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Select a news topic from the list below, then select a news article to read.

Brian Quail's Herald Letter

 Father George Donaldson says the Vatican has endorsed consistently multilateral nuclear disarmament . The trouble is that no British nuclear bomb has ever been on the table at an international disarmament conference. So, as the redoubtable Bruce Kent once succinctly observed: "A unilateralist is a multilateralist who means what he says."

When Trident replaced Polaris it was described by the select committee on defence as "a significant enhancement of the UK's nuclear potential". This despite the fact that the UK government was bound under Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968) to work in good faith towards the reduction of nuclear weapons. Trident is to be replaced by a newer, more effective version in 2020. As far as Britain is concerned, it is "new lamps for old".

It is not possible to endorse nuclear deterrence without being committed to the actual use of the atom bomb should the deterrence situation break down (it makes no sense to issue a threat which you refuse to implement). A conditional intention to massacre is no less decisively wicked for being thus conditional.

Murderous threats are murderous threats. Whatever their ultimate consequences, they already devastate human limits. That is why - in a lovely Americanism - US Pax Christi bishops once described nuclear deterrence as "a sin situation". As the Scottish bishops said at Easter 1982: "If it is immoral to use these weapons, it is immoral to threaten their use."

The teaching of the Catholic Church on WMD is clear beyond dispute. Paragraph 80 of the document Gaudium et Spes, issued by the Second Vatican Council, states: "Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation."

The Labour Party's endorsement of Trident cannot be reconciled with this basic moral position.
Brian M Quail, Glasgow.

AWE Blockaded

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More than 30 people were arrested yesterday during one of the biggest anti-nuclear protests at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston for 10 years. The gates of the site were blocked as people attached themselves to concrete blocks which had to be broken apart by police. Others climbed scaffolding or lay in the road at the demonstration by about 400 people to mark the start of the UN World Disarmament Week.

They were protesting against a decision to modernise the Aldermaston plant in Berkshire and plans to develop a new warhead for nuclear missiles that the government wants to buy to replace the Trident system

Campaign group Trident Ploughshares said it successfully blocked the A340 for two hours using a tripod of scaffolding with a protester perched on top. Nine protesters locked together also blocked a gate into the site for five hours, it said. Thames Valley Police said around 150 people joined the protest which started at 6am.

"The majority of protesters were peaceful. However, 33 people were arrested, mainly for obstruction of the highway, and taken to custody at Newbury, Loddon Valley, Maidenhead and Abingdon police stations," a spokesman said.

For more information see:  blockawe.blogspot.com

 

New US Global Strike Command

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The US Air Force (USAF) is planning to set up a new Global Strike Command for its nuclear weapons as part of a re-organisation after recent mishaps.

The move follows the discovery that six nuclear weapons were mistakenly flown across the US, and that nuclear missile fuses were sent unknowingly to Taiwan.

The blunders resulted in the sacking of two of USAF's most senior officials.

A three-star general will head the new command, part of a project aimed at shaking up USAF's nuclear mission.

"This is a critical milestone for us. It's a new starting point for reinvigoration of this enterprise," said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.

"It is an extremely important mission for the United States Air Force."

In June, Gen T Michael Moseley, USAF chief of staff, and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne were both asked to resign by Defence Secretary Robert Gates after a report revealed that the security of US nuclear weapons and parts had been in question.


Secret Contract for Sellafield Waste

left A WELSH Labour MP has accused the UK Government of covering up a deal that will land taxpayers with a multi-billion- pound liability in the event of a nuclear accident while a private consortium will reap the profits.

Newport West MP Paul Flynn discovered that details of a contract to privatise the management of waste from the controversial Sellafield nuclear power station in Cumbria should have been placed in the House of Commons library in July. If they had been, MPs would have had 14 days in which to raise questions about the deal.

In fact, the contract was not put into the library until last week, by which time the opportunity to scrutinise it had gone.

International Commission on NNP

Former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi co-chaired the first meetings of the International Commission on Nuclear Non Proliferation, which also includes former senior diplomats from Russia, France, Pakistan, the United States, China and six other countries.

The commission was announced by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a visit to Japan in June. He said at the time its purpose would be to restore and strengthen fragmenting support for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which dates back to 1968 but has not been signed by nuclear powers India, Pakistan or Israel. The group aims to influence a review of the treaty that is due in 2010.

One topic on the agenda is a recent US nuclear accord with India, which would reverse more than three decades of US policy barring the sale of nuclear fuel and technology to countries that have not yet signed the treaty.

Commissioners from other members India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Britain were unable to attend the talks in Sydney.

Mr Evans, who was Australian foreign minister from 1988 to 1996 and who since 2000 has headed the Brussels-based nongovernment organization the International Crisis Group, said reining in the spread of nuclear weapons was as serious an issue the global financial crisis.

Another Faslane Safety Breach

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Two workers were exposed to excess radiation after equipment failure at the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the Clyde earlier this month, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed.

The workers had to shut the doors on a radiation source by hand after a jammed wire prevented the usual closing mechanism from operating. The source was being used to x-ray pipes for flaws.

The workers were exposed to 1.1 millisieverts of radiation. Though that is just above the 1 mSv recommended annual limit for members of the public, it is within the 20 mSv annual limit for radiation workers.

The incident was reported to the government watchdog, the Health and Safety Executiveand ministers were briefed, as is usual with such incidents. But a Ministry of Defence spokesman insisted that the health of the two workers had not been put at risk.

“They received very low doses, they didn’t need treatment and they were not referred to hospital,” he said. “They followed the contingency plans in place to close the doors.”

The incident didnÂ’t involve any of the nuclear-powered submarines or the Trident nuclear weapons system, based at Faslane. Last month the Sunday Herald revealed that safety lapses at the base had reached a record high, with exactly 100 recorded between June 2006 and May 2007.

Nuclear Consultation "Misleading"

 A public consultation on new nuclear power stations which was run by a company linked to the Prime Minister's personal pollster has been criticised for breaching industry guidelines. Environmentalists and opposition MPs denounced the exercise as "fixed" after the Market Research Standards Board said some material given to focus groups was "inaccurately or misleadingly presented".

Hutton Wants to Keep Nuclear Weapons in Scotland

THE UK Defence Secretary has placed himself on a collision course with the Scottish Government when he branded SNP plans to scrap the nuclear deterrent as "incredible folly" and "national vandalism". During a visit to Faslane naval base on the Clyde, John Hutton also reinforced the UK Ggovernment's pledge to keep nuclear weapons in Scotland. The move is a direct challenge to the Scottish Government's efforts to have the weapons removed from Sco
tland. 

Mr Hutton said Faslane was a "vital part of our country's defence" as home to Britain's nuclear deterrent, and warned any decision by the SNP to scrap Trident and its replacement would be an "incredible folly" and an act of "national vandalism".

His comments drew criticism from the SNP's Bruce Crawford, Minister forPparliamentary Business, who said that the Trident replacement was an "irresponsible" waste of money in the current economic climate. "Trident is part and parcel of the Blair/Brown 'Age of Irresponsibility'," he said.

"At a time of economic downturn and substantial pressure on government spending, it is utterly irresponsible to waste anything up to £100 billion on a new generation of unnecessary and unwanted weapons of mass destruction – dumped in Scotland against the wishes of Scotland's Parliament and a majority of Scottish Westminster MPs."

Guardian Article on Trident

 

What will be the fate of "Britain's" nuclear deterrent if Scotland becomes independent? If the result of the Glenrothes byelection on November 6 mirrors that of Glasgow East, an answer may soon be needed. This is the biggest conundrum among a series of challenges concerning Scotland's stance on defence if the country were to become an independent state - leaving England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI) as a separate independent state.

Defence is a fundamental attribute of statehood. Yet "Britain's" nuclear forces, which are supported by MPs and the general population in EWNI, are situated in Scotland. They are not supported by either the Scottish people or the Scottish Parliament. Nor did the Scots support Britain's invasion of Iraq. The SNP's defence stance reflects both concerns.

North Korea v United States

If you were keeping a scorecard of the nuclear brinkmanship between North Korea and the United States, today it would show game, set and match for Pyongyang over the world's only remaining superpower.

The totalitarian state secured a major strategic victory at the weekend over the US, which finally removed North Korea from its terrorism blacklist, consigning to history President George Bush's description of Pyongyang as a member of the "Axis of Evil".

The decision goes far beyond the realm of symbolism, however. The delisting, which had long been a prize sought by the reclusive and isolated North Korean regime, opens up trade and financial prospects that had been denied under US sanctions. it also comes after the North Koreans threatened to sabotage a hard-fought agreement secured through six-party talks with the US and its neighbours. it warned it would bar UN weapons inspectors from its partially disabled Yongbyon plant and move to restart its weapons programme, accusing the Americans of reneging on a pledge to delist it as a state sponsor of terror.

The US would doubtless argue that impoverished North Korea needed this deal more than the Americans. But the administration, castigated by the Republican right for yielding to North Korean blackmail yet again, clearly needed a diplomatic success in the dying days of George Bush's presidency. The outgoing President hopes to be able to proclaim that he has left the world a safer place by dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons programme under a strict verification process.