer of the historic 1958 march from London to Aldermaston which saw thousands of people march against nuclear weapons.

British protesters will be joined by anti-nuke groups across Europe, including Women for Peace (Finland), Action Pour La Paix (Belgium) and Maison de la Vigilance (France).

“The vast [nuclear weapons] complexes at Burghfield and Aldermaston are founded on a wealth of resources and extraordinary human skill,” CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said.

“What a tragedy that these are utilized for the production of weapons of mass destruction rather than being used instead to secure real human security and meet the real needs of our society.”

The cost of replacing Trident and maintaining a successor program is expected to reach £205 billion (US$296 billion), according to campaigners.

The biggest expense by far is expected to be the day-to-day running costs. At £142 billion over the system’s lifetime, they amount to 6 percent of the total UK defense budget.

Other expenses include decommissioning old warheads, the continued lease of warheads from the US and future refurbishment.

AWE Burghfield will undergo a £734 million upgrade as part of the Trident renewal.

June 6, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment

UK Labour and the Trident Question

By Lesley Docksey | Dissident Voice | February 1, 2016

All anti-nuclear campaigners in Britain knew that Jeremy Corbyn wanted rid of Trident, the UK’s nuclear missile; he’s been at the forefront of anti-nuclear campaigning for longer than quite a few British MPs have been alive.  And we all, left and right, knew that Trident missiles would become an issue when Corbyn became leader of the UK Labour party, because both the Conservatives and those Labour MPs who love the idea of having nuclear missiles use his anti-nuclear stance as another stick to hit him with.

But, with another debate on whether Trident should be replaced coming up in Parliament sometime this year, and with many Labour MPs in favour, why aren’t Corbyn’s team and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) using the many good reasons available to make a strong case against replacing Trident nuclear missiles? Why stick yet again with the cost of replacement, and what the money saved could be spent on?

True, the cost is horrendous because it isn’t just a new missile system that is planned; the aging nuclear submarines are also being replaced.  Each year the cost increases by billions, often because of design faults which should have been foreseen.  But the Ministry of Defence procurement system is notorious for its mistakes and has wasted billions of taxpayers’ money.

We have known for years that the military (excepting the Navy) think Trident is completely useless.  It hasn’t stopped the UK from being embroiled in what sometimes seems like non-stop wars.  It won’t prevent terrorist attacks.  Nor did it prevent Argentina from moving in on the Falkland Islands.  And using it would be judged illegal under international law, not that a succession of UK governments have ever respected such laws.

We have known for years that the first of the new submarines, HMS Astute, was beset with problems and costing a fortune.  But then, the new ‘state of the art’ aircraft carrier has a similar history.  Quite frankly, the endless catalogue of poor design and engineering has made the UK a laughing stock.

We know that Astute ran aground in familiar waters; that previous nuclear submarines had been involved in the sinking of fishing vessels; that a major nuclear incident involving the submarines at Devonport was only just averted in 2012.

We knew that where two nuclear submarines out of four used to be at sea, it is now only one, and that the Navy has for some time struggled to recruit enough submariners.  This was highlighted again by the whistle-blower McNeilly last year.  He cast doubts on whether the nuclear missiles could be launched at all, so broken is the whole system.

We also know that submarines will be not just threatened but beaten by modern technology – their ‘secrecy’ under the waves will be located by the rapidly developing technology for underwater drones. Would anyone, even those who support the UK having nuclear missiles, feel safe trusting such horrendously dangerous weapons to an insane basket-case of a submarine fleet?

For all the reasons above, Corbyn’s recent throw-away remark on the Andrew Marr show that ‘the submarines could go to sea without the missiles’ should have been treated as just that. But no.  The media went wild making fun of his ‘nuclear’ policy.

Yet there is one argument that could make Trident and its submarines dead in the water that Labour and CND are not using.  Nor is it mentioned by the media.  It is certainly not brought up by the government, except when voicing objections in the UN General Assembly.

An unprecedented series of intergovernmental and civil society conferences has laid the foundation for a political process that could finally ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.  It would become illegal not just to use them, but to possess, make, store, transfer, sell or, indeed, to have anything at all to do with or connected to nuclear weapons.  All of them.

Following the Oslo Process which successfully brought about the Conventions banning landmines and cluster munitions, and basing their deliberations on the dire humanitarian consequences of even one missile being used, Norway hosted the First Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons (HINW) in March 2013 in Oslo. A follow-up second conference was held in Mexico in February 2014. An all-important third conference was held in Vienna in December 2014, out of which came the Humanitarian Pledge.

It demonstrates the commitment of much of the world towards ending the threat of nuclear weapons that three international conferences should be held in the space of 21 months.

In May 2015, the latest RevCon (Review Conference on nuclear non-proliferation) took place. It was a failure.  At the same conference nations were signing up to the Humanitarian Pledge, despite cries of horror and backroom bullying by nuclear states.

Bear in mind that there are 196 countries in the world.  By the start of the 2015 RevCon 159 non-nuclear states had signed up to the Pledge and the endorsing states numbered 76 (read the full story here).  No wonder the Permanent 5 members of the Security Council were getting worried!

To clarify: those states that have signed the Pledge support its aims. Those states that have endorsed the Pledge will be committed to ratifying any resulting Treaty. 121 nations have now formally endorsed the Pledge.

Last December the UN General Assembly voted to set up a new UN ‘working group’ which will start the process of writing a treaty making all nuclear weapons illegal.  In November, prior to that vote, the P5 (US, UK, France, Russia and China) issued a statement on why they opposed such a move: setting up a ban on nuclear weapons ‘would undermine the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) regime’.

They would have ‘preferred a working group bound by strict consensus rules’.  Well, of course, they would.  It would have allowed them to block any progress.  Try as they might, they are finding it near impossible to stop this flood of nations moving to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

On January 28 ICAN made this announcement:

“Today in Geneva, the ‘Open Ended Working Group’ is meeting to develop “legal measures, legal provisions and norms” for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world. This new UN body has the backing of 138 nations.

“Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN, says: ‘It is time to begin the serious practical work of developing the elements for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The overwhelming majority of nations support this course of action.’

ICAN UK adds: It’s important that this international perspective informs the UK debate on Trident renewal, so please help to share this information.

Civil society representatives, including people from ICAN, will be assisting the working group. But has Labour thought of sending anyone along?  And why aren’t Jeremy Corbyn and his team flagging this up as a major argument against replacing Trident?  After all, why replace something that in a year or three could be completely and utterly illegal?

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Corbyn backs anti-nukes rally amid fresh Shadow Cabinet resignations

RT | January 11, 2016

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed a mass Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) rally opposing the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear arsenal amid a flurry of resignations and threats from right-wing shadow ministers.

Corbyn told the BBC on Monday that Britain could play a part in achieving a nuclear-free world.

“Let’s get the discussion and debate out there,” he said.

“I want [Labour] members to have a big say in it. Whether that comes as a vote of individual members, or a vote at conference, that will be decided. I have not made up my mind on that.

“My whole election program was based on the need for ordinary people to be able to participate much more in politics, so that leaders don’t go away and write policy, so that executive groups don’t go off and decide what the policy is, ordinary people do,” he said.

His comments indicate he may push for a ballot of the entire Labour membership to decide on the party’s nuclear weapons policy.

A vote to rid Britain of nukes would end 25 years of pro-nuclear Labour policy, a prospect which has rattled many on the party’s right-wing.

Senior MPs from the Blairite quarters of the party have previously said Trident is a “fundamental red line” they will not compromise on.

Corbyn’s comments come as two more Shadow Cabinet figures tendered their resignations. Shadow Attorney General Catherine McKinnell was the most senior to quit, citing concerns over the party’s “direction and internal conflict.”

She claimed Labour is taking an “increasingly negative path.”

She was the fourth to resign since last week’s Shadow Cabinet reshuffle after two junior shadow ministers, Stephan Doughty and Jonathon Reynolds, threw in the towel over the sacking of Tony Blair loyalist Pat McFadden as Europe minister. Shadow Armed Forces Minister Kevan Jones also returned to the backbenches.

The fifth Shadow Cabinet figure to go, also on Monday, was Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, who was serving as the parliamentary private secretary (PPS) for John Trickett MP.

On Sunday, Alison McGovern MP acted prematurely, attempting to resign from a role overseeing party policy on child poverty that hadn’t yet been established. She did so while condemning Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who had branded Progress, a Blairite faction within Labour, a “hard right” group.

Others who have hinted at resignations, particularly in relation to nuclear weapons policy, include the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith and Shadow Justice Secretary Lord Falconer.

Falconer, who once shared a flat with former PM Tony Blair, told the BBC on Sunday: “I am clear that I support Trident remaining.”

The anti-Trident demonstration will be held in Trafalgar Square on February 27.

January 11, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | 1 Comment

Ending UK nukes ends housing problems: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Press TV – November 29, 2012

British anti-nukes campaigners are pressuring the government to change course on replacing its Trident nuclear weapons system at an annual cost of £3 billion and rather spend the money on housing.

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) said £3 billion is enough to build 30,000 homes in Britain every year that would fully eliminate the country’s need to build extra homes for social housing while creating 60,000 new jobs each year.

“Around 30,000 extra homes need to be built in the UK every year to meet the need for social housing. This would cost about £3 billion annually. £3 billion is what this country is currently spending every year on nuclear weapons,” the campaign group said.

“It’s a straight swap, homes or bombs. That’s why we’re calling on the government to get rid of Trident and build homes instead,” it added.

The CND has also launched a letter-writing campaign to British Chancellor George Osborne ahead of the December 5 parliamentary announcement on the way forward for the economy to pressure him to change policy on Trident.

This comes as Britain is pushing full steam ahead with a Trident replacement plan that the CND earlier estimated to cost the country more than £100 billion.

British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond has announced a multi-million pound contract worth £350 million for a new generation of nuclear missile submarines.

The £350 million contract is part of the £3 billion awarded last year to giant arms producer BAE Systems to pursue work on a new Trident fleet.

The British coalition government’s junior partners in the Liberal Democrat camp are also opposed to the Conservative-led plan for a like-for-like replacement for Trident.

Lib Dems argue that the justifications for keeping an equal to the submarine-launched Trident nukes are now lacking as the system was designed to counter the threats from the Soviet Union, which has ceased to exist for over two decades.

Trident, which is based in Clyde, Scotland, also faces another challenge from the Scottish National Party (SNP) that says it does not want the nukes on Scotland’s soil if they can secure independence in the coming years.

November 29, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Comments Off on Ending UK nukes ends housing problems: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Trident at risk from Scottish independence

Press TV – January 31, 2012

Scottish independence would bring an end to the UK’s nuclear deterrent as there are no other suitable locations for the base in Britain, warns a report from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

The Nowhere to Go report commissioned by CND revealed there is no viable alternative for the Trident nuclear weapons’ bases than its existing sites in Coulport and Faslane in Scotland, implying that the bases have nowhere to go if Scots vote for independence from the UK.

Kate Hudson, the general secretary of CND, said, “Trident is at a dead end, strategically and economically. Now we can add ‘geographically’ to the list too, as Ministry of Defence sources have confirmed CND’s analysis: that there ‘simply isn’t anywhere else’ for Trident to go.”

Asked in the Scottish parliament last week whether an independent Scotland would do a deal to keep the Trident, the Scottish First minister Alex Salmond replied, “It is inconceivable that an independent nation of 5.25m people would tolerate the continued presence of weapons of mass destruction on its soil.”

However, senior British defence officials have suggested that they could negotiate a treaty permitting the Trident missiles, submarines and warheads to remain in Scotland. Philip Hammond, the UK defence secretary, has also suggested that Scotland would be forced to pay the costs of relocating Trident nuclear deterrent.

Meanwhile, slamming the imposition of nuclear weapons on Scotland, Scottish CND chairman Arthur West described Scotland independence as “an opportunity to make a difference and to put an end to weapons of mass destruction in Britain.”

January 31, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Comments Off on Trident at risk from Scottish independence