Responding to the announcement that Britain and France will co-operate on nuclear warhead testing, CND has described the step as ‘previously unthinkable’, but in line with the recent recognition that nuclear weapons do not address Britain’s ‘top security risks’.
A new nuclear treaty between the two countries focuses on hydrodynamic testing facilities, which allow the performance and safety of nuclear warheads to be tested without a nuclear explosion taking place. It appears that nuclear weapons testing technology will be now developed in Britain, and the testing will be carried out in France. A planning application to build ‘Project Hydrus’ hydrodynamic testing facility at Aldermaston was recently agreed, but presumably this facility will now be cancelled to make the financial savings that the government has announced.
Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary, said: ‘Such cooperation on Britain’s supposed ‘independent’ nuclear weapons system would previously have been unthinkable. But this comes at a time when the recently released National Security Strategy has clearly shown that the salience of nuclear weapons in addressing our top security risks is questioned at the highest levels of government. Such cooperation further breaks down the previously ‘unchangeable’ status quo on nuclear weapons: the decision on the replacement of Trident has been delayed; the previous ‘minimum deterrent’ number of nuclear warheads has been reduced; the supposed ‘minimum’ number of subs is being questioned; ‘continuous-at-sea deterrence’ is being questioned. Now the facade of ‘independence’ is further undermined.’
‘None of this is surprising as it is now widely recognised that nuclear weapons are irrelevant to our security needs and, at a time of economic crisis and cuts, the majority of the UK population thinks that Trident should be scrapped.’
But Kate Hudson also cautioned the government on its compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: ‘Article 1 of the NPT expressly forbids transfers in relation to nuclear explosive devices. It is vital that this treaty is scrutinised in the light of Article 1. But the fundamental point that both Britain and France have to recognise and act upon is that the NPT – to which they are signatories – requires both of them to disarm their nuclear weapons. Rearranging the deckchairs on the nuclear sub is not sufficient.’
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