Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Government in denial still over effects of detonating nuclear weapons

The Guardian newspaper reported on 30 December  that the Home Office dismissed the threat of a “nuclear winter” impact of the use of nuclear WMDs as “scaremongering”, as recorded in the National Archive papers release for 1984
(“Home Office dismissed nuclear winter threat as scaremongering, files show, “
Unfortunately, the current Government  appears to have the same ‘in- denial’ response to this very real threat to humanity in its obsession to retain - and replace - the Trident nuclear WMD system.
At the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, hosted by the Austrian Government from 8 to 9 December 2014 - which received  powerful supportive messages from both The United Nations’ Secretary General and Pope Francis -  the British representative, Ambassador Susan le Jeune  d'Allegeershecque, told delegates of nearly 160 countries - along with hundreds of representatives of civil society -  that she had “listened to the debate very carefully”  but nonetheless concluded :" We will  maintain a minimum credible nuclear  deterrent for as long as it is  necessary". (
Amongst the conclusions by international scientific experts convened by Austria for the conference, based on evidence collectively presented, was that any use of nuclear weapons could cause gravest humanitarian emergencies and have catastrophic global consequences on the environment, climate, health, social order, human development and the global economy.
Dr. Michael J. Mills of the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research gave a chilling presentation on the likelihood of global famine after even a “limited” nuclear exchange of nuclear WMDs - 50 out of the global stockpile of some 17,000 nuclear warheads. It would lead to global crop yield losses of tens of percent, leading to worldwide famine, in great part due to the “nuclear winter “ effect of sooty smoke and ozone layer loss.
This would have the combined  effects of colder temperatures; shortened frost-free growing seasons; cold spells during growing seasons; slower growth causing lower yield; increased daytime darkness and less rainfall.
Dr Micah Lowenthal of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the US National Academy of Sciences observed after presenting a scenario of a single  (comparatively) small (10kt) nuclear bomb detonated over Washington DC: “We have a poor understanding of what infrastructure would still be effective after such an event.”
Our Ambassador told me after her presentation, when I asked her whether she was indeed listening, as her presentation seemed singularly detached from reality,  that she was merely conveying official government policy, which seems a dereliction of duty to me.
The late, great cosmologist and astronomer Professor Carl Sagan, contemplating the nuclear winter threat, said three decades ago: “Elementary planetary hygiene demands that we eliminate nuclear weapons faster.” I agree.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Trident and Murphy's law

A week ago Jim Murphy, the new Labour leader in Scotland recoursed to the old saw that he wants a world free of nuclear weapons, but is "not a unilateralist," in an interview with The Guardian Saturday review, (20 Dec.

This unhelpful contrast with a multilateralist, is a hang-over from Cold War politics, but as  Mr Murphy, despite protestations towards change, wants to hark back to the past, it is worth pointing out that since the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty ( NPT, drafted under a Labour government, who lobbied hard for its merits at the United Nations)was signed in 1968 requiring all signatories to negotiate nuclear disarmament in good faith and at an early date, not one British nuclear weapon or warhead has been negotiated away in any multilateral nuclear disarmament forum.

When Murphy was shadow defence secretary last year he strongly affirmed in an interview in the New Statesman Labour was going to retain and renew Trident nuclear WMDs. ("Jim Murphy: Labour is sticking with Trident," NS, 7 March 2013) (

A week on, and The Guardian front page on 27 December headlined:  

Labour set for a bloodbath in Scotland in general election, poll says

The article revealed that, based on an ICM Unlimited online interview sample of 1,004 Scottish adults aged 18 and over, that 43% want Trident scrapped and 37% want it retained. Mr Murphy should take good note.

Earlier this month at the  Vienna conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, the British representative, Ambassador to Austria and the IAEA, Susan le Jeune  d'Allegeershecque   told delegates of over 150 countries - along with hundreds of representatives of civil society -  that :"We will work to create the conditions in which nuclear weapons are no longer needed. We will also maintain a minimum credible nuclear  deterrent for as long as it is  necessary".

The ambassador was representing the policy of the UK government.  That is identical with the position of Mr Murphy. From the Scottish referendum debate, it does not seem to be the view of most Scottish residents, or indeed, most people living in the UK, over Trident, as the new poll demonstrates.


Friday, 19 December 2014

Why does Pakistan tranport its nuclear warheads in delivery vans?

Given the horrors of the Pakistan situation, accentuated by this week's terrorist trauma,  this is chillingly apposite :
In 2011 in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder wrote just about the most frightening sentence I’ve ever read: “In a country that is home to the harshest variants of Muslim fundamentalism, and to the headquarters of the organizations that espouse these extremist ideologies,” they wrote, “nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads.” That’s right: Pakistan uses delivery vans, as secure as the ones you and I might use to move furniture, to move its nuclear arsenal. This in a country where the Taliban routinely assaults hardened facilities with great success, where Al Qaeda feels entirely at home, and where the Islamic State was recently embraced by six senior Taliban commanders.

 fro more, see 
Sleepwalking as Nukes Spread

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

What Chilcot should make public‏

I submitted this letter to The Times on 17 December

I  was very pleased to read your front page report revealing the background to the inordinate delay in publishing the Chilcot Inquiry report into the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ("Whitehall shockwaves over Chilcot draft report," Dec17)
I submitted memorandum to the Chilcot Inquiry  on what Tony Blair and Jack Straw must have known about Iraqi WMDs, and when they  knew it.  These are documented facts, the timeline of which is essential to grasp.
Gen. Hussein Kamal, the former director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corporation, in charge of Iraq's weapons programme, defected to Jordan on the night of 7 August 1995, together with his brother Col. Saddam Kamal.
Both were sons-in-law of the then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Hussein Kamal took crates of documents revealing past weapons programmes, and provided these to UNSCOM, the United Nations’ inspection team looking for WMDs in Iraq.
Iraq responded by revealing a major store of documents that showed that Iraq had begun an unsuccessful crash programme to develop a nuclear bomb (on 20 August 1995). Hussein and Saddam Kamal surprisingly agreed to return to Iraq, where they were assassinated by the thug  and Saddam henchman  known as ‘Chemical Ali’ on 23 February 1996).
Before their fateful return to Iraq, they were interviewed in Amman on 22 August 1995, 15 days after Kamal left Iraq. His interviewers were: Rolf Ekeus, the former executive chairman of Unscom (from 1991 to 1997); Professor Maurizio Zifferero, deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of the inspections team in Iraq; plus Nikita Smidovich, a Russian diplomat who led UNSCOM's ballistic missile team and former Deputy Director for Operations of UNSCOM.
During the interview, Major Izz al-Din al-Majid (transliterated as Major Ezzeddin) joined the discussion. Izz al-Din was Saddam Hussein's cousin, and defected together with the Kamal brothers. The full transcript of the interview may be read at:
The key output was the documented revelation that : "all weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed"
Tony Blair, in a misleading statement to the House of Commons on 25 February 2003, said: "It was only four years later after the defection of Saddam's son-in-law to Jordan, that the offensive biological weapons and the full extent of the nuclear programme were discovered."  (
Former Labour MP Llew Smith, for whom I then worked, asked the Prime Minister about  the information provided by Hussein Kamal on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and if Mr Blair  if he would  place in the House of Commons  Library the text of the Kamal interview.
Mr Blair answered “Following his defection, Hussein Kamal was interviewed by UNSCOM and by a number of other agencies. Details concerning the interviews were made available to us on a confidential basis. The UK was not provided with transcripts of the interviews.” (Hansard, 26 March 2003: Column 235W)
But it  was known to Mr Blair and his security advisors that eight years earlier Saddam’s son-in-law Hussain Kamal had fessed-up in an interview with the UN’s international weapons inspectors and intelligence agents to the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological WMDs, and the nascent nuclear weapons programme too.
The question apologists for Tony Blair’s need to ask is: why did Mr Blair so blatantly disregarded this information when pressing for war, except for the obvious reason it undermined his stated reason to support an invasion?

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Nuclear Killing Fields

I submitted this text, along with a much longer detailed country-by--country profile of the uranium producer-country uranium legacies, to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Human Weapons, held on 8-9 December 2014, Hofburg Palace Vienna, Austria,

“I want make this submission following on the presentation by Dr Arjun Makijani of the US-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in the US in session 1b, who highlighted the often overlooked environmental degradation, lack of remediation and health hazards posed by uranium mining for the raw materials to make nuclear explosives for the nuclear arsenals of the nuclear weapons states (NWS). I note that this joint human health and environmental concern is the focus of an excellent and disturbing  poster exhibition outside the main door to the stage of this Conference Hall.


I also note the conclusions of the interpretation of existing environmental law to military nuclear activities discussed in depth and breadth by the excellent panel in Session  IV.


Both this conference and the predecessor Civil Society Conference in Vienna over the weekend  have heard the moving testimony of radiation victims from the testing and belligerent us eof  nuclear weapons: the Japanese “Hibakusha”, direct victims of nuclear wepons deliberately used upon on their communities,  and the US, Marshallese Islanders, Australian indigenous peoples, and  Kazakh “Downwinders, who have suffered from nuclear testing.


But there are hundreds of thousands of radiation victims worldwide  from the production of nuclear weapons, even if  we remain lucky enough that they are never used by deliberate decision, or detonated by accident.


I raised this matter of concern with the United Kingdom delegation, representing the country of which I am a citizen, in the margins of this conference, to be told the exposure to radiation from uranium procurement was a long time ago. That is true, but the impact of exposure lives on through  genetic transfer across  generations, as the compensation agreements  in the United States ( surprising not mentioned by the US Ambassador to this conference in either  contribution he  made from the floor)  have demonstrated  recognise the responsibility of current political administrations for past administration’ actions.

Therefore, as my own Government has declined to  take moral responsibility for the significant deleterious impact of the production process for the procurement of the raw uranium that, in its converted form, now makes up the nuclear explosives in each of the
UK ‘s 180 nuclear warheads, I will set out below  some examples of the impacts, especially to inform my own Government why they have a duty to wider humanity to  take responsibility for the desecration of sacred land and for damaging the heath of exposed indigenous peoples and their successor generations, especially as indigenous people’s land  in former colonies were used as the sources of the UK’s uranium used in nuclear warheads.

Governments have accepted the importance of recognizing and mitigating the carbon  footprint of the production process of commercially tradable goods; they also need to accept the radiological footprint of past nuclear explosive materials production needs to be mitigated, and act accordingly in a moral fashion.

Nuclear warheads, even if never detonated, have not only an extraordinary financial cost, but even more importantly , an ecological, environmental, and enduring health cost – both radiological and toxicological -  to the people whose communities have been exploited for the procurement of the uranium, which in processed and manufactured form, currently sits in the  global nuclear arsenals of over 16,000 warheads, with no positive benefit, but huge detriments, for the human communities from which it was expropriated.”

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Nuclear option needed to save economy

The respected, independent respected Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated that as a result of its detailed assessment of the Chancellor’s  Autumn Statement, Spending cuts on a colossal scale with £55 billion to come, post 2015 election, on top of the £35 bn of painful cuts already inflicted on the public sector over the lifetime of our Conservative-led coalition Government. (

As Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has already committed any incoming Labour Government, should they win the election,  to follow the first year spending plans of the outgoing Government, then what is now required is to identify the least socially painful cuts any new Government could chose to make.

My own choice to make huge inroads into the £55 bn that needs to be saved from projected spending is to firstly, cancel the Trident  nuclear weapons programme replacement, which if completed will cost at least £100 bn and  on which this week the Ministry of Defence admitted in a written answer  to Labour MP Paul Flynn it has already spent some $59 million on missile  launch tubes from the US company, General Dynamics Electric Boat, even before any final decision to go ahead with the Trident replacement is made in 2016.( Questions: 215790, 2 Dec)

New ministers should immediately cut further massive losses on coming into office, if the Coalition has not already cancelled the programme and sought more sustainable security policies for the nation.

Secondly, ministers should cancel the civilian nuclear programme, which is due to cost at least £24 bn for each twin reactor, with huge taxpayer–funded subsidies. Buried in the voluminous Autumn Statement announcements was one from the Department for Energy and Climate Change that the Treasury has agreed to underwrite a new £10 bn loan guarantee for the joint venture between Japanese  company Toshiba-Westinghouse and French company GDF SUEZ,  for a proposed new nuclear power plant at Moorside, next to Sellafield, on top of an identical £10 bn  being provided to another French company, EDF Energy

With very limited sums of public money available as we move into a continuing  austere economic future, why is British taxpayers money  being promised to US, Japanese and French nuclear  companies?

Monday, 1 December 2014

Atomic Armageddon still threatens us all‏

Eric Schlosser’s chilling Guardian Journal article on our precarious planetary existence under the shadow of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) ought to concentrate the minds of our high-level decision makers in Whitehall .(“Armageddon waiting to happen,” 28 November, 
They have been warned before! Ten years ago a blood curdling exhibition was hosted at the National Archives at Kew in London, called ‘Secret State,’ unveiling some of the most terrifying secrets of the Cold War.
One stunning revelation in original official documents from the 1950s and 1960s listed the 20 major cities in a Top Secret report ‘Probable Nuclear targets in the United Kingdom: Assumptions for Planning’- prepared by the Joint Intelligence Committee. (Annex A, File TNA: DEFE 4/224, dated 2nd November 1967).
One document –the ‘Strath Report’- prepared in 1955, so secret it was not publicly released until 2003,  was the best estimate of the atomic boffins of what would have happened if Britain was attacked by the Soviet Union with just 10 Hydrogen (H-) bombs. Its conclusions, made available only to ministers in strictest confidence, detailed in graphic terms the disaster that would have befallen Britain. 
The combined explosive power of these 10 H-bombs would, the ‘Strath Report’ stated, be the “equivalent of 100million tonnes of TNT explosive,” going on to reveal “This would be 45 times as great as the total tonnage of bombs delivered by all the allies on Germany, Italy and occupied France throughout the whole of the last war.”(ie World War II)
Twelve million people would be incinerated in the first few seconds with another four million seriously injured, even before the radiation clouds had made their poisonous way across the country. Atomic Armageddon indeed!
Thankfully, amidst the horror stories, there were some instances of black humour: scientists working on an atomic land mine - meant for deployment underground in Germany’s northern plains - realised that it could fail in winter if vital components become too cold, so they explored ways of keeping the inner workings warm.
One proposal put forward consisted of filling the casing of the mine with live chickens, which would give off sufficient heat - prior to suffocating or starving to death - to keep the delicate explosive mechanism from freezing. Odd times still continue
(Document reference: INF 13/281/7