The Peace Vote and the General Election
By the time you receive this WIRE it is possible that the long awaited announcement of a General Election will have been made and the date become public. Many CND members have a loyalty to a particular political party, hoping, perhaps, that even if the party at this moment does not support Britain’s nuclear disarmament, there will eventually be enough pressure from rank and file membership and voters at large, to bring about a change of policy. Individual candidates may, of course, themselves support nuclear disarmament, contrary to party policy, and we might decide to support them with our vote. There is, of course, a very small group of political parties, many of which we shall have no chance to vote for, whose party policy is the non-renewal of Trident and the gradual removal of Britain’s nuclear arsenal. These include the Green Party (no MPs in Parliament at the moment) Respect Party (1 MP), Plaid Cymru (3 MPs) and the Scottish National Party (7 MPs). ( I do not have the official policy of the BNP and UKIP at the time of writing.) The Conservative and Labour Parties and the Liberal Democrats all support a ‘minimum nuclear deterrent’. However, the monolithic stance of these major parties breaks down a little when it comes to the issue of Trident replacement. 95 Labour MPs (out of 350) either opposed the replacement or voted to delay the decision, 3 conservative MPs (out of 193) did the same and all 63 Lib Dems opposed Trident renewal. This is therefore still clearly the issue on which we need to campaign as it would be an important step in nuclear disarmament.
Brentwood CND will be writing to all Brentwood candidates (including UKIP and the BNP) to ask them their personal views on renewal and we shall publicise their replies. We are holding two Saturday stalls in March, on 13th and 20th, to gather more signatures on the non-renewal of Trident and raise awareness of the issue. Individuals can raise awareness within their own political parties, write to the local press and lobby candidates. We must remember that, for once, the public is on our side and we have the backing of a number of recent opinion polls which show a majority in favour of scrapping Trident.
PRE-ELECTION AD IN LOCAL NEWSPAPER
One of the actions we could take as a local CND group is to take out an ad on the issue of Trident in a local paper – presumably the Brentwood Gazette. As we know from being on the High Street stall, many people are genuinely surprised when we explain that Britain still has nuclear weapons, thinking that we got rid of them at the end of the Cold War and an advertisement could highlight this issue. Included in your WIRE this month is a suggested format and wording for such an ad. It would cost between £250 and £450 depending upon the size, and our funds could not cover the whole cost. We are then asking you whether you feel that this would be a good way of getting our message across and, if so, whether you could make a contribution to the cost. Names of donors could be included in the ad. or not, depending upon what you request. Seeing names of local people on such an advertisement can be quite persuasive but we would naturally respect anonymity if requested.
We shall not cash any cheques until we can see whether we have enough money to fund the ad. If we do not then all cheques will be returned.
I t really is crucial to raise awareness of this issue. The Government does not want it talked about. In the recent Green Paper which reviews our defence priorities Trident has not even been mentioned. Its exclusion makes the review a nonsense. Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, has spoken of the real financial pressures facing future plans but clearly feels that spending £76 billion on Trident renewal is acceptable. At a time when the USA and Russia are reducing their nuclear arsenals and Britain is facing its worst ever financial crisis Trident must go.
ALDERMASTON BLOCKADED AGAIN
Aldermaston, Britain’s nuclear bomb factory was successfully blockaded again on February 15th this year. By 7am all gates were effectively blocked, preventing traffic and workers from entering.
More than 500 activists took part and the protest was entirely peaceful. I found myself at International Gate (aka Tadley Gate? aka Construction Gate? – I get confused) as it was near there that I could most easily park my car. International Gate appeared to be mainly made up of Welsh and Spanish blockaders. and, perhaps because the police, having cunningly checked the Aldermaston web site, knew that ‘foreign nationals’ were involved, there was, for several hours, no real attempt to break the blockade, in spite of the traffic queues building up.
(Police tend often not to want to arrest ‘foreign nationals’ at such events as there are often bail and language problems). When it appeared that the police were happy to leave that particular blockade in place, I moved on, but not before the arrival of some spiritual and bodily support in the form of a couple of Buddhist monks swiftly followed by a mobile soup kitchen.
I moved on to the Women’s Gate where there had been a concerted effort by the police to clear the blockade. Cutters had been brought in to separate a group of Spanish women who had locked on to one another and these were proceeding very slowly, anxious not to cause injury to them.
The whole process was taking a very long time as the women had claimed not to be able to speak English so all interaction had to be carried out through an interpreter. One such conversation which I overheard went like this:
Officer: Could you explain to your friend that she needs to turn her head a little as I am now going to cause a few sparks when I cut through the metal.
(Interpreter speaks quietly and at great length to blockader who then replies, also at great length.)
Interpreter: She is saying she is not caring about your sparks. She is more worried about what is going on in there (with a finger pointed at the base)
Next phase of the cutting free continues.
26 people were arrested in all by the end of the morning and the work of Aldermaston was once more disrupted. Such blockades are an essential, even enjoyable, part of the campaign against Trident renewal.
NUCLEAR POWER CANCERS AGAIN
While the government is pushing ahead with the ‘consultation’ and planning processes for Britain’s new generation of nuclear plants (including one at Bradwell in Essex) a recent powerful study has indicated potential serious health problems which should cause even the most ardent supporters of nuclear power to stop and think again.
In 2008, a major 4-year health study found large increases in infant cancers near all German nuclear power stations. The study had been confidently commissioned by the German Government to show that there were no such problems. The study (called KiKK – Kinderkrebs in der Umgebung von KernKraftwerken) reported a 2.2 fold increase in leukaemia risks among children under five living within 5km of all German nuclear power stations. KiKK found the cancer risks were firmly linked to proximity to nuclear power plants. Its report sparked off a major furore in Germany, but the study has been little reported on here. KiKK is significant because the radionuclide emissions from UK reactors (both existing and proposed)
are practically the same as those from German reactors.
Scientifically speaking, the KiKK study commands attention for a number of reasons. First is its large size and case control format: it examined all cancers at all 16 nuclear reactor locations in Germany between 1980 and 2003, including 1,592 under fives with cancer and 4,735 controls, with 593 under –fives with cancer and 4,735 controls. This means the study is very strong and its findings statistically significant.
Second is its authority: it was commissioned in 2003 by the German Government’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection after requests from German citizen groups. The study was carried out by epidemiology teams from the University of Mainz who, ironically, were in favour of nuclear power.
The findings were a shock for the German nuclear industry. KiKK’s findings are partly the reason why Germany is not building new reactors, with the result that German nuclear operators (EON and RWF) are now proposing them in the UK instead!
In the UK, the Chair of the government’s Committee on the Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) initially denied the KiKK findings, stating in a letter to nuclear site stakeholder groups that recent French and UK studies did not support the KiKK results. However, this letter had to be officially withdrawn following criticisms and in October 2009 the Department of Health instructed COMARE to look
into the KiKK study in detail. This report is expected in April.
In 2008 French scientists carried out a literature review of 26 multi-site studies of childhood cancer near nuclear facilities throughout the world. This followed a 1999 listing of 50 similar studies. In 2007 researchers in South Carolina carried out a large analysis of 136 sites in the UK, Canada, France, US, Germany, Japan and Spain. All of these have supported the KiKK results, finding increased incidences of child leukaemia and child cancer death rates close to nuclear facilities.
Our government is in denial over these results so we must await the outcome of the COMARE report with a certain amount of scepticism.
Dr Ian Fairlie
THE FUTURE OF ENERGY
Professor Andy Blowers OBE will be discussing what Britain’s energy options are if our supply is to be truly sustainable.
Mayoral Suite, Town Hall, High Street, Colchester 25th March 7.30 Tickets £5
Ring 01206 282206
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE NPT REVIEW CONFERENCE?
The next Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference is scheduled to take place from 3 – 28 May, just when the UK is going to be embroiled in the fall-out from a General Election. It is therefore unlikely that the New York conference will be at the top of any politician’s agenda.
This is regrettable but nonetheless we, the general public, must keep our eye on the ball to see what can be achieved in terms of nuclear disarmament. Unfortunately, even when important commitments are adopted at NPT conferences, as with the “13 Practical Steps on Disarmament” agreed in 2000, the treaty lacks the powers and the tools to ensure their implementation.
Stuck, as it is, in a Cold War mentality, the conference may, if it is successful, achieve some
incremental steps in reduction of arsenals but new thinking is required if we are going to turn non-proliferation into abolition .and this has to be driven by civil society. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and key NGOs are working on a two-phase strategy that engages with the NPT, and is trying to persuade as many governments as possible to incorporate the call for negotiations on a
nuclear weapons convention to be included in their position papers at the start of the conference.
If over 100 governments incorporated the call for negotiations on such a treaty into their statements, and if possible to make 2020 the target date for the conclusion of this treaty, it would be much harder to leave it out of the NPT documents. CND along with ICAN members and many other groups will be working alongside government delegations to try to achieve this goal. If the concept of a nuclear weapons convention were to be endorsed at the Conference that would be an important step, but there would still be much work to be done to get negotiations underway and this is where local activism will come in.
On 5th June, just after the Conference closes, there will be a worldwide day of action to get the message across that world nuclear disarmament is crucial to our survival. We shall publicise these in Brentwood CND.
Dr Rebecca Johnson,
ESSEX CHRISTIAN CND AGM
The AGM of Essex Christian CND will take place on Saturday, 17 April at the Quaker Meeting House, 49 Hutton Road, Shenfield 10 – 2pm. Bob Russell has offered to speak on ‘The Just War Tradition’, an often misunder- stood Church doctrine. Anyone who would just like to hear the talk and take part in the discussion is welcome to do so from 11am. There will follow a ‘ bring and share’ lunch. Contact Beryl – 01277 353450.
THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK
CND welcomed the decision, taken on 14th January, to move the nuclear ‘doomsday clock’ back from five to six minutes to midnight. The symbolic clock, charting the relative dangers of nuclear annihilation is controlled by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and has only been re-set 19 times since its inception in 1947.
The shift recognises the significant improvement, since the end of the Bush era, with both Presidents Obama and Medvedev committed to nuclear abolition.
As the third oldest nuclear state, if Britain were to cancel Trident replacement, the hands of the clock would doubtless move back further.
London’s famous bookshop, committed to peace and social justice has now gone on-line. With over 500,000 titles avai- lable, it is an ethical alternative to Amazon.
‘Support the shop that supports your campaigns’
All in CND mourn the loss of Michael Foot who died on Wednesday, 3rd March. Michael helped launch CND at its founding meeting on 17th February 1958and was always to be seen leading the Aldermaston marches and the rallies in Trafalgar Square. As leader of the Labour Party he continued to back nuclear disarmament in the 1980s, but the Social Democratic Party split from Labour and massively cut the Labour vote, leading to Labour’s defeat in 1983. He was a principled and passionate politician who believed fervently in social justice and the political life of our nation is the poorer with his passing.
We shall be holding 2 anti-Trident renewal stalls at the Becket Chapel ruins this month: 13th and 20th March 11-12.30. Why not pay us a visit – or even join us there. We would love to see – and you could pay your 2010 subs!
Subscriptions are now due for 2010, unless you are among the few who have paid already.
They are £6 (£3) for families and £3 (£1.50) for individuals. If you previously paid for 3 years your sub is also due: £15 (£7.50) for families or £7.50 (£3.75) for individuals. Send to Penny Wright, 9 Harold Gdns, Wickford. SS11 7EN
VISIT TO HIROSHIMA
CND members Beryl Lankester and her husband Roger will be attending the Hiroshima Day ceremony this year – in Hiroshima. Beryl is one of the main organisers of this annual Christian CND event in Essex and will be taking a candle on behalf of Brentwood CND to Hiroshima with her.
Saturday, March 13 11-12.30
Stall, Brentwood High Street
March 13. Edinburgh
March and rally against plans to spend billions on nuclear weapons. Speakers Alex Salmond, Kate Hudson
Saturday March 20 11-12.30
Stall Brentwood High Street
April 2-7 Dover-Southampton
Relay along the South Coast to carry a flame of hope for the abolition of nuclear weapons. This flame will join a flame from Hiroshima to go to New York for the NPT review conference in May.
16 – 17 April
Imperial War Museum
‘Peace history – visions and experiments.’ Organised by the Movement for the Abolition of War. Speakers include Christine Blowers (NUT) and Victoria Brittain
May 3-28 New York
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference.