Activists from Blackwood, Caerphilly, Newport, Swansea, West Wales and Powys will join the Big Blockade of Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment on Wednesday 15th June, to say no to the renewal of Trident, the UK nuclear weapons system (What is Trident? See note A). Wednesday is Welsh groups day in the collective protest of English, Scottish, Welsh, French, Belgian, German and Finnish anti-nuclear activists whose blockade has closed the construction gate at the weapons factory since 6th June, day and night, blocking the access road with ‘lock-ons’ (arms locked together with tubing) and preventing traffic from entering or leaving (1). “I think it’s important that the government is left in no doubt that their plans for new nuclear weapons are not welcomed by the majority of the public”, said Jan Jones of Swansea CND. “I’m going to do my bit to stop nuclear weapon production for as long as possible”.
Everywhere in Wales today we see the results of the government’s austerity programme: homeless people in the doorways of our streets; sick people lined up on trolleys in hospital corridors; elderly people lonely and immobile in their homes; dentists’ NHS waiting lists full; primary schools closing; social workers weighed down with impossibly high caseloads. All of this is necessary, we are told, because there is no money. Yet the government can find between £25 billion and £167 billion for renewing Trident (2)(3). “Obscene amounts are spent on useless nuclear weapons, while support for the most vulnerable in our society is under constant attack by this government” said Wendy Lewis, an activist from Caerphilly.
The cost is enormous because it isn’t just about buying replacements. The cost of maintaining and operating them – a nuclear submarine patrolling the seas, every minute, 365 days a year – doesn’t figure in the government’s ‘£20 billion’ estimate.
Nuclear weapons are illegal. Using them would be a war crime and a crime against humanity. (Note B) (4) (5) For this reason, they can never be used.
Nuclear weapons won’t protect us against the biggest threats to humankind in the 21st century, which the government’s own National Security Strategy says are terrorism, cyber attack, climate change and pandemics (6) (7).
Most countries don’t have nuclear weapons. Only nine do (8). Germany and Japan don’t. Do they seem like weak, vulnerable countries?
Nuclear weapons make the world more dangerous, not less dangerous. Human beings make mistakes. So far, human error has caused 25 near misses, when we have teetered on the brink of nuclear war (9) (10). More countries getting them means more human error.
“When the UK government argues that nuclear weapons are necessary for our defence, then any other country can use exactly the same argument in favour of them getting nuclear weapons, which will end up with everyone being less secure”, said Brian Jones, CND Cymru Vice Chair. “The only way to be safe from nuclear weapons is by banning them internationally, just as chemical and biological weapons have been banned”.
Trident is dangerous, illegal, expensive and unnecessary. Shortly before his death last year, lifetime Welsh campaigner Ray Davies said: “We have come from our Welsh Valleys to tell the world that we will never give up the struggle to free our beautiful planet from the danger of nuclear weapons. We are blockading here at AWE Burghfield, where Trident’s nuclear warheads are assembled, for our children’s sake and for all our future generations.”
A. Trident is made up of four nuclear submarines, each carrying 8 nuclear missiles, each carrying up to 40 warheads, each warhead capable of killing a million human beings outright. One submarine is patrolling the earth’s seas every minute, day and night, 365 days a year. Trident is nearing the end of its shelf life. The UK government plans to replace the submarines, missiles and warheads with new ones that will last for another 40 years. Campaign group Trident Ploughshares has organised a month-long peaceful protest at the plant where Trident’s nuclear warheads are assembled, AWE Burghfield, near Reading. Tomorrow is Welsh groups day.
B. Using nuclear weapons would be a war crime (intentionally and indiscriminately killing civilians) and a crime against humanity (directing a widespread attack against a civilian population), both illegal under international law (4). Renewing Trident also flouts the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which obliges us to steadily reduce our nuclear capabilities and move towards a nuclear weapon free world (10).
C. Trident workers would not lose their jobs. Retraining those workers in different, highly skilled, well-paid jobs would cost a tiny fraction of the money that would be saved by not renewing Trident (11). Decommissioning the current system would keep the current Trident workers in jobs for many years. Investing the money saved in the development of other industries (e.g. renewable energy) would create thousands more jobs.
Notes to editors.
Contact details for further information about the AWE Burghfield action:
Interviews in Welsh or English:
Brian Jones 0776 549 8072 Vice Chair, CND Cymru
Interviews in English: Jan Jones 0787 904 8949
Wendy Lewis 0741 589 9661
Photograph courtesy of Wendy Lewis.
Activists at AWE Burghfield in 2015.
Seated far left, in red beret: the late Ray Davies, former Vice Chair of CND Cymru.
The action took place two months before he died.