Posts Tagged ‘catastrophic harm’

End Nuclear Weapons Now

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Six years ago on 24 January 2015 I photographed a large protest in London calling on the UK to end its huge and pointless investment in nuclear weapons, calling for Trident to be scrapped and not replaced. We waste many billions on procuring and maintaining nuclear weapons – currently around £3 billion a year according to government estimates – on weapons that hopefully will never be used as the consequences would be too disastrous and also ultimately futile as it would lead to retaliation that inevitably would entirely destroy a small and densely populated country like ours.

Our nuclear weapons take up around 6% of the defence budget but offer no defence but are entirely a matter of prestige, something we use to continue to justify our continuing permanent seat on the UN Security Council as founding members under the 1945 UN Charter – along with China, France, Russia and the United States. And along with direct expenditure on the weapons we have also paid more for our electricity as the military nuclear weapon programme has depended on expensive civil nuclear power to provide materials.

Thanks to a sustained campaign by The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and others, the UN in 2017 adopted the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and last October this had been signed and ratified by the required 50 nations and so entered into force on 22 January 2021. Ireland and Austria are so far the only major European countries to have signed up, along with Mexico, but the majority of Caribbean and South American countries have ratified it (and most of the others signed but not yet ratified) among with others from around the world. Altogether 137 countries have now signed up, though 86 have yet to ratify. ICAN were awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its acheivement.

So far none of the nine states which actually have nuclear weapons – Russia, USA, France, UK, China, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea (in order of the number of warheads they hold) – have signed the up to TPNW. Nor have any of the other 27 NATO countries – essentially a part of the US military empire, many with US nuclear weapons on their soil. Only around another 20 states have yet to sign the TPNW.

ICAN has a list ‘What makes nuclear weapons the worst’, which makes the following points.

1 A single nuclear weapon can destroy a city and kill most of its people. Several nuclear explosions over modern cities would kill tens of millions of people. Casualties from a major nuclear war between the US and Russia would reach hundreds of millions.

2 The extreme destruction caused by nuclear weapons cannot be limited to military targets or to combatants.

3 Nuclear weapons produce ionizing radiation, which kills or sickens those exposed, contaminates the environment, and has long-term health consequences, including cancer and genetic damage.

4 Less than one percent of the nuclear weapons in the world could disrupt the global climate and threaten as many as two billion people with starvation in a nuclear famine. The thousands of nuclear weapons possessed by the US and Russia could bring about a nuclear winter, destroying the essential ecosystems on which all life depends.

5 Physicians and first responders would be unable to work in devastated, radioactively contaminated areas. Even a single nuclear detonation in a modern city would strain existing disaster relief resources to the breaking point; a nuclear war would overwhelm any relief system we could build in advance. Displaced populations from a nuclear war will produce a refugee crisis that is orders of magnitude larger than any we have ever experienced.

6 Whether or not they are detonated, nuclear weapons cause widespread harm to health and to the environment.

7 Spending on nuclear weapons detracts limited resources away from vital social services.

ICAN: catastrophic harm

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons includes a comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. These include undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, deploy, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. It also has provisions for assistance to individuals affected by nuclear weapons testing and for environmental remediation.

Public opinion in the UK in a recent Survation Poll conducted for https://cnduk.org/tpnw/ CND showed 77% of the UK public support a total global ban on nuclear weapons and 59% want the British government to sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty.

CND Scrap Trident rally at Parliament
‘Wrap Up Trident’ surrounds Defence Ministry
Christian CND against Trident Replacement


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.