Twenty years after an explosion blew the 500 ton lid off Reactor No 4 at Chernobyl, the sheer magnitude of the disaster is still in the process of being revealed. I just read Alan Higginbotham's Chernobyl 20 years on piece in The Observer and it prompted me to create a whole new section on my site. I deliberately chose to mis-spell "nuclear" in the section title - see Geoffrey Nunberg's Going Nucular.
So what exactly is the nuclear threat? Well it includes environmental and human rights implications of mining operations, dangers in processing, transporting and storing new and spent reactor fuel, dangers of nuclear proliferation, threat of nuclear terrorism and war, consequences of the use of Uranium in armour piercing munitions etc. The threat is global, but concentrating on the UK, what are the main issues as I write this page in March 2006?
First there is a widespread concern that Tony Blair (in collusion with other G8 Nations) is leading us down the road of a major new program of reactor building. The rhetoric is that in order to meet CO2 emissions targets while maintaining "energy security" we have no other option - check out Option 10 for counter arguments.
Then there is the question of the UK's so-called "nuclear deterrent" - the fleet of four nuclear armed and nuclear powered Trident submarines based at Faslane in Scotland. The cost of operating this fleet is approximately £1bn per year and as if that wasn't enough we are being asked to stump up another £40bn for a replacement. What exactly is Trident supposed to be deterring? For more information check out Faslane 365 - a civil resistance project focused in Scotland to apply critical public pressure for the disarmament of Britain's nuclear weapons by a continuous peaceful blockade of the Trident base at Faslane.
So what about this replacement? Work on the new warheads would take place at Aldermaston where a new laser ignition facility called Orion is to be constructed for the purpose. The UK Government has agreed to work in good faith towards the ultimate goal of global nuclear disarmament - how can it reconcile this with a program to develop a new generation of warheads? Block the Builders is a direct action campaign aimed at halting the construction of Orion.
The phrase "nuclear war" conjures up images of mushroom clouds but the military use of radioactive material is not restricted to bombs. Metallic Uranium has certain physical properties which make it an ideal element for use in armour piercing munitions. Ideal for piercing armour that is - far from ideal for people exposed to the resulting Uranium Oxide dust. Something like 400,000 pounds of Uranium have been used by coalition forces in Iraq. For more information check out Ban Uranium Weapons.
Bush and Blair are attempting to crank us all up over the threat from Iran but (like the non-existent WMDs in Iraq) it seems little more than a convenient smoke screen. Let's try to keep a sense of perspective and work towards a world in which nuclear weapons are unacceptable and nuclear power is unnecessary.
www.zenatode.org.uk Ian Gregory 2010