Bruce Kent to visit Brentwood
During the month of April, following on from the major CND demonstration at Aldermaston on Easter Monday (April 1 – see inside pages) Bruce Kent will be making a whistle-stop tour of the UK to bring home the message that Britain should not be spending billions to replace Trident. On Friday, 26th April he will be in Brentwood and has put himself at our disposal for the day and evening. There are no details at the moment but do keep the date clear in your diaries if you can. Bruce has offered to leaflet in the High Street with us, speak at a school debate, address a public meeting etc. and we shall try to make as much use of his visit as we can. If you have further ideas, or suggestions of suitable venues do please contact Jill – 01277 216712 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce is a high profile figure and his arguments that the UK should not be spending billions on a new nuclear weapons system, when the deep cuts in public spending are hitting people so hard is a powerful one. As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the UK has a moral and legal obligation to begin the process of disarmament.
The Conservative Party has forced through expenditure on nuclear weapons development (including the upgrading of facilities at Aldermaston) as if the decision to renew Trident had already been taken. This is, however, not the case, as Danny Alexander made clear in a statement on 22 January. Danny Alexander is the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury who is in charge of the cabinet-office led Trident Alternatives Review and in an interview to the Guardian he made clear that he is seriously considering alternatives to continuous at-sea deterrence.
“Given all the financial pressures across the whole public sector…the idea that somehow, out of thin air, we can carve a multimillion pocket to pay for this, is not financially realistic” he said. He said that no new cash can be found to help the MoD to pay for it.
The forthcoming review is likely to set out seven or eight alternatives to replacing Trident. No action will be taken on the review until after the next general election, when conceivably, the LibDems could be in coalition with a Labour Government. Influencing views within the Labour Party could be crucial.
Influencing public opinion is what Bruce’s tour is about. Please help us to fund it by making sure your subs are up to date and paying your 2013 subs promptly (see back page for new rates).
New Nuclear Power Stations
With all the twists and turns in Government policy on nuclear power over the past few years it is easy to be confused about the state of play in the UK with regard to when, where and by whom new nuclear power stations, are going to be built.
In 2008 the then Labour government gave the go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear power stations and identified 10 sites, later reduced the 8. In the same year EDF, the French owned company, bought up all of the UK’s current nuclear power stations, which included 5 sites identified for new build – Bradwell, Hartlepool, Heysham, Hinkley Point and Sizewell. In 2009, a British company Centrica bought a 20% stake in the UK holdings of EDF, including the new build sites. Two more of the eight identified sites, Wylfa (on Anglesey) and Oldbury (in Gloucestershire) were bought by Horizon Nuclear Power, a company formed by two German companies, EON and RWE. The remaining site at Sellafield was bought by a conglomerate of Spanish, French and UK interests called NuGen. So far, so good – as far as the Government was concerned.
However, since those heady days, no work has been started on any site. EDF has only announced plans for two of its five sites, Hinkley Point and Sizewell, where they announced their intention of building European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) – to be completed by 2017, but the process has been delayed by the need to re-examine the design in the light of the Fukushima disaster. Late in 2012 a licence was finally granted to build on the Hinkley site, but EDF and Centrica now seem unwilling to press ahead. Centrica is almost certain to withdraw and EDF has delayed its decision until later in 2013. During this time it has been in talks with energy companies from China. EDF has probably got cold feet since the projected costs for Hinkley spiralled from £4.5bn to £7bn and cost inflation on its build in France and Finland has sent its debt level to £30bn. Additionally, it has a very bad record in terms of delivering to time. Its reactor in Flamanville in France was due for completion in 2012 and is now not likely before 2016: its reactor in Finland, originally due for completion in 2009, will now not be completed until 2014 at the earliest. NO EPR STATION IS YET IN OPERATION ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.
In fact, EDF is showing more interest in extending the lives of functioning nuclear power stations than in building new ones. It has recently announced plans to extend the lives of Hinkley B and Hunterston to 2033.
As for the remaining three new builds, EON and RWE are no longer interested in building at either Wylfa or Oldbury and have put their company Horizon up for sale. This decision has no doubt come in the wake of the German Government deciding to abandon nuclear
energy thus leaving their nuclear industry with a need to diversify. Horizon has been bought by Hitachi of Japan who have plans to build an “Advanced Boiling Water Reactor”, but this will have to go through a lengthy UK design assessment process.
This leaves Sellafield, where the UK part of the conglomerate has pulled out, citing lack of nuclear expertise (!) and there are signs that the French and Spanish parts also want to sell their holdings. The whole programme is in a mess – meanwhile, the government still cannot find storage space for the nuclear waste already accumulated!
Recently in the news we heard that Cumbrian County Council had turned down an application to have a nuclear waste site in its area. In many ways this is good news as it shows that, even with generous financial incentives, people are not prepared to put their lives and, more importantly, the lives of future generations at risk, and it throws into more doubt government plans to build even more nuclear reactors (see previous article). However, it does not provide any solution for dealing with the waste which has already accumulated from the UK’s nuclear power programme. Sellafield is closed and so all used fuel rods (and those from any future build), will have to be stored in cooling ponds on site. In the tsunami disaster in Fukushima all the radiation which was released came from the used fuel rods stored there. They were in cooling tanks next to the white hot reactors and as the water level dropped the rods heated up and caught fire. The reason why the 50 men who risked their future health and their lives stayed on at Fukushima to try to limit the disaster have not been honoured is probably because, to do so, would draw attention to the reason and the blame for the disaster.
“But we don’t have tsunamis here” we are told, but already there has been a serious cooling pond leak at Sizewell which was hushed up by the industry. The nuclear industry, be it weapons or power, thrives on secrecy.
VICTORY FOR CAAT
For 6 years the Italian weapons manufacturer Finnmecanica has been a National Gallery “corporate benefactor” which involved it paying £30,000 last year in return for the Gallery hosting two receptions. No more! A successful public awareness campaign by the Campaign against the Arms Trade involving protest outside the Gallery and petitions have resulted in the Gallery terminating the contract a year before it was due to come up for renewal and weeks before the next planned protest. Next on the list – Covent Garden and the Natural History Museum who also dabble in such dubious fundraising.
EASTER DEMONSTRATION AT ALDERMASTON
A national demonstration has been called by CND for Easter Monday, April 1st using the slogan: Time to Scrap Trident: Stop Fooling around with Nuclear Weapons. There is nothing new about the message, of course and nothing new about the location. Aldermaston has been the hub of our protests ever since Britain embarked upon its nuclear weapons programme and has, quite legitimately been the main target of our campaign since CND was formed. This time it is specifically the millions of pounds being spent on development there which are being targeted, in advance of any formal decision to replace Trident. The demonstration will begin at 12 noon – bring pots, pans, banners, poems to decorate the fence and to make a loud noise. More details later of any transport arrangements.
The Nuts and Bolts of Nuclear Disarmament
We quite rightly talk a lot about disarmament within the peace movement, but how many of us really understand how it would work and how long it would take? CND has produced a briefing of the eight steps which would need to be followed for disarmament to be carried out safely and for it to be internationally verified. Political considerations would also have to be taken into account, as it is unlikely that any British Government would follow through all eight steps without some reciprocal steps being taken by other nuclear powers.
Present situation: Trident consists of four Royal Navy nuclear submarines. There is always one undergoing refit at Devonport. The remaining three are normally armed with Trident missiles and nuclear warheads. One of these is always deployed on patrol.
Phase One of disarmament: End the practice of continuous patrol and stop all operational deployment.
Phase Two: Remove keys and triggers. To launch a Trident missile the Captain turns a key and the Weapons Engineering Officer presses a trigger. The key and trigger are kept in separate safes on the
submarine. These need to be removed from the three submarines at Faslane. This is verifiable through inspection.
Phase Three: De-activate missiles. If the guidance system and the flight control system are removed from each missile then the missile can no longer be deliberately launched at any target. Each submarine carries 8 missiles. It would take about a day to de-activate each submarine’s missiles and the parts could be kept under seal. Storage areas could be constantly monitored.
Phase Four: Remove nuclear warheads from the submarines. This already happens regularly at Coulport before a submarine goes in for re-fit, so the highly skilled expertise required is already there. The removal of all 40 warheads from one submarine would take 7 – 10 days. Inspection of the process and monitoring of the storage facility is straightforward.
Phase Five: Remove missiles from the submarines.
Small difficulty here is that Coulport currently only has
storage for 16 missiles and this phase would require storage for 8 more. These would probably have to stay on a submarine, where the monitoring is more difficult.
Phase Six: Disable the nuclear warheads and remove Limited Life Components (LLCs). These items are routinely replaced at Coulport and the removal of them disables the warheads. In addition to the 120 warheads on the submarines there are about 100 ‘spares’ at Coulport. These would similarly need to be disabled. The LLCs from the warheads are easier to dismantle and transport than the warheads themselves.
Phase Seven: Remove nuclear warheads from the Clyde. The physical removal of warheads from Scotland would be a clear and significant step. Prior to dismantling at Burghfield they would probably have to be stored at RAF Honington, which is the home base for the MoD’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Wing. At present nuclear weapons are routinely moved between Coulport and Aldermaston/Burghfield for ‘servicing’ and the convoy operation, which normally carries 8 warheads at a time, would need to be stepped up to transport the additional numbers.
Phase Eight: Dismantle all nuclear warheads
This can only be done at Burghfield. The present facilities would enable dismantling at the rate of about 50-60 warheads a year, so the process would take about 4 years. Work would need to be done to ensure that the resulting plutonium could not be reconstituted into a nuclear weapon.
Verification: Britain and Norway have carried out work between 2007 and 2011 exploring how a non-nuclear weapons state can verify the dismantling of nuclear weapons. Work is quite advanced in this area.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS FREE MIDDLE EAST
In the last WIRE there was a report on CND’s International Conference to raise awareness of the plans for a Helsinki Confer- ence aimed at achieving a nuclear weapons free Middle East. This was due by the end of the year, but 2012 has come and gone and nothing has happened. There have been no official communiqués and silence has reigned in the press. The conclusion has to be that the USA needs to shore up its ally Israel and Israel was the only Middle Eastern State not to signify its willingness to take part. Meanwhile attention is turned again on Iran, which is portrayed as the region’s nuclear threat. In the Obama-Romney foreign policy debate Iran was mentioned 47 times, far more than any other country. No mention is ever made of the fact that Iran has undergone thousands of hours of nuclear inspection, which Israel has not, is a signatory to the NPT treaty which Israel is not and was a major backer of the Helsinki conference. Israel has also assassinated several of Iran’s nuclear scientists. In September 2012 Tehran hosted a Non-Aligned Movement Conference, attended by 120 world leaders including China, Venezuela, Brazil, Egypt, India and the UN Secretary Ban-Ki Moon. This was barely reported, nor was there any mention of President Ahmadinejad’s call for a nuclear weapons free Middle East.
The Middle East is an extremely volatile region and there is growing concern that Iran and some of the Arab nations will withdraw from the NPT if nothing is done to regulate Israel. This would be a disaster, not least of all for the West. We can only hope that Israel can be brought to the negotiating table.
WHITE POPPIES IN WALES
Newport made history on Remembrance Day when a white poppy wreath was laid alongside red poppy wreaths on the invit-tation of the local British Legion branch, after being approached by Wales Green Party leader, Pippa Bartolotti. In Aberystwyth, the town council laid a white poppy wreath for the ninth year running and the town of Narberth held a remembrance service for all victims of war, laying a white and red poppy wreath. And in Brentwood? Now there’s a challenge!
COMPANIES PROFITTING FROM TRIDENT RENEWAL
Replacing Britain’s Trident submarines is a windfall for certain UK companies and also for some in the US.
BAE Systems (UK) will be contracted to design the subs and build them at Barrow.
Rolls-Royce (UK) will also have a hand in the design as well as manufacturing the nuclear reactors for them.
Babcock Marine (UK) is contracted to run the Clyde Naval Base and the refit base at Devonport.
Serco (UK) is part of Aldermaston Weapons Management Ltd (AWEML).
Lockheed Martin (US) is part of AWEML, designs and manufactures ballistic missiles, designs and constructs non-nuclear components and man-ages the Coulport weapons store.
Jacobs Engineering (US) is part of AWEML
General Dynamics Electric Boat (US) will design the Common Missile Compartment.
General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems (US) designs the fire control system on the sub for the missile.
None of these companies will want us to abandon nuclear deterrence in the near future.
2013 subs are now due and funds are getting a little low. We are having to raise our subs, therefore, and would like to plead with you to pay last year’s as well if you forgot (a slip inside WIRE will tell you if this is the case).
The visit from Bruce Kent will involve us in additional expense so we need a healthier bank balance.
Subscription rates for 2013:
Individuals £4 (£2 concessions)
Families/couples £8 (£4 conc)
Please send your cheques to:
Penny Wright, 9 Harold Gardens,
Wickford, SS11 7EN payable to Brentwood CND.
Saturday, Feb 9 11am – 5pm
Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London.
Ten years after the Iraq invasion: Confronting War Today. Interna- tional conference. Speakers include Tony Benn, George Galloway, Kate Hudson, Lindsay German.
Ash Wednesday 13 Feb
Christian CND and other Christian groups will hold a witness of Repentance and Resistance to nuclear war preparations. Info: 020 8203 4884
Monday 18 Feb 6.45pm
The Gallery, 70/77 Cowcross St EC1
Chances for peace in the Second Decade. Prof Paul Rogers Org. Friends of Le Monde Diplomatique
Saturday 9th March 12 noon
Hyde Park Corner
Demonstration to mark 2nd anniversary of Fukushima disaster.
Monday 1 April
CND demonstration Aldermaston
Friday 26 April
Bruce Kent visit to Brentwood.
Every Friday 11.00 – 12.50
Demonstration outside Japanese Embassy 101 Piccadilly.