The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) today welcomes the publication of a major new report by Med-act that focuses on the UK’s harmful reliance and dependence on maintaining nuclear weapons at a time when the large majority of UN members have formally called for a ban on such weapons.
Med-act is a public health charity that inspires the medical community to act on the social, political, ecological and economic determinants of health. Like NFLA, it is a supporting member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
The Med-act report (1), ‘A Safer World – Treating Britain’s harmful dependence on nuclear weapons’, calls to account the UK Government for its aggressive nuclear weapons policies and the continued funding of the Trident nuclear weapons programme.
Key points from the report include:
• A new international treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, agreed by 122 countries on the 7 July 2017, re-opens questions about Britain’s continued possession of nuclear weapons.
• Despite claiming to want a world without nuclear weapons, by boycotting the treaty negotiations, the UK is sidestepping global efforts to achieve genuine multilateral nuclear disarmament.
• The UK has 120 ready-to-fire nuclear warheads in deployment; with a further 95 in reserve, but the credibility of these weapons for deterrence is crumbling.
• Britain has an opportunity to demonstrate its diplomatic prowess and soft power to take a lead on multilateral disarmament and make the world safer – but only if the government is prepared to abandon its reliance on an increasingly redundant and dangerous approach to national security.
The UK Defence Secretary is on record that official government policy is to support multilateral nuclear disarmament and a world without nuclear weapons. Yet, the United Kingdom, alongside other nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent states, completely boycotted the UN negotiations that led to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. The Government claim it is a ‘side show’ from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty talks – which have largely been in stalemate over the past decade and more – and have issued a recent statement in Parliament that the UK will never agree to, or sign up to, the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty .
NFLA share the concerns of the Med-act report that the dangers attached to the policy of nuclear deterrence, used by Nuclear Weapon States like the UK, have grown. This ‘high-risk gamble’ which sees the ongoing deployment of thousands of active nuclear warheads could result in political, environmental and humanitarian disaster. NFLA calls on the UK Government and the leaders of all political parties in the Westminster Parliament to fully engage with the majority will of UN members and reconsider the policy of ‘nuclear deterrence’ in a highly unstable world.
This comes at a time when the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) has just advised the UK Government that its highly expensive plans to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system and build a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines could be “in doubt” or is even “unachievable”. Their report has also sharply criticised the running of three major Ministry of Defence nuclear weapon projects for being poorly managed, over-budget and beset by technical problems. (2)
The IPA report notes that a £1.7bn project to build new submarine reactor manufacturing plants for Trident submarines at Rolls Royce in Derby is given the worst rating of ‘red’ for 2017. “Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable,” said the IPA. It goes on to note: “There are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not app ear to be manageable or resolvable. The project may need re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed.” The IPA also note that the reactor plants are £250 million over budget and need “re-baselining” to meet target dates.
Furthermore, the £31.6bn project to build four new nuclear-armed Dreadnought submarines to replace Trident and a £9.9bn programme to build seven new conventionally-armed nuclear-powered Astute-class submarines were rated as “amber/red” for the third year running. According to the IPA an amber/red rating suggests the schemes “may not be viable”.
CND have already calculated the full costs of Trident replacement could be as high as £205 billion. (3) Whilst NFLA fundamentally wish to see the Trident replacement scheme scrapped, and nuclear deterrence ditched as a flawed defence policy, it is highly alarmed by these huge cost over-runs which suggest all the work being done to replace the nuclear weapons programme may not even be delivered. In such a sorry state, it has to be time for the UK to completely reconsider the nuclear weapons programme.
NFLA Steering Committee Vice-Chair Councillor David Blackburn said:
“I welcome the Med-act report which forensically explains why it is time for the UK and other nuclear weapon states to rethink its nuclear weapons programme and properly engage with multilateral nuclear disarmament. Deterrence is an outdated policy left over from the Cold War. The world has moved on and the threats to this country are multifarious an d complicated, but will not be resolved through the possession of nuclear weapons. Given that it is looking increasingly likely that the components of Trident replacement may not even be delivered without huge increases in budget, it is time for ministers and politicians of all shades to start a new debate on nuclear weapons and come to terms with the modern world we live in. It is time for a courageous new policy, and it needs to happen now.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Med-act, A Safer World – Treating Britain’s harmful dependence on nuclear weapons, 25th July 2017 https://www.medact.org/2017/resources/reports/a-safer-world-treating-britains-harmful-dependence-on-nuclear-weapons
(2) Sunday Herald, Plans to replace Trident slammed as ‘unachievable’ by Westminster watchdog, 23rd July 2017 http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/1542760.Plans_to_replace_Trident-slammed-as__unachievable__by_Westminster_watchdog/ (3) CND UK, Will the cost of Trident soar above £20 5 billion? 24th July 2017 http://www.cnduk.org/cnd-media/item/3494-will-the-cost-of-trident-soar-above-£205_billion?