British young people against nuclear weapons

This video from England is called Bruce Kent Addresses London ‘No Trident‘ Demonstration.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Post-cold war generation ‘more likely’ to oppose nuclear weapons

Tuesday 8th April 2014

Researchers find young people oppose scale of Trident programme and disagree with government claim that it is a nuclear ‘deterrent’

People who grew up after the end of the cold war are more likely to oppose nuclear weapons than their elders, researchers said yesterday.

Only 19 per cent of 18 to 35-year-olds think the Trident nuclear missile programme should be renewed at its current size and capacity compared to 33 per cent aged 36 and over.

And 47 per cent of the younger group directly disagree with government claims that nuclear weapons protect us from modern-day threats like terrorism.

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Algerian desert dust infected with French bomb radioactivity

This video is about a French nuclear weapons test in Algeria.

By David Lowry in Britain:

Is Saharan dust radioactive?

Friday 4th April 2014

As Britain is blanketed in a layer of desert sand, DAVID LOWRY asks whether it could be contaminated by fallout from French nuclear tests in Algeria more than 50 years ago

South-easterly winds have coated Britain in a toxic Saharan dust cloud.

Combined with domestic pollution, the sand has caused air quality to plummet and engulfed many parts of the country in smog-like conditions.

But one unreported aspect of the Saharan dust is that it could be radioactive.

French nuclear testing in Algeria, conducted during the height of the independence struggle, spread radioactive fallout across southern Europe in the early 1960s – and the radioactivity that settled on the desert could have been resuspended in this natural fallout event over Britain.

It’s recently been revealed that atmospheric spread of the radioactive fallout was much larger than the French army admitted at the time.

New reports by the France 24 TV station suggest that the fallout from the tests at Reggane in central Algeria stretched across all of west Africa, across the Mediterranean and up to southern Europe.

The information came to light following appeals from military veterans who say their current ill health is linked to exposure to dangerous levels of radiation.

France‘s first nuclear deviceGerboise Bleue” (Blue Jerboa) was more than three times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.

Thirteen days after it was detonated, in February 1960, radioactive particles ranged from the Central African Republic to Sicily and southern Spain.

At the time the French military authorities said the fallout from the explosion was limited to the desert and that radiation levels were “generally low.”

But associations representing military veterans of France’s nuclear tests in the 1960s and 1970s are demanding that the government admits it knew that the fallout from Saharan tests was dangerous.

“In the 1960s the norms governing acceptable levels of radiation were much less strict than they are now,” said Bruno Barillot, an expert in nuclear tests who is representing veterans’ groups.

“And the medical evidence we have now shows clearly that exposure to this radiation can set off serious illnesses more than three decades later,” he told Le Parisien.

Barillot added that the declassified documents showed that the army at the time was aware that even the 1960s safety levels were largely surpassed and that significant quantities of airborne radioactive particles, particularly iodine 131 and caesium 137, could have been inhaled by large numbers of people in north Africa.

He also complained that the government had been extremely selective in terms of what documents to release.

The Parisien article points out that “if it can be demonstrated that the fallout of the bomb tests spread dangerous levels radiation over large parts of north Africa, many more demands for compensation from individuals and from national governments could be in the pipeline.”

I found this suggestion interesting, as I had been involved in research on this issue over 20 years, when I did research for the now retired Labour MP Llew Smith.

In October 1993 he asked in a written question to the secretary of state for defence whether he would ask his French counterpart for information on the French atmospheric nuclear tests in Reganne, citing article 34 of the Euratom treaty.

This treaty says that member states intending to conduct dangerous experiments in any part of their territories require permission from the European Commission and are required to seek its advice on health and safety.

In reply the junior defence minister Jonathan Aitken answered: “Article 34 of the Euratom treaty does not apply to military activities.”

Just over two years later Labour MEP Alex Smith, for whom I also did research, asked the European Commission what technical information the French government had provided about the environmental and safety implications of nuclear tests in Algeria and which “independent external individuals or institutions” the commission had consulted.

He was told by was told by environment commissioner V Bjerregaard in 1996 that France had notified the commission in July 1959 that it intended to carry out a nuclear explosion in the Sahara desert and “the additional safety measures envisaged.”

The commission replied the following month and “gave a favourable opinion while proposing some modifications.”

Bjerregaard said: “These concerned the timing of the explosion with regard to meteorological conditions, the volume of radioactive dust generated in relation to the characteristics of the soil and the need to comply with the dose limits in … basic safety standards that were laid down by the Council on February 2 1959.”

France carried out the first explosion in February 1960.

Bjerregaard said that “subsequent tests were carried out taking similar safety measures.”

From 1960 to 1996, France carried out 210 nuclear tests, 17 in the Algerian Sahara and 193 in Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia.

Yet Bjerregaard admitted that “no further notifications to the commission in terms of Article 34 of the Euratom Treaty were received, neither at the start of nuclear testing at Mururoa in 1966 nor before underground testing [in the South Pacific] was resumed on September 5 1995.”

So clearly Euratom’s remit did apply to military nuclear activities, despite the MoD denial.

For more of David Lowry’s writing visit

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British nuclear weapons radiation leak scandal

This video is called Trident poisons Scotland – Nuclear leaksFaslane – a 2009 clip.

By Rory MacKinnon in Britain:

Trident leak sees radiation levels soar to new high

Monday 10th March 2014

Trident‘s leaking nuclear reactor saw radiation levels in the area soar to more than 10 times the regular rate, furious campaigners revealed yesterday.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond stoked anger north of the border last week when he notified MPs of the nuclear weapons programme’s malfunctioning reactor – more than two years after engineers first discovered radiation spilling out into the reactor’s coolant in January of 2012.

The Tory warmonger had assured MPs in the House of Commons that there had been “no measurable change in the radiation discharge.

“This water is contained within the sealed reactor circuit and I can reassure the house there has been no detectable radiation leak from that sealed circuit,” he said.

But records held by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency revealed that the programme’s release of radioactive gases over that period increased in intensity by more than 1,000 per cent, from 0.19 gigabecquerels of radiation in 2011 to 2.16 Gbq in 2012.

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said the minister had “very serious questions to answer,” with the affair demonstrating “arrogant disregard” for safety regulators and the public.

“He categorically stated that no radioactivity was released to the environment, we now know that this is definitely not true.

“It is hard to see how anyone can take assurances about nuclear safety from the MoD seriously when it clearly thinks it is fine to just keep quiet about the embarrassing bits,” he said.

Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament co-ordinator John Ainslie said: “The only safe way forward is for all nuclear submarines and nuclear weapons to be removed from Scotland.”

A ministry spokeswoman did not dispute the spike in radiation levels but told reporters the figures represented “a planned and deliberate gaseous discharge.”

The ageing fleet docked in Scotland’s Faslane naval base is due for a £65 billion replacement scheme by 2016 to remain functional. But anti-war and anti-austerity movements have pressed Westminster to abandon the project, while the Scottish National Party has vowed to eject the fleet in the case of a vote for independence in September’s referendum.

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Abolish British Trident nuclear weapons

This video from England is called April 1, 2013: CND demo against Trident renewal outside Aldermaston AWE perimeter fence.

By Alan Mackinnon in Scotland:

Prospects for nuclear disarmament in Britain

Monday 20th january 2014

ALAN MACKINNON argues that the campaign to reject Trident needs to keep up the pressure both north and south of the border in 2014

LAST month a report from the House of Commons defence select committee highlighted the stark choices facing British defence and foreign policy.

The report noted the growing lack of public support for the expeditionary role of Britain’s armed forces in the form of “general public opposition to the war in Iraq, and questionable support among the electorate for current operations in Afghanistan.”

It was a recognition that the lessons of the disastrous wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and, more particularly, the perceived failures of British military operations in Basra and Helmand provinces, had been learned.

It was that power of public opinion, built and consolidated over years of anti-war campaigning, that ultimately stopped military intervention in Syria and triggered a U-turn in US policy in the region.

In a reference to the declining size and capability of Britain’s armed forces, the same report introduces the concept of loss of “fighting power” and laments the “strategic shrinkage” which this represents.

Former US defence secretary Robert Gates, who served in the George W Bush and Obama administrations, also regretted the loss of Britain’s “full-spectrum” capability and argued that it would be a less effective ally in future US-led conflicts.

According to Max Hastings in the Telegraph last year, the British army, currently being downsized to 82,000, will soon “be capable of deploying only a single battlegroup of 7,000-8,000 men for sustained operations overseas.”

In a look ahead to the next Defence and Strategic Review, the defence committee report notes the US strategic “pivot” to Asia — the shift of 60 per cent of US global military forces to the Asia-Pacific region as part of a policy of encirclement and containment of China.

The report anticipates that Europe will be expected to “take on greater responsibility for its own security” without specifying what or who threatens that security.

All of this means choices. Britain can no longer maintain “full-spectrum” armed forces capable of operating anywhere in the world in support of the United States.

There is little public support for such a role and we can no longer afford it.

According to Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute, by the end of this decade spending on Trident will swallow around 35 per cent of defence equipment spending for a period of 10 years or more, squeezing out other big-ticket items like new aircraft, new warships and protective equipment for soldiers.

Small wonder, then, that a defence traditionalist like James Arbuthnot, former Tory defence minister and chair of the House of Commons defence committee, has added his voice to the growing number of senior political figures and armed forces personnel who are sceptical about the “value” and affordability of Britain’s nuclear weapons programme.

In a recent interview with the Guardian newspaper he said that he was no longer convinced it was appropriate to replace Trident. In a comment meant to scuttle one of the key pro-Trident arguments, he argued: “It’s not an insurance policy, it’s a potential booby trap.”

But the choice is not just between nuclear and conventional weapons.

It is between weapons which project power and fear across the world — like nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers — and can fight wars thousands of miles away, and much simpler and cheaper ones which can defend Britain’s land and territorial waters.

It is, in other words, a choice between offence and defence.

And there is no weapon more offensive than Trident. Twenty-fourteen will be a crucial year for the anti-Trident campaign.

It is the year of Scotland’s referendum on independence.

A Yes vote would provide new opportunities to scrap the system, but no guarantee that a Scottish government would withstand the overwhelming pressure to reach some kind of leasing deal for the short to medium term.

The SNP determination to join Nato would be a complicating factor. Nor does a Yes vote look likely as opinion polls stand.

All the more reason, then, to keep all options open and to keep the focus on the Westminster government where the ultimate decision on Trident will be made.

The following year will see a UK-wide general election and the year after that, 2016, is when the “main gate” decision on Trident will be made.

Changing Labour Party policy in an election year will be very difficult, so it will be in 2014 that the groundwork must be done.

And there is growing support for that within the ranks of Labour and signs that Labour’s leaders may be beginning to lose their 30-year-old fear of being seen as soft on defence.

A Labour campaign which proposed scrapping Trident and spending the money on jobs, services and renewable energy could be a big vote winner. In Scotland, and across Britain, there is much to play for.

Alan Mackinnon is secretary of Scottish CND.

Lib Dem plans for cutting the costs of Britain’s nuclear weapons programme have found favour among the military top brass: here.

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