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British Nuclear Weapons & Non-Proliferation News

Autumn/Winter 2009-2010

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British News

Welcome to the Autumn/Winter 2009-2010 edition of the Acronym Institute’s British Nuclear Weapons  & Non-Proliferation News, comprising a digest of news on UK nuclear weapons policy issues as well as wider disarmament developments and research. This edition has been compiled by Kat Barton and Henrietta Wilson. 

Question-marks over Trident’s Future

Representatives of the two largest political parties – Labour and Conservative – made statements reflecting that question marks still remain over Trident’s future.  General Sir Richard Dannatt – ex army chief and now defence advisor to the Conservative Party – suggested in a radio interview that Trident may not need replacing and Field Marshal the Lord Edwin Bramhall – a former Chief of the British Defence staff - said that the decision on whether or not to replace Trident should be delayed for as long as possible. These followed a report in The Times on 22 September 2009 quoting Baroness Shirley Williams – Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s advisor on nuclear proliferation – as saying that the government might ‘delay a decision’ on Trident replacement for two years. In a subsequent Times article on 16 December 2009, former deputy leader of the Labour Party Lord Hattersley argued that Trident is ‘irrelevant’ in solving today’s security challenges.  The Telegraph reported on 14 January 2010 that the Conservatives might delay an intended replacement by five years, in an effort to save money.  However, following criticism of the government’s plans not to include Trident in any Strategic Defence Review, the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary both affirmed their commitment to replacing Trident. The Defence Green Paper – published in February 2010 – contained little analysis of nuclear policy but assumed that plans to replace Trident would go ahead.

The North West Evening Mail (a local paper for Barrow-in-Furness where any new submarines would be built) ran several stories on the implications to the shipyards of the decision about Trident replacement.  On 19 January 2010, the paper  suggested that Trident would certainly be replaced at some time although there is cross-party support for delaying the replacement.  The article also noted that such a delay would have serious implications for the shipyards.  A day later, the same paper ran a story outlining disputes between Labour and the Conservatives on the issue of protecting workers at the shipyards.  In a later article [23 January 2010] covering a visit by the Business Secretary Lord Peter Mandelson to the Barrow shipyards, the paper reported that he had pledged Labour support for the shipyards and renewing Trident.

Several articles focussed on a new Greenpeace report which calculated the lifetime cost of Trident replacement to be £97 bn.  Meanwhile, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) annual conference generated debate about how a future independent Scotland might manage a defence relationship with England.  Many highlighted the desirability of having a nuclear-free Scotland [link to SNP Party Conference – Trident and Scottish Independence] Concerns over nuclear weapons were also reflected at the parliamentary level with the October launch of a “Top Level” cross-party group of former senior Ministers with the aim of encouraging UK leadership in promoting global nuclear disarmament. 

Suggesting that such moves by the political parties are in keeping with the electorate’s wishes, an opinion poll in September 2009 found that two thirds of UK voters are against replacing Trident.  Several letters to newspapers emphasise wider support for abolishing the UK’s nuclear weapons and in January 2010, leaders from the major Scottish churches spoke out against Trident renewal.

Gordon Brown Announces a Possible Reduction in the Number of Trident Submarines

Speaking at the UN General Assembly and in a Special Session of the UN Security Council on 23 and 24 September 2009, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that his government was considering cutting the number of Trident submarines it has been intending to replace if other countries make moves towards nuclear disarmament.  The announcement received considerable newspaper coverage

Gordon Brown’s September announcement generated a number of press critique, with some welcoming the announcement, and many pointing out that while trying to support global nuclear disarmament, it did not itself signify an actual disarmament measure. 

Several of these articles reported that the national security cabinet committee would look into the feasibility of reducing the submarines, and may also consider reducing the number of warheads.  Some suggested that the announcement was not universally welcomed in the Ministry of Defence.  In November 2009, the Times published comments by the head of the Royal Navy Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope saying that it would not be possible to guarantee deterrence with only three Trident submarines.

Blockade of Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment

On 15 February 2010, campaigners blockaded the Aldermaston site of the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), with the aim of preventing the building of new facilities that would be used to update the UK’s nuclear weapons.  The blockade was initiated by Trident Ploughshares and supported by groups including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign).  It was reported that 26 people were arrested during the blockade which was attended by several hundred people including a number of Bishops and two Nobel Peace Prize winners – Jody Williams and Máiread Corrigan-Maguire. Jody Williams – who won the peace prize in recognition of her efforts to bring about the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty – wrote of the similarities between the campaign to ban landmines and the campaign to rid the world of nuclear weapons in a Morning Star article entitled ‘Banning nuclear weapons is easier than you think’.

UK Nuclear Weapons Infrastructure and Safety

Several articles reported on safety and logistical aspects of the UK’s nuclear weapons programme.  Two articles looked at the links between the UK programme and the USA, two more discussed the safety rules, and one detailed the handing back of a previous nuclear test site to the indigenous Australians who had been displaced from a number of their ancestral areas in the 1950s as part of the UK nuclear testing programme.  Scottish Sunday Herald journalist Rob Edwards revealed that the government has drawn up a ‘provisional list of sites’ for dismantling nuclear-powered submarines and storing their radioactive waste; the article also named the 12 shortlisted sites, five of which are in Scotland.  The British Pugwash Group published a detailed report exploring the options available to the UK for dealing with its separated plutonium.

Some planning documents – and accompanying objections – were released for the proposed Pegasus uranium handling facility at AWE Aldermaston.  These included the Environmental Appraisal Non-Technical Summary, Environmental Appraisal – Transport, and Environmental Appraisal – Ecology, and contained more information about the application.  The Nuclear Awareness Group published its analysis of the published information on the proposed changes on 7 January 2010.  On 10 February, the BBC reported that local councillors had approved the planning application.

Wider Discussions on Disarmament

A number of articles also argued that the UK could and should take further steps towards reducing the role of the UK’s nuclear weapons and moving towards disarming the arsenal.  Reflecting the wider interest that the abolition of nuclear weapons is now attracting, there were a number of letters in the papers, and debates broadcast.

Chilcot Inquiry on Iraq War

On 24 November 2009, a government-mandated Inquiry into the Iraq War (also known as the Chilcot Inquiry after its Chair, Sir John Chilcot) began hearing evidence from a range of government and military officials and experts.  The Chilcot Inquiry came after two related reviews: 1. the Hutton Inquiry (1 August 2003-28 January 2004) was established “urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly” – the Ministry of Defence biological weapons expert and UNSCOM inspector found dead after he had been named as the source for several BBC news stories; and 2. the Butler review (5 February 2004-14 July 2004), which was set up to investigate the use of intelligence on weapons of mass destruction inter alia in the run up to the March 2003 invasion of  Iraq (Sir John Chilcot was one of the five-member committee on the Butler inquiry).  Following these, the Chilcot Inquiry was tasked with looking at the role of the UK in Iraq from mid 2001-July 2009. Central to the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry is consideration of what was known about the Iraqi WMD capabilities, how intelligence was used and presented in making the decision to go to war, and the legality of the US-UK invasion which was undertaken in March 2003 without explicit UN Security Council authorization.


A former CND Treasurer and British Peer Baroness Catherine Ashton was appointed High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (“EU Foreign Minister”) During hearings following her appointment, Baroness Ashton spoke positively of her time as Treasurer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the late 1970s and early 1980s but said that she had left the organisation more than 25 years ago.

Remembering friends

Gill Reeve, former Director of Medact and a lifelong campaigner for nuclear disarmament, lost her battle with cancer in December 2009, aged 68.  In that month too, the UK anti-nuclear movement lost another ardent campaigner when Kay Carmichael, a former Labour policy adviser, died.

Index of Articles

  1. Trident Renewal: Developments and Concerns
    1.1 Letters on Trident Replacement / Reductions
    1.2 Gordon Brown Announces a Possible Reduction in the Number of Trident Submarines
    1.3 Reactions to Brown’s Announcement
    1.4 Blockade of Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment
  1. UK Nuclear Weapons Infrastructure and Safety Issues
    2.1 Planning Applications
  1. Launch of New “Top Level” Cross-Party Group
  1. SNP Party Conference – Trident and Scottish Independence
  1. Calls for the UK to take Further Disarmament Steps
  1. Chilcot Inquiry on the Iraq War
  1. People
    7.1 Baroness Catherine Ashton appointed first EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
    7.2 Remembering friends

An archive of press coverage is available on our website at: We welcome your comments and feedback. Please send your comments to

1. Trident Renewal: Developments and Concerns

Scrap Trident and free up resources for real priorities, says CND
Keith Richmond, blog, 11 February 2010
CND chair Kate Hudson said: “The exclusion of Trident, one of the most costly defence programmes, makes this defence review a nonsense. Bob Ainsworth talked of the ‘real financial pressure’ facing future plans, yet he is living in a fantasy world if he thinks spending £76 billion on a Trident replacement won’t have major opportunity costs – in defence and in other areas. Excluding the ruinously expensive Trident programme is like avoiding the huge white elephant in the room.”

Armed forces are 'overstretched' says Commons defence committee
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 9 February 2010
Meanwhile the defence secretary, Bob Ainsworth, told the committee that the plan to renew the Trident nuclear missile project would be excluded from the strategic defence review due to be set up after the general election.

Scotland and the Royal Navy win fight for defence cash
David Maddox, The Scotsman, 04 February 2010
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth announced that new aircraft carriers and the replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent – both of which are tied to thousands of Scottish jobs – would not be vulnerable in any major strategic review.

PM Gordon Brown stands by pledge on Trident submarines
North West Evening Mail, 4 February 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has stood by his party’s pledge to replace the Trident nuclear defence system.

MP calls for Trident to be scrapped
North West Evening Mail, 4 February 2010
Independent MP for Blaenau Gwent, Dai Davies, said replacement plans should be immediately dropped and taxpayers’ money should be redirected to “socially useful investments”, including more cash for local authorities, and the Haiti disaster fund.

Green paper reveals defence plans for future conflicts: Report refers to making ‘hard choices’ and stresses need for co-operation with US and other countries
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 3 February 2010
The green paper mentions just one weapon system – the Trident nuclear missile submarine fleet, which this government and the Tory leadership have pledged to renew.

Defence review: Main findings: MoD says Britain needs more agile forces to address new conflict style, better procurement – and reiterates importance of US special relationship
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 3 February 2010

Analysis of the defence green paper.  “On Trident, the government argues that renewing Trident is the easiest, if not the cheapest, nuclear weapons option to pursue. Defence chiefs say that the issue is a purely "political" one. An alternative gaining ground in defence circles is a cheaper option, perhaps placing nuclear warheads on cruise missiles.”

UK armed forces 'need coalitions' for future conflicts, 3 February 2010
Defence spokesman Nick Harvey said: "Surely the manner, the scale and the timing of any replacement of the Trident deterrent has profound opportunity cost implications for the entirety of the rest of the defence budget," he said.

Carriers versus tanks: Royal Navy joins battle for resources
Michael Evans, The Times, 2 February 2010
The commitment to spend £20billion on a replacement for Britain’s Trident nuclear submarines risks damaging the Royal Navy as it faces possible cutbacks in its manpower and fleet, defence experts have told The Times.

Scottish Churches Unite Against Nuclear Weapons
Jenna Lyle, The Christian Post, 28 January 2010
Scottish church leaders have intensified pressure on the Government to abandon plans to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system. The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Bill Hewitt, joined the Scottish Clergy against Nuclear Armaments pressure group at Holyrood Tuesday to launch a new campaign placing Trident and nuclear weapons at the heart of the general election campaign.

Mandy pledges backing to new fleet of Tridents
North West Evening Mail, 23 January 2010
One of the country’s most powerful politicians last night pledged his party’s commitment to the new fleet of Trident submarines. Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said he fully realised the importance of the issue after paying his first visit to the Barrow shipyard.

UK must not rush to replace nuclear deterrent, ex-official says
Global Security Newswire/Press Association, 22 January 2010
The former leader of the British armed forces yesterday urged the United Kingdom to postpone for as long as possible a final determination on whether to replace the country's Trident nuclear deterrent.

Don’t replace Trident says ex-army chief
North West Evening Mail, 21 January 2010
Tory defence advisor, Sir Richard Dannatt, said it was a “very fine judgement” as to whether the UK should continue to have a nuclear deterrent, like the Trident weapons system used on Barrow-built subs like HMS Vanguard.

General Sir Richard Dannatt: British nuclear deterrent it ‘not forever’
James Kirkup, The Telegraph, 20 January 2010
Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent may not need replacing, General Sir Richard Dannatt has suggested, raising fresh questions over the Conservative Party’s defence policy

Prospective Barrow MPs in Trident row
North West Evening Mail, 20 January 2010
Labour have challenged a would-be Tory MP to ‘put Furness first’ as the shipyard debate descends into open warfare. John Woodcock, prospective Labour candidate for Barrow and Furness, claims his counterpart is attempting to justify his party’s plans to impose a five-year delay on a new fleet of Trident submarines. But Conservative candidate John Gough has fired back by accusing his opponent of being dishonest about the facts.

Delay in Trident has implications
North West Evening Mail, 19 January 2010
Uncertainty over the continuation of the Trident replacement continues to hang over BAE’s mighty construction sheds like a pall.  Once again Barrow, by default in that we are the sole builders of UK submarines, the town has become a political plaything. Groups of MPs with little knowledge of what the replacement programme means to livelihoods of thousands of Furness families continue to seek political capital ahead of the next general election.

Conservatives to delay Trident replacement by five years
James Kirkup, 14 January 2010
A Conservative government could put off replacing the Trident nuclear deterrent to save money, risking a row with the Royal Navy. The five-year delay in the programme would allow the Conservatives to meet their promise to renew Britain's nuclear deterrent but defer the cost, estimated at more than £20 billion. The decision could see the Royal Navy’s four Vanguard submarines remaining in service as late as 2029. That is likely to face resistance from Navy chiefs, who argue that the Vanguards should not be used beyond 2024.

Replacement for Trident nukes ‘delayed indefinitely’
Rob Edwards, Sunday Herald, 10 January 2010
The UK Government’s controversial £20billion programme to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system on the Clyde has been thrown into disarray by an indefinite delay, the Sunday Herald can reveal. The Ministry of Defence has admitted “further time” is now needed before a crunch decision can be taken on the design of the submarines needed to carry the new nuclear missiles.

Britain needs the Bomb? That was the last war: In the Cold War, Trident was a deterrent.  In the War on Terror it is irrelevant.  The money would be better spent elsewhere.
Roy Hattersley, The Times, 16 December 2010
Britain has a world role — peacekeeping, conflict resolution and fighting bush fires. To finance it even adequately we need to abandon the pretensions of a superpower and ditch Trident now.

A light green pre-budget report: Taxing labour rather than pollution makes no sense – the chancellor should have raised green taxes and scrapped Trident
Stephen Tindale, Comment is free,, 10 December 2009
Re the pre-budget report, “it made no mention of the expansion of Trident, which will cost at least £72bn and deliver no obvious security benefits. This money should be spent instead on the low-carbon transition.”  …  “The expansion of Trident will over the next 20 years will not help the armed forces in Afghanistan, which must be the priority for defence expenditure. The Liberal Democrats have said that the expansion should be halted, as it cannot be afforded.  Cancellation would save enormous sums of money, some of which could be used on the low-carbon transition, and would also meet the UK's obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. And it would demonstrate that it is possible to be pro-nuclear power without being pro-nuclear weapons…. The UK government should abandon its proposed expansion of Trident, and spend the money instead on supporting the armed forces in Afghanistan, energy efficiency, renewables, CCS and nuclear power."

Labour backing away from plans to replace Trident nuclear deterrent
Tom Baldwin, The Times, 22 September 2009
Baroness Williams of Crosby, the Liberal Democrat peer who has been co-opted as an adviser to Gordon Brown on the issue, confirmed yesterday that a change of policy might be under way. She told The Times that the Government was ready to delay a decision on replacing Trident for two years, when ‘we will know if the Obama initiative is getting anywhere'.

Two thirds of voters oppose replacement of Trident, poll shows
Allegra Stratton, The Guardian, 21 September2009
Survey on missile defence system reveals fall in the number of people who think nuclear missiles make Britain safer.

New Trident ‘could cost UK £97bn’
The Scotsman, 19 September 2009
In a new report, Greenpeace suggested the procurement of submarines and missiles could reach about £34bn – around double the £15-£20bn estimate cited by ministers – while running costs could eat up as much as 6 per cent of the Ministry of Defence budget.

Revealed: the £130bn cost of Trident replacement
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 18 September 2009
The combined cost of replacing the Trident nuclear missile system and building, equipping and running two large aircraft carriers will be as much as £130bn, far more than the government has admitted, an in-depth study of the huge defence projects reveals today. Ministers have said replacing Trident would cost up to £20bn, but key factors the government has left out of the calculation will push the final cost up to £97bn over the system's 30-year life, according to Greenpeace, the environment group.

In the Firing Line
Louise Edge, Greenpeace Report, launched 17 September 2009

In the Firing Line reveals evidence that Trident replacement will have a lifetime cost of £97bn.

MoD budget set to come under fire, whoever wins election
Nicholas Watt, The Guardian, 15 September 2009
In a sign that defence is likely to be a major casualty of cuts whichever party wins the election, Labour and the Tories made clear they were prepared to trim major projects….  The Liberal Democrats outflanked the Tories and Labour when they pledged to save £110bn over 25 years by scrapping Eurofighter, the A400M, Nimrod MRA4, the defence training review contract and the successor to Trident.

1.1 Letters on Trident Replacement / Reductions

Rethink needed on defence
Louise Edge, Letters, The Guardian, 5 February 2010
That's why we are calling on the government to halt all spending on the supercarriers and Trident replacement ahead of the election, and for all political parties to commit to holding a comprehensive strategic defence review, with no politically convenient exemptions.

Nuclear Conscience
Martin Underwood, Letters, The Times, 21 October 2009
Rotblat went on to totally repudiate this version of deterrence and came to the view that the only course of action open to him was to work towards the complete abolition of nuclear weapons.

Join calls to abandon nuclear weapons
Robert Hinde, Letters, The Times, 16 October 2009
Why then does [the UK government] persist with the Trident nuclear weapon programme?

Trident threat: Two-Trident deterrent
Phillip Warner, Letters, The Times, 24 September 2009
Trident deters because the enemy never knows where it is.

How many nuclear submarines should we have?
Debate on BBC5 live Breakfast blog, 23 September 2009

1.2 Gordon Brown Announces a Possible Reduction in the Number of Trident Submarines

Brown offers to cut Trident nuclear submarines by a quarter
Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, 23 September 2009
Gordon Brown will add momentum to moves towards nuclear disarmament tomorrow by announcing that he intends Britain to build only three, and not the planned four, replacement Trident nuclear submarines.

Gordon Brown considers cut in nuclear warheads as part of ‘global bargain’
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 23 September 2009
The government is considering cutting the number of warheads in its nuclear arsenal, a much more significant move than the plan to reduce the number of new Trident submarines, officials said today. As Gordon Brown suggested that the existing four boat Trident-missile carrying fleet could be replaced by just three, there is widespread speculation in Whitehall that the government will offer to cut the number of nuclear warheads before the nonproliferation treaty (NPT) review conference in May next year.

Britain’s nuclear overture – we will cut Trident fleet
Francis Elliott and Michael Evans, The Times, 22 September 2009
Mr Brown will signal tomorrow that he is ready to negotiate at a meeting of the UN Security Council on nuclear non-proliferation. It follows President Obama’s decision to ditch the US missile defence shield in Eastern Europe. That move, and Russia’s delighted response, has bolstered hopes that a new non-proliferation treaty could be agreed next spring.

1.3 Reactions to Brown’s Announcement

Deterrence cannot be guaranteed with three subs, says Navy chief
Michael Evans, The Times, 18 November 2009
The Royal Navy will only be able to “guarantee” continuous deterrent patrols with Trident ballistic-missile submarines if the Government agrees to keep four boats, the head of the Royal Navy told The Times yesterday. It would be possible to get by with three submarines, provided the Government was prepared to risk breaking the 24-hour, 365-day patrol cycle that had been maintained for 41 years.

Weapons not included in Trident pledge
The Scotsman, 24 September 2009
Church leaders attacked the move last night as a "feeble and ineffective" gesture, saying that ministers should have had the courage to dump the £20 billion Trident project entirely….  The Church of Scotland said it welcomed Mr Brown's declaration yesterday but a joint statement from the Methodist, Baptist and United Reform Churches said it made "little sense" to continue with the Trident programme.

Trident reduction offer remains hypothetical for now
War and Peace: Mark Urban’s blog,  BBC Newsnight webpage, 23 September 2009
At home, Mr Brown's offer was welcomed by the Conservatives. … This will not be a choice between having the bomb or not - as some backers of Trident such as the former defence secretary, John Hutton, appear to suggest.

This is not disarmament: Brown wants to be seen to be taking action on nuclear weapons, but he should cut warheads, not a submarine that carries them
Richard Norton-Taylor, Comment is free,, 23 September 2009
[T]here are serious questions, never properly answered by ministers, about what practical, or moral, value nuclear weapons have, what deterrent value, in an age and a forseeable future when they themselves say Britain's main enemy will be assorted insurgents and terrorists against whom a Trident intercontinental ballistic missile would hardly be a credible weapon.

Nuclear realities: Telegraph View: The case for keeping Britain’s nuclear deterrent has never been stronger
The Telegraph, 23 September 2009
If the certainty of being at readiness is eroded even fractionally, that margin could make the difference between a crisis defused – and a crisis escalating beyond control. Three submarines will only be enough if that assurance remains.

1.4 Blockade of Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment

26 Trident protesters held
Alan Jones and Lauren Turner, Press Association/The Independent, 16 February 2010

Sarah Lasenby of Oxford said "The time has come for the UK to disarm its nuclear weapons. Instead of building a new generation, the Government should go to the upcoming [NPT Review] conference and commit to negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide."

Police arrest 26 at Aldermaston nuclear weapons plant blockade: Hundreds of demonstrators block entrance to Berkshire factory that makes Trident warheads
Press Association, The Guardian, 15 February 2010
Police made 26 arrests at a peace protest today when hundreds of demonstrators blocked entrances to a nuclear weapons site.  Organisers of the protest said up to 800 people travelled from across the UK to take part in the blockade of the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Aldermaston, Berkshire, where warheads for Trident submarines are made. Thames Valley police said about 400 people attended.

Ten arrested at AWE blockade
Linda Fort, getreading, 15 February 2010
Protestors are quoted: “We are calling on the UK to abide by its agreement to achieve nuclear disarmament – that means taking Trident off patrol, halting all work and preparations for any new generation of nuclear weapons and using the AWE only for disarmament and verification.”

Anti-nuclear protesters blockade AWE at Aldermaston, 15 February 2010
Twenty-six peace activists have been arrested during a protest at Britain's nuclear weapons "factory" in Berkshire… Kate Hudson, chairman of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "When all major parties are proposing huge spending cuts, this is the time for ministers to realise that scrapping the Trident replacement would be one very positive and popular cutback. Polls consistently show a clear majority against Trident while, at the same time, a growing number of senior military figures have described the system as 'militarily useless'."

Banning nukes is easier than you think
Jody Williams, Morning Star, 12 February 2010
I helped to found the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which grew from two non-governmental organisations to 1,300 in 90 countries and brought about the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997. ..That success again underscored the critical importance of citizen diplomacy in moving governments to take action that they otherwise would not take if left to their own devices. While the obstacles might seem insurmountable, there is no reason why these successes can't be repeated with nuclear weapons.

2. UK Nuclear Weapons Infrastructure and Safety Issues

Australia’s aborigines: Atomic amends: A blighted site is handed back to the people displaced by British bombs, 15 January 2010
Aborigines poured in from surrounding desert settlements on December 18th to watch Mr Peters accept title to this final 3,000 sq km parcel. Known as Section 400, it consists of the former test sites as well as the airstrip and township the British built to serve them.

Britain’s ‘independent’ deterrent: Yet another sign of the tight relationship between Britain’s Atomic Weapons Establishment and the US weapons labs
Julian Borger’s Global Security Blog,, 3 December 2009
The American who has been running the Aldermaston weapons lab for the past three years, Don Cook, is heading back to the US to take up a top defence post, the deputy administrator for defence programmes in the National Nuclear Security Administration. It's another example of how Aldermaston is treated by the US weapons labs (Cook was previously at Sandia) - the way a giant US corporation might view its UK subsidiary - somewhere for its top executives to get some experience.

Revealed: how UK’s nuclear bombs are built by America
Rob Edwards, Sunday Herald, 29 November 2009
For years UK ministers have repeatedly refused to say where neutron generators – a vital component of the Trident warheads stationed on the Clyde – were manufactured. The information had to be kept secret for national security reasons, they said. But now, having been confronted with undeniable evidence by the Sunday Herald, the MoD has admitted that the devices are imported from the United States. And in so doing, it has opened the ­Westminster ­Government to a barrage of criticism from assorted experts, politicians and campaigners, who now claim that Britain is not in full independent control of its own nuclear deterrent.

Report of the Working Group on the Management of Separated Plutonium in the UK
General Sir Hugh Beach, Dr Ian Crossland, Prof Roger Cowley, Dr Jack Harris, Dr Christopher Watson, British Pugwash Group, 26 November 2009
The report is mentioned by Terry Macalister in The Guardian, 3 December 2009: “Sellafield faces fine for exposing staff to radioactivity: Substantial penalty expected to be handed down to the owners of Cumbrian plant”

UK Government urged to end nuclear missile safety loopholes
Tom Gordon, The Herald, 22 November 2009
The Scottish government is to press Westminster to tighten up the regulation of nuclear missile bases in Scotland after a series of safety problems revealed by the Sunday Herald. Scottish ministers will lobby the UK government to close the loopholes which let the Faslane and Coulport bases on the Clyde escape statutory scrutiny by government watchdogs.

Revealed: where the MoD wants to dump its radioactive waste
Rob Edwards, The Herald, 1 November 2009
A secret shortlist of a dozen sites across the UK where the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is thinking of dumping dangerous radioactive waste from defunct nuclear submarines can be revealed today by the Sunday Herald.

MoD nuclear submarine disposal group hit by resignation
Rob Edwards blog, 11 October 2009
A Ministry of Defence (MoD) programme aimed at getting rid of the radioactive hulks of defunct nuclear submarines stored in Scotland is coming unstuck after the resignation of a veteran adviser. Peter Lanyon, who has represented environmental and peace groups on government advisory groups for seven years, has quit because he says the MoD’s submarine disposal project “lacks integrity”.

2.1 Planning Applications

Berkshire councillors approve uranium nuclear facility Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE); The Atomic Weapons Establishment builds Britain's nuclear warheads
BBC News Channel Website, 10 February 2010
Plans for a new facility to store enriched uranium at Britain's nuclear weapons "factory" in West Berkshire have been approved by councillors.

West Berkshire Council Planning Application 09/02396/COMIND; Enriched Uranium Facility at AWE Aldermaston
Nuclear Awareness Group, 7 January 2010
We consider that the planning committee should ask the Ministry of Defence to provide further information about the potential impacts of the proposed development, and if this information is not forthcoming, invite the Secretary of State to call in the application for determination at a public inquiry.

The planning documents can be accessed here
The committee reports can be accessed here

3. Launch of New “Top Level” Cross-Party Group

Cross-party group urges end to nuclear weapons threat
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 29 October 2009
A cross-party group of senior politicans [sic] joined former defence chiefs today to promote the cause of nuclear disarmament, an issue they described as critical but too often ignored.  They launched the Top Level group of parliamentarians, including former foreign and defence secretaries from both main parties.

Nuclear-free world ultimate aim of new cross-party pressure group
Julian Borger, The Guardian, 8 September 2009
The parliamentary group will seek to rally European support for the long-term goal of a nuclear-free world promoted by the Obama administration and Gordon Brown's government, and arrive at a common European position on the eventual withdrawal of the remaining US nuclear weapons in Europe.

4. SNP Party Conference - Trident and Scottish Independence

Independence-lite ... tastes rather good: Suddenly, and remarkably, the Scottish Nationalists have gone all realistic and moderate on us
Magnus Linklater, The Times, 15 October 2009
In a report on the SNP’s annual conference, Magnus Linklater in the Times says “The SNP suggested that British bases could continue to exist on Scottish soil, though Trident would have to go, while the nation would pick and choose the conflicts it wanted to be involved in. Somehow, Scotland could stay outside Nato and throw out nuclear submarines, while continuing to be part of a UK defence force”.

SNP will let English keep military bases
Eddie Barnes, Scotland on Sunday, 11 October 2009
Before the SNP annual conference, Scotland on Sunday describes Angus Robertson’s vision that “An independent Scotland would allow English military forces to be based north of the border after a UK split.  Further, “He also asserts that an independent Scotland would have the right to remove Trident submarines from Scottish waters.”  The report details criticisms of this by Labour and the Conservatives. 

Allies can agree on nuclear policy
Michael Hamilton, Letters, Scotland on Sunday, 25 October 2009
Letter from Michal Hamilton, Scottish Democratic Alliance defence spokesman in response to above Scotland on Sunday article on 11 October 2009.

UK marching Scots forces in wrong direction
Angus Robertson, Scotland on Sunday, 11 October 2009
MP Angus Robertson (SNP Westminster leader and spokesman on defence and foreign affairs) calls for a Scottish defence review, separate from the UK’s Strategic Defence Review likely to happen after the next UK General Election.  “For economic as well as defence and moral reasons, a Scottish Defence Review would surely conclude that imposing a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons in Scotland in these circumstances – against the expressed view of Scotland's Parliament, as well as a majority of Scottish Westminster MPs – is literally indefensible. Certainly, the people of Scotland oppose the direction of UK defence policy.”

5. Calls for the UK to take Further Disarmament Steps

Trident replacement plan no longer credible, says former foreign secretary
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 25 October 2009
Lord Owen suggests abandoning Trident and instead equipping cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.

Brown can be bold on disarmament: There are steps the prime minister could take to follow Obama’s lead without giving up Britain’s nuclear weapons just yet
Martin Butcher, Comment is free,, 24 September 2009
[The Prime Minister] can delay the "initial gate" decision on the new submarine design, due this autumn. … {H}e should announce that the so-called "tactical Trident", where some missiles carrying only one warhead for use in regional wars, will no longer be deployed[,] … and that we will never use nuclear weapons against a country that has no nuclear forces, strengthening non-proliferation by enhancing the security benefit of abjuring the possession of nuclear weapons.

Scrapping Trident would be the conservative thing to do
David Lindsay, The Telegraph, 15 September 2009
Points out that “Far from representing national pride or independence, our nuclear weapons programme has only ever represented the wholesale subjugation of Britain’s defence capability to a foreign power”, and that disarming UK nuclear weapons “is what Disraeli would have done”.

6. Chilcot Inquiry on the Iraq War

Tony Blair at the Chilcot inquiry
Jackie Ashley, Jonathan Freedland, Martin Kettle and Seumas Milne on Tony Blair's morning at the Iraq inquiry, Comment is free,, 29 January 2010
Most outrageous, though, was his repeated and so far barely challenged assertion that Iraq was in "material breach" of repeated UN resolutions. In reality, the fact that Iraq had destroyed its WMD stocks in the 1990s means that it was not in significant breach of the resolutions at all. Even Blair's repeated claims that Iraq was failling to comply with resolution 1441 over inspectors' right to interview officials is simply not supported by Hans Blix's reports of the time.

Alastair Campbell had Iraq dossier changed to fit US claims: ‘WMD in a year’ allegations halved original timescale after compilers told to compare contents with Bush speech
Chris Ames and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 10 January 2010
Fresh evidence has emerged that Tony Blair's discredited Iraqi arms dossier was "sexed up" on the instructions of Alastair Campbell, his communications chief, to fit with claims from the US administration that were known to be false. The pre-invasion dossier's worst-case estimate of how long it would take Iraq to acquire a nuclear weapon was shortened in response to a George Bush speech.

Blair claim on Iraq WMDs was overtly political, Scarlett tells inquiry: Former spy chief says it was not his place to change then PM’s foreword to discredited intelligence dossier
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 8 December 2009
The government's spy chief at the time of the invasion of Iraq distanced himself today from Tony Blair's claim that intelligence had established "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Sir John Scarlett, then chairman of the joint intelligence committee (JIC), said in evidence to the Chilcot inquiry that he had been responsible for drawing up the now discredited dossier on Iraq, but said the foreword in which the claim was made was "overtly political".

Blair ‘knew Saddam did not have WMD before war started’
David Brown and Francis Elliott, The Times, 26 November 2009
Intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have access to weapons of mass destruction was received by the Government ten days before Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, the inquiry into the war was told yesterday. Inspectors in Iraq had also told the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that they believed that Saddam might not have chemical and biological weapons. But with British and US troops massed on the border, the new intelligence was dismissed.

7. People

7.1 Baroness Catherine Ashton appointed first EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Letters: Hymn to Belgium’s EU president
The Guardian, 21 November 2009
Cathy Ashton has an interesting political background that you overlook (From obscurity to the most powerful woman in the UK, 20 November). She probably becomes the first former staff member of CND to hold such a high diplomatic position. She was a staff administrator at CND in the late 1970s, and rose to become national treasurer and an elected vice-chair at the time of the Euromissile crisis in 1983. I think this is an excellent background to put some flesh on the aspiration in the Queen's speech on Wednesday to "work towards creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons". 
Tim Dyce, Brighton, East Sussex

7.2 Remembering friends

Kay Carmichael obituary: Labour policy adviser who led progressive reforms in Scotland
Brian Wilson, The Guardian, 12 January 2010
A defining issue of the day was the arrival of the US Polaris missile base at Holy Loch, near Dunoon. The Carmichaels were leading campaigners against its presence and, subsequently, the establishment of Britain's nuclear submarine base at nearby Faslane, on the Gare Loch. Kay remained an ardent opponent of nuclear weapons throughout her life and once served 14 days in Cornton Vale women's prison for her part in a demonstration at Faslane.

Gillian Reeve obituary
Alison Whyte, The Guardian,11 January 2010
Gill's belief that nuclear weapons are illegal, immoral and unethical never faltered. In 2007, she helped launch the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a global movement for a weapons convention. That year, while protesting at the ­ Trident ­submarine base at Faslane, she was arrested and jailed, and then charged with breaching the peace.

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