Nuclear Weapons in COVID Times: Deadly Threats to Lives, Health and Security

On 13 May 2020, while Britain was in lockdown, nuclear warheads were taken on public roads from the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Burghfield and Aldermaston in Berkshire, England, to Coulport in Scotland, driving past Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.

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The nuclear convoy (snapped by XR Peace members in Nukewatch) broke lockdown rules to drop off warheads intended for US Trident missiles on UK’s nuclear powered submarines at Faslane, Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Clyde. The government’s desire to keep deploying nuclear WMD is hardly a necessity or “good justification” for putting the NHS and British people at more risk if there were an accident.

Britain makes and deploys nuclear weapons and thereby faces especially high risks of nuclear accidents and use. Far from being a “deterrent that keeps us safe”, if the nuclear weapons carried on just one UK nuclear submarine were detonated, the impacts on the whole world would be devastating. Any survivors would face the horrors of climate chaos, nuclear winter, radiation sickness and mass famine.

NO SAFE HANDS FOR NUCLEAR BOMBS

Sending nuclear weapons around England and Scotland is the height of folly, especially in these Covid Times.

Nuclear weapons and power threaten our security, now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic ravages our economy, destroys tens of thousands of lives and jobs, and stretches our NHS and frontline services to breaking point, we cannot afford the extra burden that nuclear weapons add to our emergency services. So why is the Government carrying on with making further nuclear weapons and submarines, with a price tag over £200 billion?

Covid-19 piles up the dangers already connected with nuclear activities. The navy, including HMNB Clyde at Faslane, is badly hit by coronavirus infections. Already struggling under regulatory “special measures” due to years of safety problems, AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield pose even more risks on skeleton staffing. In Cumbria, Barrow, where “Dreadnought” nuclear submarines are being built by BAE Systems, and Sellafield nuclear plant are also struggling with high rates of infection.

The Covid-19 pandemic reminds us of the fragility of our lives, families and countries. Accidents happen, as shown by the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters. US pilots dropped nuclear bombs by mistake on NATO allies Greenland and Spain some years ago, causing serious plutonium contamination. Human error, miscalculations and irresponsible leaders have brought the world to the brink of nuclear war at least 13 times since 1960.

BLACK LIVES MATTER

We support the Black Lives Matter protests against the horrific murder of George Floyd by an armed white policeman in Minneapolis, who used his knee to choke the life out of this unarmed Black man, filmed for over 8 minutes. Several other police officers stood by and did nothing to help Floyd, who gasped over and over again “I can’t breathe” until he lost consciousness and died.

The calls for Justice take place against the backdrop of personal and institutional racism and attitudes of white supremacy that have poisoned the whole history of the United States of America. These Black Lives Matter protests connect unmistakably with the racist-colonialist histories of our own countries as well, that have caused untold human misery for centuries of slavery, rape and lynching, and which continue even now through institutional inequality and discrimination, and the hate and fear embedded in white supremacist narratives.

XR Peace was established last year to highlight the links between the Climate Emergency and military-industrial frameworks, objectives and profiteering connected with weapons and war. The Black Lives Matter movement calls for Action to end racism, Justice for George Floyd and all the other Black Lives destroyed by racism, and for fundamental changes to tackle inequality, prejudice, and abuses of power by police and others in authority. Their demands directly connect with the peace and justice work that we do.

When George Floyd was murdered last week, his six year old daughter lost her father. That’s the human story. The continuation of racist-colonialist military-industrial warmongering and environmental destruction is the shameful history that has brought the whole world to the brink of extinction.

Today – and every day – we must walk shoulder to shoulder with our Black Sisters and Brothers in our lives and campaigns for peace and justice.