Action Atomic Weapons Eradication! Now!

IssueFebruary 2013
Feature by Clare Cochrane

But there’s no time to celebrate, because the process of planning the replacement for Trident is already under way. If we want a nuclear-free future we have to act now. 

The two options under consideration are wholesale replacement of the Trident system of specialised nuclear-powered submarines and missiles; or a ‘tactical’ system of smaller missiles which can carry thermonuclear warheads but be launched from regular submarines. The costs for this option have not been spelled out; the cost of a total replacement for Trident has been estimated at up to £100 billion. Both options involve recommitting the UK to a nuclear future. Neither of these options is acceptable if we are to create a world of peace, justice, sustainability and respect for the human rights of all. And public opinion polls have shown that a majority of the public are against replacing Trident.

Meanwhile, global efforts by non-nuclear countries and international non-governmental organisations, including the Red Cross, are gathering pace to grow support for a global treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

At the beginning of March there’ll be an international conference in Oslo on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, alongside a civil society forum hosted by the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

By refusing to replace Trident with new nuclear weapons, the UK would have a major positive impact on non-proliferation. Another argument to add to the list in the case against replacement:

  • £100bn could more than cover the budget cuts made so far, and prevent more in the future.
  • In 1968, the UK signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and in 2010 joined 189 countries in a binding commitment to ‘undertake concrete disarmament efforts’ and ‘make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons’.
  • More nuclear weapons make us less safe, not more.
  • The use of nuclear weapons would cause an unprecedented environmental and humanitarian catastrophe, while production of nuclear warheads requires the mining of uranium, with devastating health and environmental consequences for the communities nearby.
  • The carbon cost of the production and maintenance of new nuclear weapons.
  • The skills of those at Aldermaston and Burghfield could instead be put to use in climate jobs, creating a new renewable energy skillbase that would literally power Britain into the future.

The final decision by the UK government on whether to manufacture the replacement for Trident will be made in 2016 – by a government chosen at the next general election, currently scheduled for 2015. 

Action AWE, a grassroots alliance of anti-nuclear activists, believes that now is the time to act to build opposition to Trident replacement, and support for a global ban on all nuclear weapons.

The idea is simple: through a sustained campaign of public action, Action AWE aims to create sufficient pressure to take Trident off the political agenda – and put a global nuclear weapons ban on the table for political commitment. Over the next two years in the run-up to the next general election, AAWE is calling on campaigners on all the issues we’ve mentioned to come to Aldermaston and Burghfield, and explain how replacing Trident would contribute to these problems.