By Angie Zelter
In 2016 the UK government will finalise the decision to build a new nuclear weapons system to replace the present Trident system (http://actionawe.org/the-trident-system/). The nuclear submarines that carry Trident are getting old, so the government has pledged to finalise contracts to replace them in 2016 in order to build a new generation of nuclear weapons at an estimated cost of £76–100 billion. This is more than the current planned public spending cuts of £81 billion. If the contracts go ahead, the warheads would be designed and manufactured at AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment) Aldermaston and Burghfield, in Berkshire, about 50 miles west of London ( http://actionawe.org/awe-burghfield-maps-gates/ ).
Such a replacement and modernisation of a nuclear weapon system would be illegal and undermine international law as it breaches the commitment to nuclear disarmament that all nuclear weapon states made under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The world is in a very dangerous situation caused by the long delay in implementing Article VI of the NPT. As the UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon recently said, “Delay comes with a high price tag. The longer we procrastinate, the greater the risk that these weapons will be used, will proliferate or be acquired by terrorists. But our aim must be more than keeping the deadliest of weapons from 'falling into the wrong hands'. There are no right hands for wrong weapons........ I urge all nuclear-armed States to reconsider their national nuclear posture. Nuclear deterrence is not a solution to international peace and stability. It is an obstacle.”1
It is not just the General-Secretary getting frustrated with the nuclear weapon states. The majority non-nuclear states are now actively campaigning for an international treaty to ban all nuclear weapons. “Three in four governments support the idea of a treaty to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons.”2
However, unless there is a massive movement, including nonviolent direct action, by civil society, all the nuclear weapon states will modernise and replace their nuclear arsenals and more states will build their own. The bad example of the original 5 nuclear weapon states (USA, Russia, France, China and the UK) continuing to depend on nuclear weapons has not only encouraged Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea3 to acquire them but is inciting ever more states to join in.
In the UK, anti-nuclear activists (including those who supported Trident Ploughshares and Faslane 365) helped galvanise public opposition to Trident. This succeeded to the extent that the present Scottish Government have promised to ban all nuclear weapons from Scotland if the Scots vote for independence in the Referendum (to be held in 2014) and they come to power in the new nation. It is important now that there is a special focus on the English dimension – the atomic weapon establishments at Aldermaston and Burghfield. If we succeed here then the potential for world-wide disarmament is great. Once the UK abandons its reliance on nuclear weapons we can expect a 'good domino' effect to cascade around the world.
A new grass-roots campaign called Action AWE (Atomic Weapons Eradication)4 has recently formed to take up this struggle and to combine the strengths of as many peace and justice groups as possible. Not only UK groups but also European groups, including those in Germany, are being asked to join this campaign and come and help out. Action AWE is dedicated to halting nuclear weapons production at the Atomic Weapons Establishment factories at Aldermaston5 and Burghfield. Groups and individuals started organising their own autonomous actions and events from February 2013, when the Campaign launched. They are raising awareness of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and exerting political pressure for Britain to end the production, replacement and deployment of Trident and to join other countries in negotiating a global treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
Trident Ploughshares is one of the groups supporting Action AWE and they are organising a 2 week International Disarmament Camp at Burghfield from 26th August to the 7th September 2013. There will be a Big Blockade of Burghfield on Monday 2nd September to which all readers are invited.
AWE Burghfield is responsible for the complex final assembly and maintenance of the nuclear warheads and is the base from which the nuclear warhead and nuclear materials convoys depart when moving nuclear warheads between AWE and Coulport in Scotland for storage and servicing. It is a vital part of the nuclear chain and is much less well known than Aldermaston which is closely linked and only 7 miles away. Burghfield has only 2 gates and is ripe for nonviolent direct action.
The two weeks disarmament camp will provide an opportunity for peaceful responsible people to carry out lots of direct disarmament work at Burghfield and more detailed information and maps on these two nuclear bases can be found at http://actionawe.org/topics/uks-nuclear-weapons/atomic-weapons-establis…
The camp is open to anti-nuclear activists from other European countries who will be joining the camp for as long as they wish though most will be arriving in time for the Big Blockade on September 2nd. Groups from the European Anti-militarist Network will be joining the camp which will provide a supportive environment where we can strengthen our ability to work well together, learn new skills, renew our friendships, vision and commitment, and enjoy ourselves. There are lots of disarmament opportunities at these bases, even during the camp when the Ministry of Defence police know we are around.
You do not have to be a member of Trident Ploughshares to attend the camp. So long as you are willing to abide by our non-violent guidelines you will be very welcome. See
Nuclear weapons are linked to every major economic, health, environmental, humanitarian,
moral and political issue facing us today, including climate change, militarism, poverty and insecurity. You can find a number of linking essays at http://actionawe.org/essays-3/
The global movement for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons is gathering pace. NOW IS THE TIME for all of us to to get involved and take AWEsome action against replacing Britain’s nuclear weapons. We can be creative, inspired, imaginative and daring. People power creates change. So, bring your tent, your passion and commitment and join us to stop the next generation of nuclear weapons from being built.
- 1) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Monterey Institute of International Studies on January 18, 2013. “Advancing the Disarmament and Non-proliferaton aenda: Seeking Peace in and Over-armed World”.
- 2) http://www.icanw.org/why-a-ban/support-for-a-ban/#.UQbdzWIZ12M
- 3) 9 countries spent over $100 billion on nuclear weapons in 2011. Ban Ki-moon stated, 'Disarmament cannot be considered in isolation from other global challenges. The world spends more on the military in one month than it does on development all year. And four hours of military spending is equal to the total budgets of all international disarmament and non-proliferation organizations combined. The world is over-armed. Peace is under-funded. Bloated military budgets promote proliferation, derail arms control, doom disarmament and detract from social and economic development......The profits of the arms industry are built on the suffering of ordinary people – in Mali, Syria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo. …...At the foot of the pyramid lie small arms. At the top are nuclear weapons.'
This is $100 billion they did NOT spend on climate, health, education, food, water, development...
- 4) http://actionawe.org/
- 5) 'Secret UK uranium components plant closed over safety fears' by Rob Edwards, The Guardian, 24th January 2013. A top-secret plant at Aldermaston that makes enriched uranium components for Britain’s nuclear warheads and fuel for the Royal Navy’s submarines has been shut down because corrosion has been discovered in its “structural steelwork”, the Guardian can reveal. The closure has been endorsed by safety regulators who feared the building did not conform to the appropriate standards. The nuclear safety watchdog demands that such critical buildings are capable of withstanding “extreme weather and seismic events”, and the plant at Aldermaston failed this test.