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Nuclear Convoy lost in Scotland

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Around midnight on Monday night, 12 November, vehicles in a convoy transporting nuclear weapons got lost as they travelled in the dark around central Scotland. The convoy was travelling from the nuclear weapons store at Coulport. Members of Nukewatch were tracking the support vehicles at the back of the convoy.  These vehicles took a detour towards Kincardine Bridge, then took a U-turn back towards Stirling and stopped at the Forthside Defence Logisitics site.

 

Campaigners have expressed alarm after part of a nuclear warhead convoy containing vital safety equipment got lost in the early hours of this morning en route to a military base in Stirling for a rest stop.

Activists from the NukeWatch network tracked the convoy as it left RNAD Coulport, on the Clyde, carrying nuclear warheads to AWE Burghfield, near Reading.  The convoy consisted of two groups: the front convoy with three load carriers (each able to carry up to two, fully assembled nuclear warheads), police, Royal Marines and a fire engine while the support part of the convoy travelled a mile or so behind this.  This consisted of a support truck carrying emergency equipment, a coach and a tow truck.  The support truck contains spare parts and tools to deal with mechanical problems and also, vitally, the decontamination unit in case of an accident or fire which releases nuclear material. 

NukeWatch followed this support convoy as it went from Balloch onto the M9 at Stirling[1] at midnight.  At Junction 9 it continued on the M9 towards Edinburgh.  It then left the M9 at Junction 7 onto the M876, towards the Kincardine Bridge.  At the next set of roundabouts (which was the scene of extensive roadworks) it turned around, heading back down the M876 towards Glasgow and back onto the M9 heading north-east and back to Stirling.  It left the M9 again at Junction 9, heading north on the A91 then into the Defence Storage and Distribution Agency (DSDA) ABRO base at Forthside, near the Springkerse Industrial Estate, within in the city of Stirling.

Adam Conway from NukeWatch, one of the activists who followed the convoy as it got lost, commented "There are only two possible scenarios here and both exposed the public to totally unnecessary risk.  Either the main part of the convoy also took this route, in which case nuclear warheads were wandering up and down the M9, on a dark and foggy night, unnecessarily; or, the more likely scenario, the main convoy didn't miss the turning, only the support convoy did.  This is even more worrying as it means the convoy was separated from it's decontamination unit for over half an hour.  The support vehicles had no police escort, should they have needed to get back to the convoy quickly had there been an accident."

Anna-Linnea Rundberg, who also followed the convoy, added "These horrific warheads should not be transported on our roads at all.  The risks, including the admitted risk of a nuclear explosion in a serious crash or as the result of a terrorist attack, are simply too high.  However, the very least we should be able to expect is that they keep such journeys to a minimum by taking the correct route and that they keep all the safety equipment with the convoy."

Protesters had safely delayed the convoy earlier near Balloch when three activists from Faslane Peace Camp were arrested.  By 9pm the convoy had arrived at its destination at AWE Burghfield near Reading in Berkshire.

Fact Sheet

Nuclear Warheads

  • Nuclear Warheads are moved on public roads approximately every 6-8 weeks between RNAD Coulport, 30 miles west of Glasgow, and AWE Burghfield, 50 miles north-west of London.
  • The warheads are constructed at AWE Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield then stored at Coulport before being put onto Trident submarines to be deployed.
  • They must be taken back to Burghfield for decommissioning and for maintenance every so often before being returned to the Coulport arsenal.
  • Each warhead is up to 100 kilotons. This is eight times the size of the bomb which devastated Hiroshima

Warhead Transportation

  • A terrorist attack on a nuclear warhead convoy "has the potential to lead to damage or destruction of a nuclear weapon" according to the MoD Director of Information, David Wray, in May 2006.  "The consequences of such an incident are likely to be considerable loss of life and severe disruption both to the British people's way of life and to the UK's ability to function effectively as a sovereign state."

NukeWatch

  • NukeWatch is a network of individuals who track the nuclear warhead convoys and campaign against them. 
  • NukeWatch campaigns against the convoys mainly because they are part of a system of weapons of mass destruction, but also because we believe that communities potentially affected by the convoys should be aware of their existence and the risks they pose.

 

Footnotes

  1. The whole convoy had been observed leaving Coulport and passing through Balloch, and was observed at Stirling going onto the M9.  From then on it went ahead and, due to the dark and foggy conditions, only the support section could be seen from behind.

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