Submission from the Nuclear Information
1. A DEFINITION
"Over recent decades, our view of national
security has broadened to include threats to individual citizens
and to our way of life." (1.5)
1.1 A permanent threat to "individual
citizens and our way of life" is the risk of a nuclear accident
associated with the production, transport, handling and storage
of nuclear warheads. This risk is unjustifiable and fails the
justification test because the benefit of having weapons that
cannot be used is a myth, as most other countries have recognised.
1.2 The additional risk of terrorist attack
on AWE Aldermaston or (less likely) a warhead convoy, is a further
risk to national security. Whilst this threat will remain until
the current warhead stockpile is decommissioned, and whilst nuclear
materials and waste remain at AWE, the threat to live work at
AWE Burghfield can be relieved by completing the decommissioning
process and de-licensing the Burghfield site as soon as practicable.
1.3 Security requires a high level of nuclear
safety. UK Nuclear weapons production no longer meets modern standards
of safety and should be abandoned for this, if for no other reason.
"we oppose all proliferation, as undermining
our objectives of de-escalation and multilateral disarmament,
and increasing the risk of instability in the international system
and ultimately the risk of nuclear confrontation."(3.10)
2.1 The key objective of the Security Strategy
is to achieve de-escalation and multilateral disarmament; proliferation
is identified as an impediment to disarmament and as a cause of
instability that risks nuclear confrontation. This concern has
been at the heart of every NPT conference, and will be so in 2010.
2.2 A definition of proliferation is "increase"
and "spread". In the context of nuclear weapons, we
have to go further and define what it is that must not increase.
For example: numbers, dimensions and fire-power are less relevant
than delivery miniaturisation, increasing accuracy and reliability.
If the capacity of the nuclear weapons states (NWS) is increased
in this way, the result is vertical proliferation. The possible
spread of nuclear weapons to newly capable states (horizontal
proliferation), is the other element to be addressed. These two
aspects of proliferation are inextricably linked by cause and
effect. At NPT summits, we have seen that there is no confidence
in the good faith of the negotiating position of NWS whilst they
persist in only addressing horizontal proliferation. The UK is
in a strong position to be taken seriously as a key advocate of
non-proliferation, if only it would put its own house in order.
2.3 The new order requires the UK to refrain
from building a new generation of SSBNs and nuclear warheads.
Despite government explanations for its current developments at
AWE Aldermaston and submarine design contracts at Barrow, no-one
interested in nuclear disarmament is convinced that these projects
are necessary to retain the current level of nuclear capability.
To do that, it would merely be necessary to ensure that existing
facilities for warhead management were in good order and that
the existing submarines reduce their sea operations to enable
them to stay in service for another 22 years. Unless a stop
is put to the current UK direction, there is no real incentive
to achieve disarmament.
UK proliferation includes upgrading the existing
system and building a new Trident system, both submarines and
warheads. The reduction in warhead numbers as a non-proliferation
plus is massively outweighed by the proposals to build new SSBNs
and a new warhead. In particular, the MoD's recent Annual Report
message is destabilising, and bodes ill for proliferation for
the 2010 NPT Conference:
"the major rebuilding and development
programmes at both Aldermaston and Burghfield [is] gathering pace."(MoD
annual report for 2007-08)
Opportunities for de-escalation abound. However,
the reduction of UK warheads to a more manageable number below
140 appears to reflect the poor state of the infrastructure
to support them at AWE Burghfield rather than political de-escalation.
What is needed now, is a reduction in sea patrols, removal of
warheads to storage at RNAD Coulport and a steady programme of
warhead disassembly. Serious problems at AWE concerning the lack
of disassembly capacity should not have been allowed to develop.
But we are where we are, and practical solutions can be found,
albeit at a slower pace than would have been necessary had the
plant been properly maintained.
3. THE LINK
"the link between nuclear proliferation
and regional conflict ."(3.53)
3.1 The two issues of "access to nuclear
materials" and "nuclear weapons or nuclear technology"
should not be packed in the same "nuclear proliferation"
bag. Control of nuclear materials is a matter for the IAEA. The
challenge for the NPT Conference is to support this practical
task by agreeing de-escalation for all NWS. Only when NPT ambassadors
can trust the NWS not to say one thing and do another, can their
focus be shifted to dealing with problems of materials proliferation.
3.2 In terms of nuclear weapons, there are
plenty of regional conflicts that are not related to proliferation.
If this fact is confused with the materials problem, it implies
that the NWS cannot de-escalate for fear of destabilizing regional
security. On the contrary, nuclear de-escalation would be beneficial
in key areas, but in most cases, would have no effect.
4. UK LEAD TO
"In the run up to the 2010 NPT review
conference, we will lead international effort to accelerate disarmament
among possessor states" (4.19)
4.1 The UK is well placed to accelerate
disarmament, but this will require a real UK disarmament offer
on the table. Verification, as in other treaties, requires something
to verify. Technical means without concrete disarmament steps
to measure will not achieve disarmament. (See 5. below).
"in pursuit of our objective of a negotiated
elimination of all nuclear weapons. We have offered to host a
technical conference for the five NPT Nuclear Weapons States on
the verification of nuclear (4.19)
5.1 The UK's unique offer to host a conference
on the technical means of verification is an opportunity to prepare
the ground for a workable disarmament convention. But if it is
to be a serious initiative, participants will need to be confident
that the UK seeks no technical advantage. How are they to be sure
that the UK is genuine in its commitment to verifying disarmament,
rather than seeking insight into their nuclear warheads? As things
stand, this commitment is not clear. Transparency of intent can
only be achieved by a policy commitment at NPT level. Exchange
of verification techniques is suspect without an end to UK submarine
and warhead development. The possibility of moving towards disarmament
verification will be wasted unless it is undertaken in parallel
with disarmament. Time-wasting at this level would indeed be criminal,
and could be subject to challenge.
5.2 The value of Citizen Verification should
be valued. For example, developments at the Iran nuclear site
would not have come to light at an early stage unless the information
had been reported by civil society. In the UK, safety issues at
AWE and road transport incidents have been reported by NIS, Nukwatch
6. 2010 NPT REVIEW
"achieving a positive outcome from the
2010 NPT Review Conference." (4.23)
6.1 Any further delay in progress at the
NPT will be disastrous. Unless the NWS take a risk for peace by
2010, it might be too late by 2015. Negotiating positions at the
Conference on Disarmament need to change in 2009 and work
must be redoubled in order to achieve a nuclear turn around by
2010. And that would only be the start!
6.2 The UK has the opportunity to lead.
Its good faith credentials could be restored by a change of nuclear
policy to wind-down if the current wind-up policies and contracts
were to be cancelled. The alternative is for there to be no positive
NPT Review outcome; no concentration on real security; no control
of proliferation; no disarmament; no de-escalation; nothing to
verify and a continuing build-up of an increasingly threatening
"We decided to maintain our independent
nuclear deterrent because, while we are strongly committed to
multilateral nuclear disarmament and to the global elimination
of nuclear weapons, we cannot rule out a threat to the United
Kingdom involving nuclear weapons re-emerging over the next 50 years."(4.67)
7.1 The familiar contradiction in this statement
is unworthy of serious political justification in 2008. Clearly,
for disarmament commitments to be worthy of attention, they must
be backed by disarmament measures, not by re-armament.
7.2 All are agreed that there is no current
foreign military threat to the UK and that no such threat is foreseeable.
Should such a threat occur, it is inconceivable that it would
be resolved by nuclear weapons.
7.3 Deterrence policy is based on a belief
system. The theory is essentially flawed because there is no way
of demonstrating that it has worked. There is absolutely no evidence
to support the view that if we had not possessed nuclear weapons
we would have been invaded, attacked or in any other way violated
as a nation state.
7.4 UK nuclear weapons present a complex
of risks to the British people every day. The risk of a criticality
event at the substandard warhead assembly/disassembly facilities
at AWE Burghfield and the transport of warheads by road to name
but two. These risks are unjustifiable since there is no tangible
7.5 The argument that a future threat might
demand nuclear weapons is also flawed, since there is no conceivable
threat that could be resolved to the UK's advantage by a nuclear
exchange. The nuclear power base is discredited and must now be
de-constructed with the UK taking a lead.
8. VITAL INTERESTS
"Sea and air approaches, [its] information
and communications systems, and [its] other vital interests, including
our Overseas Territories." (4.63)
8.1 The interpretation of "vital interests"
will vary according to the government of the day, but no interpretation
could justify a nuclear attack by the UK. How could a UK nuclear
attack on any state, agent or individual be justified in response
to a threat to our overseas interests? While the FCO is charged
with avoiding such a threat, the MoD can also contribute by advocating
restraint and diplomatic solutions.
8.2 The idea that a nuclear threat could
"protect" UK assets from attack is not accepted on two
(i) it is an idle threat, and would be interpreted
as such, or
(ii) it is not an idle threat and if carried
out, would change the world into an unpredictable nuclear jungle,
with the original provocation being quickly forgotten.
8.3 Climate change and energy resources
are the real vital interests we have to address in the foreseeable
future. The FCO should advocate massive investment at home in
renewable energy to avoid the calamity that is foreseen in a recent
speech by a government spokesman linking energy security with
an international battle for energy security
is emerging as one of the most significant threats to both UK
competitiveness and national sovereignty.John Hutton, Government
Business Secretary Labour Party Conference 2008
9. MISSILE DEFENCE
To help mitigate the threat of weapons of
mass destruction, we welcome US plans to place further missile
defence assets in Europe to provide cover for allies. (4.68)
9.1 Support for the US plans to deploy missile
defence is to support a de-stabilising experiment in technology
and politics. The new 2009 USA administration will need sound
advice from a European member it is willing to listen to on this
subject. Too much is at stake for Europe to be a platform for
a dominant US presence. The UK government should learn from the
damning effect of US Cruise Missile on European relations in the
10. FUTURE SECURITY
"Future priorities include:
consulting on a joint Parliamentary
National Security Committee
strengthening the work of horizon
creating a national security forum
publishing the National Risk Register"
10.1 These proposals to widen consultation
on foreign and defence policy are valuable democratic initiatives
that should be established as soon as possible. However, each
will bring difficulties, and unless the FCO and MoD are prepared
to work with ground rules accepted by all participants, they will
be reduced to time-wasting exercises. If openness, transparency,
respect, consistency and patience are enshrined in the process
to bring together the skills and perceptions of a wide range of
people, then democracy will be well-served. The resulting decisions
could shape wise UK policy and actions through cooperative national
and international relations in an uncertain future.
"some areas of policy covered in this
document are the responsibility of devolved administrations and
legislatures. In these cases decisions will ultimately be for
the devolved institutions concerned." Endnote.
11.1 The Endnote comment that national security
ultimately lies with the UK is a timely reminder that the current
status quo of the Union may change in the coming years, and that
change requires considered management. The Scottish people may
decide to be an independent state. A mature democracy welcomes
inevitable change as an opportunity not a threat. Citizens and
politicians must meet the challenge with wisdom and self-confidence.
29 September 2008