Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide invited the foreign ministers of all states to send relevant experts to participate in an international governmental conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, the aim being “to provide an arena for a fact-based discussion”. It is sad to report that at the time of writing (late February) the only official nuclear weapons state currently in Oslo is Pakistan and that the UK government is apparently sending no official representative whatsoever. Nevertheless there will be an impressive gathering of non-nuclear states, UN organisations and representatives of civil society. In the absence of any contribution by the British government, the UK network of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN UK) has prepared a briefing paper, “Unacceptable Risks: UK-relevant reports on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons”, summarising scientific expertise with the aim of stimulating debate among politicians, the media and the public. The humanitarian consequences of three scenarios are examined:
Blast and thermal effects would cause around 81,000 immediate deaths, leaving 212,000 injured and destroying vital infrastructure, hospitals, housing and commercial buildings. Radioactive fallout would inflict further health effects and hamper efforts to help survivors. “Even outside zones of direct damage systems of communication and transport would be left inoperable while people fleeing the disaster would overwhelm services in the rest of the country”.
Nuclear engineer John Large assesses the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s own report on the implications for the UK of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster. “Documenting the inadequate plans, preparations and emergency response capabilities at AWE and in the local area, Large castigates the pervading sense of ‘muddling through’.... When a serious fire broke out in August 2010 in the Aldermaston explosives area, local fire-fighters were held back from tackling the emergency because the AWE did not have sufficient number of personal dosimeters on the Aldermaston site”. How would the emergency services cope if faced with more severe incidents, including an accidental or intentional nuclear detonation?
At least one nuclear-armed submarine is on continuous at-sea patrol at all times, a relic of the Cold War when it was deemed necessary to show Soviet leaders that the UK was capable of obliterating Moscow. A study by John Ainslie calculated that 40 British warheads fired at targets in and around Moscow would cause 5·4 million deaths, with radioactive fallout affecting populations at greater distances depending on weather conditions. A detonation on major cities anywhere in the world would “loft massive quantities of sooty smoke into the atmosphere which would circulate globally reducing heat and light from the sun for several years”. Even a ‘limited’ regional nuclear war in which less than 1% of today’s arsenals were used would run the risk of devastating the world’s climate, resulting in famine and disease: a “grossly disproportionate and perhaps suicidal response to uncertain future security concerns”.
Editing this paper, Rebecca Johnson concludes that nuclear weapons of mass destruction have escaped an international ban “because of institutional contradictions and Cold War attitudes”. The assumption has hitherto been that the participation of the “nuclear weapons states” (i.e. those already in possession of nuclear weapons before 1968) was essential before any process to ban such weapons can be taken forward. “By contrast, history shows that changing/clarifying the legal status of weapons generally precedes and facilitates the processes of stockpile elimination. Allowing the legal status of nuclear weapons to continue to be dictated by the countries that wield them is a mistake that compromises the security of all people in the world.”
http://www.acronym.org.uk/sites/default/files/Unacceptable%20Risks%20-%20ICAN%20UK%20Briefing%20Feb%202013.pdfBriefing published by the Acronym Institute February 2013
Steering Group members had an interesting visit from Lisa Bounds, the new CND Peace Education Officer last month. Lisa displays impressive knowledge and enthusiasm, emphasising that educational workshops are geared towards getting young people actively involved in exploring complex issues, “encouraging debate and supporting independent thinking”.
“We do not campaign in schools,” she said. “The CND Peace Education programme aims to empower young people with knowledge on peace and nuclear issues, offering free assembly talks and interactive classroom workshops adapted to suit a wide range of age groups and subject areas.”
Please get in touch with Lisa on 020 7700 2393 or email@example.com for more information or to discuss possible dates for a session. If you have a personal or professional link with a local school please see if you can raise any interest in what is after all a free service which can be tailored to many aspects of the National Curriculum. Networking is always so much more effective than sending out any number of leaflets “to whom it may concern”.
Easter 1958 saw the first Aldermaston March, shortly after the formation of CND. AWE Aldermaston remains the bomb factory that designs and manufactures nuclear warheads while the government continues to invest in expensive new facilities for the next generation of nuclear weapons. People on the street do not know where Aldermaston is (just outside Reading) and do not know that the UK is spending £3 billion on Trident each year — with a commitment to spend a total of £100 billion if a decision to replace Trident is taken by Parliament in 2016.
Every anti-nuclear campaigner needs to see the horrible reality of AWE Aldermaston squatting in all its black hideousness amidst the Berkshire bluebell woods. The government relies on keeping these things hidden, with a compliant local workforce concerned only with employment in a hard economic climate, and the more effectively we can publicise what is going on there, the more likely we are to be able to stimulate public debate.
Campaigners will be travelling from all over the country. It is easy for us: the London coach will leave Embankment Station at 9·15am, costing only £16 (£8 unwaged) with subsidies available from WDC/CND in cases of hardship. We return to London by 4·30pm. Bring items to decorate the fence, bring food, drink and warm clothing. Use the enclosed form and BOOK NOW! 020 7607 2302
April 1st at Aldermaston sees the launch of a remarkable odyssey by veteran campaigner and CND vice-president Bruce Kent who will be embarking on a month’s speaking tour highlighting wasteful spending on Trident when money could be so much better spent eradicating poverty and making the world a safer, more peaceful place to live.
“Despite majority public opinion against, there is no clearly articulated political opposition to [Trident] replacement... so the government is attempting to go ahead with its project through a series of a small steps — all of which will make it very difficult, if not impossible to say NO when a vote comes in 2016.
“The connection between the £100 billion to be spent on Trident and savage [government] cuts is not being made even by charities that work in the hardest-hit sectors. Nor is any link being made with our obligation as a country to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear weapons. If we replace Trident.... other countries will take the message from us that we think nuclear weapons improve our security. It’s an open invitation to get their own.
“I want anti-poverty NGOs of all sorts to join us in opposing this disgraceful squandering of public money which has everything to do with national pride and nothing to do with national security.”
WDC/CND has sent a cheque for £100 to help pay for bus advertising in all the parts of the country to be visited by Bruce.
We are very sorry to announce the death on 30th January of long-serving member John Holland. John must have transported many tens of thousands of plants to the Fête of the Earth and to the Morden Park August Bank Holiday Fair, despite increasing physical fraility, and we are very grateful to him indeed. We send our condolences to Barbara.
Jaine Rose of Stroud has come up with a novel idea: linking AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield with a 7 mile long pink hand-knitted scarf. “A waste of time,” some may think, but it provides many who would otherwise be politically inactive with a means of campaigning, with the progress of every pink square a potential conversation-starter and reminder of the continued existence of the two atomic weapons establishments. (I have already heard of a knitting circle that has ‘banned’ the scarf as ‘too political’.)
Jaine hopes that the finished product will eventually be made into blankets for hospices and emergency relief agencies in war zones. It will take many thousands of contributors if the target length is to be achieved, but we have been given until August 2014. Pieces should be 60cm × 1 metre which of course can be further subdivided to suit your convenience and stitched together afterwards. ‘Pink’ covers a very wide spectrum of colour and if you are inspired to incorporate a CND logo into your work the pattern for this can be downloaded from http://www.craftycrafty.tv/2008/03/celebrate_50_years_of_cnds_pea.html or copies are available from 020 8543 0362. We can also supply wool if necessary. I plan to take my knitting with me on the coach on April 1st!
See http://www.woolagainstweapons.co.uk for more details and progress updates from Jaine.
The second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster will be commemorated all over the world. On Saturday March 9th there will be a march from Hyde Park via the Japanese Embassy and office of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCo) and Electricité de France (EDF) to Parliament. (Assemble at noon at Hyde Park corner, by the ‘Hyde Park’ exit from the Tube station.) A rally will take place 2·30–3·30pm in Old Palace Yard, opposite the House of Lords with speakers.
On Monday March 11th there will be a candlelit vigil 5·30–6·30pm outside the Japanese Embassy followed by a meeting at the House of Commons; the meeting starts at 7·30pm, but allow 30 minutes to get through security. Jeremy Corbyn will chair and speakers include technical experts, Fukushima evacuees, and Japanese and UK activists.
It is still bitterly cold and the snowdrops are still out, but by the time of the next Newsletter Easter will be over and the Fête will be almost upon us, so preparations need to start now. This year we celebrate our 30th Anniversary Fête and we want to make it a good one: FREE ADMISSION will be the big draw.
We shall plan to do all the traditional things (plants, bric-à-brac, books, raffle, cakes, home produce, food) but in many ways this will have to be a tighter operation than we have become accustomed to in the relaxed surroundings of the now defunct Community Centre. St Mark’s Hall, Compton Road is where it all started and as a venue it has many advantages over the Community Centre — access and parking is easier for example. But St Mark’s is smaller than the Community Centre and (worst of all) we shall only have access for precisely the number of hours we have paid for and will have to forego the luxury of ‘our special arrangement’ on Friday evening.
Delivering goods and setting up in the couple of hours available on the day itself will have to run with military precision and we are exploring the possibiity of hiring a van to streamline the operation. We shall still need a huge teams of transport people to do loading and unloading and set up the stalls as quickly as possible but it would cut down on the fleet of cars we have previously relied on.
Does anybody have access to a van (perhaps through a Streetcar scheme?) to avoid the additional expense. And could anybody volunteer to drive a van?
Another way to save time on the day will be to do as much preliminary sorting, pricing, and labelling of plants, books and bric-à-brac as possible so that stuff arrives ready for display and sale. Working parties will be arranged at 43 Wilton Grove and many volunteers will be needed.
We must be positive and resolve that this will be a leaner, slimmer and better Fête than ever, but it can only happen if everybody helps. Your CND group needs you!
P.S. Start sorting out Fête contributions over Easter.