The current case for Nuclear Disarmament

In recent years the case for disarmament has not only gained spotlight with the state of the Korean peninsula but also gained justification as the renewal of Britain’s nuclear ‘deterrent’ is set to cost the treasury a figure close to £205 billion pounds. With a pro-trident PM in power there is currently no realistic possibility of the government reversing renewal, which should be surprising considering the inconsistency trident has displayed in testing, so the only prospect of nuclear disarmament at the moment is how the Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn positions the labour party should there be another election. Trident has also been shrouded by myths in recent years and become an effigy for the alt-right of this country that represents the reinvigorated ideology of Great Britain and the former empire leading people to prioritise the idea of trident being a statement of national pride rather than a rational deterrence tool; this is dangerous in the modern world especially considering Britain’s diminishing role on the world stage.

The geo-political climate at the moment is at its most turbulent and precarious it has been especially regarding the current president of the United States and the naive dictator of North Korea locking horns in a – to put it bluntly – childish way. If there was an advert for not having nuclear weapons it most certainly would be Trump’s America! Trump epitomises how America is consumed in its own self-importance, escalating conflict for the last 80 years showing no signs of demilitarisation today – with the Trump administration announcing the production of more lethal weapons of mass destruction as a so called deterrent to Russian aggression. Even Putin can’t justify committing genocide against 100,000s of people on the eastern front like Trump claims he will. Not only does this stir things up again in Eastern Europe but it also sends dangerous signals to North Korea at a time when relations are most unstable, even a nuclear deterrent can’t protect a country if a provocateur is of unhealthy mind; if they have the insanity to murder countless civilians – it is hard to imagine they have the compassion to care about their own citizens facing the same fate. So in a time when things are most tense with international relations, it wouldn’t be mad to suggest our best bet is to just stay out of it!

In Britain, Trident is faced by widespread opposition with irrational support. Our current Prime Minister; Theresa May, has expressed consistent support for our nuclear weapons programme infamously claiming she would kill 100,000s of men, women and children if the opportunity for nuclear retaliation ever came. Following on from the vote in the commons that, expressed a substantial majority in favour of renewing Trident, opposition to Trident has not and will not be quelled. The fact that the UN voted two thirds in favour of banning nuclear weapons is paramount in endorsing opposition to nuclear weapons renewal in England as it is now recognised as being illegal under the new treaty. Regrettably, Britain decided to abstain from the talks and the vote and instead remarked their commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an outdated treaty that Britain and other countries that have committed to still struggle to abide by! All this overlooks the staggering cost that Trident will amass, stating an initial figure of £40 billion but having the potential to rise to over £200 billion. One of the most overlooked arguments against Trident is how the government can justify this when there is a current deficit and funding crisis in our public services especially the NHS that is fundamental to ensuring we live in a fair and tolerant society saving far more lives than a nuclear deterrent ever would.

Now to conclude, it is understandable why there is distrust towards foreign nations when it comes to nuclear weapons and that unilateral disarmament would be a big risk to take when not done multilaterally; but when looked at rationally, Trident is deterring little more than an unjustified ‘threat’ from Russia or the instability of the Kim Jong regime that would surely end should he ever press the red button. Therefore it leads me to believe that support for Trident labels it as an effigy for consolidating the revived sense of patriotism we have seen in this country since the rise (and fall) of UKIP and the definitive Brexit vote. It is perceived as a statement to Britain’s former pride that when looked at in closer detail is driven by those of toxic ulterior motives that seek to divide out communities and create an incongruent, unequal society establishing a firm opinion of mine that renewal of our nuclear weapons should be avoided at all costs.

by Jack Theaker

YSCND Committee  Member


**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

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‘AtomKraft? Nein Danke’ Hinkley Point and the dangers of nuclear energy in 2018

  On December 31st 2017 at 12pm Germany officially shutdown the Gundremmingen B boiling water reactor in Southern Germany, ending its 33 years of operation. This move comes as part of a policy to permanently wean the German power grid away from nuclear power and onto more sustainable and safe sources.

This has not always been the policy of Angela Merkel’s government. In September 2010, the German government agreed to extend the licenses of several nuclear reactors by between 8 to14 years. Maintaining Germany’s reliance on nuclear power for, at the time, about one quarter of its energy. By May 2011, this policy had been totally reversed with Merkel’s government reviving the previous government phase-out plan and declaring that Germany would be nuclear free by 2022.

Why the reversal?  In March 2011, a catastrophic disaster at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan led to the release of large amounts of fallout into the air and the evacuation of 170,000 people from their homes. The contaminated area covered an estimated 8% of the Japanese landmass and a 12 mile exclusion zone was enforced. Much of this zone is still heavily contaminated and tens of thousands of people are still unable to return to their homes. In Germany, public reaction to the disaster caused opinion to shift strongly against nuclear power with large protests across the country. In the city of Stuttgart, 40,000 protesters formed a 28 mile human chain to the nuclear plant outside the city demonstrating their opposition to plans to extend the life-time of the plant. Recognising the dangers of nuclear power and the benefits of renewable energy sources, the German government created an ambitious plan to totally reverse nuclear power and provide 80% of Germany’s power through renewables.

Contrasting this, Theresa May’s government is continuing to press forward with plans to expand the Hinkley Point nuclear site with reactor C. This is a dangerous and financially irresponsible policy. So far, work at Hinkley Point C has proceeded at a glacial pace and its estimated cost has skyrocketed. Currently, Hinkley Point C is expected to cost the British energy consumer £30 billion but this number could rise. With construction not even completely underway this figure can be expected to rise even further. Even the Government’s major partner in the project, EDF energy, have demonstrated reservations. A former finance director at EDF described the project as ‘a house of cards’ and ‘very risky’. The National Audit Office drew similar conclusions calling the project a ‘risky and expensive project with uncertain strategic and economic benefits’. The financial implications of the reactor are clear; it is a dangerous and fruitless project which will cost the British consumer astounding amounts of money for little gain.

The dangers of Hinkley Point are not just fiscal however. A disaster like the one at Fukushima in 2011 could cause a large number of people to lose their homes and an unprecedented environmental disaster. The position of Hinkley Point means that a radioactive plume stemming from an accident at the plant could engulf both Cardiff and Bristol, as well as the major towns and hundreds of rural communities between them. Evacuations would be the tip of the iceberg if an accident like this occurred. Radioactive fallout, like that seen at Fukushima, could make the area uninhabitable for decades and permanently increase the risk of thyroid cancers, leukemia and solid cancers for residents returning to their homes. The ecology of the area would be devastated and crops and livestock would be contaminated. Pro-nuclear arguments have stated that the risk of an accident is low and whilst this is true, Germany, with an impeccable record of industrial safety has realised the dangers of nuclear power and committed to renewables.

2017 was the greenest on record for energy and renewable sources provide more power to the U.K than ever before. This should serve as a reminder that Hinkley Point is not the only option for the Government. Renewable energy such as Solar, Wind and Tidal have become increasingly cheaper since planning for Hinkley Point C began and safety risks are minimal.. It is still estimated that reversing Hinkley Point and investing in renewables would still cost the government less than committing to its construction and create a safer long term power source for the U.K. Britain should follow the German example and say ‘AtomKraft? Nein Danke’ ‘Atomic Energy? No thanks’.

By William Empson, CND Campaign Assistant

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***

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