Nuclear Weapons and the
The manufacture, testing and disposal of nuclear weapons causes environmental
damage. These activities run the risk of accidents resulting in further
pollution. The use of nuclear weapons in war would cause death, destruction
and lasting contamination on a scale which could threaten the survival
The manufacture of electricity from nuclear power also involves environmental
Scottish CND condemns nuclear weapons and questions the use of nuclear
The main radioactive
substance in nuclear reactors
and nuclear bombs is the element uranium,
which is mined in Canada, Russia, Africa and Australia. During the mining
process, uranium escapes into the atmosphere and into the ground, where
it is spread by water movement. The resulting contamination of air, land
and sea will continue for thousands of years.
The processing of uranium
More uranium escapes when it is separated from its ore, during transportation
and when it is included in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. After
its use in nuclear reactors the nuclear material is treated in reprocessing
plants such as Sellafield (formerly Windscale)
in Cumbria where in 1957 a fire at the site caused widespread atmospheric
The Irish Government has complained and continues to complain about the
contamination of the Irish Sea due to the radioactive waste entering it
from Sellafield. The explosion at the power station at Chernobyl
caused radioactive material to be deposited all over Europe. Many square
miles of Belarus were made uninhabitable. Some Scottish sheep farms are
not allowed to sell their sheep for food because they contain radioactive
substances which came from Chernobyl.
The manufacture and transportation of nuclear
weapons involve risks which would not be permitted in non-military
activity. In the Trident submarine
based on the Clyde nuclear engines, rocket fuel and nuclear warheads are
in close proximity. A fire could cause the escape of nuclear substances
and result in the poisoning of areas 30 miles away.
Fifty years ago Britain, the US and Russia tested nuclear weapons in the
atmosphere. Even at a time of large scale preparation for hostilities
the self destructive nature of this activity was recognised and a treaty
was made in 1962 which required an end to these tests. However underground
testing was used instead, threatening water supplies. There was international
opposition to nuclear tests by the French Government in the mid 1990's.
Disposal of waste
The disposal of nuclear waste is highly controversial especially because
some nuclear materials remain radioactive for thousands of years. Some
recommend that nuclear material should be incorporated in glass bricks
which would be stored underground and that this would be a safe method
of storage. Others say it should be kept above ground where it can be
monitored and moved if necessary.
Two nuclear bombs destroyed the cities of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki in 1945. There are now thousands
of nuclear bombs in the world. Nuclear weapons cause blast, fire, the
release of lethal radiation and the dispersal of radioactive material.
In the event of nuclear war thousands would die while those who survived
would not be able to eat crops from affected areas and would be subject
to disease. Homes, hospitals and schools would be destroyed. Food and
help could not be sent because transport would also be destroyed.
Depleted Uranium (DU) is a by-product of the process that produces enriched
uraniumfor use in nuclear weapons and nuclear power stations Because it
is very hard it is used in the tips of shells containing high explosives
to give them more penetrating power. On impact the uranium disperses as
fine particles, which can be breathed into the lungs.