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Help us to stop nuclear weapons convoys

Publicity around nuclear convoys has raised interest in the transport of Trident nuclear weapons around Scotland. On 10 March Brian Quail, a Glasgow pensioner and prominent member of Scottish CND, stopped a nuclear convoy as it drove through Balloch (video). 

What can I do to help?

* If you see a convoy contact Nukewatch on 0345 458 8365
* Contact your MP, MSPs and Councillor, particularly if you live in an area where the convoys pass through.
* H
elp to publicise nuclear convoys on social media (@ScottishCND and Scottish CND on Facebook)
* Help to publicise convoys with leaflets, posters and local meetings.
* Let us know if you would like to be informed of future convoys. (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )
* Select Read More for further information on these convoys.


What are nuclear weapon convoys?

Convoys normally include between 3 and 5 special nuclear weapon lorries plus a large number of escort vehicles. There are usually at least 20 vehicles in total. A fire engine travels immediately behind the nuclear transporters and a breakdown truck follows a mile or two in the rear. The convoy itself is operated by the Ministry of Defence Police. In Scotland it often has an additional escort from Police Scotland.

The photo below shows a convoy heading South on the M73, just South of Baillieston interchange on 14 March 2016. (video)


The lorries are Truck Cargo Heavy Duty (TCHD) Mk3. These vehicles were specially built to transport nuclear weapons. In the 1990s Faslane Peace Camp were able to photograph an earlier version, TCHD Mk1, loading and unloading nuclear weapons at Coulport. The pictures below show a crate containing a nuclear weapon being unloaded from a truck inside the Polaris High Security Area in Coulport.


Why do nuclear convoys travel on our roads?

Britain's nuclear weapons are all based in Scotland. They are deployed on submarines based at Faslane. the weapons are loaded onto submarines at the nearby depot at Coulport. Coulport also stores spare warheads.

The weapons are assembled at Burghfield in Berkshire in a unique facility. This is the only place in Britain where high explosive is wrapped around the sphere of plutonium at the heart of each nuclear weapon. The four circles in the photo below are the nuclear weapon assembly cells at Burghfield.

From time to time nuclear warheads are taken from Coulport to Burghfield for surveillance or maintenance. They are always moved by road.

Why have there been several convoys recently?

In recent years there have only been two or three convoys a year. However between December 2015 and March 2016 there has been one convoy travelling each month.

The reason for this is not entirely clear. A likely explanation is that the MOD have a major project to upgrade all the nuclear warheads from Mk4 to M4A. The upgrade was due to start at some point after 2014. The upgrade will involve taking all warheads to Burghfield, dismantling them and rebuilding them in the new configuration.

The MOD have been very secretive about Mk4A, but a lot is known about the equivalent US programme. Below is a diagram showing that many major warhead components will be replaced or refurbished in the US Mk4A upgrade. The items include replacing the Chemical High Explosive (CHE) and refurbishing the fusion section, the Canned Sub Assembly (CSA). This is work that, in the UK, can only be done at Burghfield.

The effect of the Mk4A upgrade will be to significantly enhance the capability of Trident by giving the warhead a reliable ground burst capability (report - Word Doc). The upgrade will also mean that the warheads will remain in service for longer.

Where do convoys travel?

Convoys sometimes travel through the centre of Glasgow on the M74 and M8. In recent years they have only done this in the early hours of the morning. Another regular route takes them along the Edinburgh bypass. They frequently travel around Stirling, sometimes stopping at a barracks in the town. In addition the convoys travel on the A1, A68, M74, M73, M80, M9, A811 and A82.

Police cars preventing traffic from overtaking a nuclear convoy on the M74 in Glasgow on 3 December 2015. (video) -

Veronika Tudhope's soft toys following convoy, M73, 9 January 2016 (video) -

Convoy on Edinburgh bypass 4 September 2015 (video) -

Photo of convoy passing Stirling castle on 10 March. (Video of return on 14 March)

Convoy passing between Hamilton and Motherwell on 9 January 2016 - 

 There is further information on the Nukewatch website.

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