Should Britain be building new nuclear weapons?

What are its implications and what is the peace movement’s strategy ?

A discussion paper on replacement of Trident nuclear weapon system

Public meeting:
1 June 2006, 7.30pm

UNA (United Nations Association) Streatham and Clapham
United Reformed Church Hall, Streatham High Road, London SW16 6XH

Vijay Mehta


    1. Introduction
    2. Costs to the taxpayer? Effect on social spending?
    3. Links of US – UK Trident system & options for the UK government.
    4. Political opinion and global implications.
    5. Legality of Trident under International Law.
    6. Terrorism and escalation of nuclear hostilities with Iran and North Korea.
    7. Nuclear accidents, effects of radiation and the damage to the environment.
    8. The role of UN in promoting nuclear disarmament
    9. What can we do ? Links, contacts and 13 Practical Steps for Disarmament.
    10. Conclusion




The full version of this speech can be downloaded from:

Vijay Mehta is an author, peace and development activist. His latest book, The United Nations and Its Future in the 21st Century, discuss ideas about the UN’s central role in contributing to international peace and security. He is president of VM Centre for Peace and Chair of Arms Reduction Coalition, and World Disarmament Campaign. He is a founder member of the New School of Athens and a member of the National Council of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).


Should Britain be building a new generation of nuclear weapons system, Trident. Is it dependent on US Trident nuclear system? How much does it cost? Can we afford it? Who is it aimed at? Does it violate its commitment under the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT)? How does Trident replacement enhance or diminish international peace and security? What are its implications for unforeseen accidents, like Chernobyl? How does this replacement affect Iran, North Korea, other nuclear and non-nuclear countries? Finally, what can we do for preventing the Trident replacement for a safer future and a nuclear weapons free world.

What is Trident? Brief history? Why is replacement an issue now?

Trident, Britain’s current nuclear weapon system, consists of four British-built Vanguard class nuclear powered submarines each carrying up to 16 US Trident II D5 missiles. There are around three British built nuclear warheads mounted on every missile making about 48 warheads carried by each submarine. Each warhead can be aimed at a different target reach of six thousand miles and each has eight times the explosive power of the bomb which was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in 1945 killing about 140,000 people.

Britain’s entire nuclear force is sea-based. The current Trident system entered service in late 1994 and will be obsolete in 15 years’ time. The decision must be made now due to the lengthy procurement process required for all defence systems.

UK Trident Vanguard-class submarines carry 48 100-kiloton (kT) warheads – equivalent to 380 Hiroshima bombs. They can strike targets in Russia and the Middle East. One boat is on constant patrol in the Atlantic. Britain has around 200 warheads, 100 of which are for a tactical role. The submarines each carry 16 purchased US missiles and an unknown number of the missiles are planned on being deployed for non-strategic roles with 10 kT warheads.

The new Trident II D5 missiles is the first US submarine-based missile to have a capability against hardened targets – and would therefore deemed suitable for the new strategies intended to deal with the hidden underground arsenals of ‘rogue states’. It is in service on Britain’s submarines. An extensive US upgrade is planned in 2020 for 300 missiles, to upgrade them to the Trident D-5A version with improved capabilities and an extended service life.

The UK could extend the in-service life of Trident in the short term and procure a system largely based upon the US Navy programme in the longer term. It has also been suggested that Trident subs be equipped with conventional warheads. There is growing support in the US and UK military for ‘dual-capable’ systems or even switching to conventional weapons, which are increasing in strength and accuracy. Building a new class of submarines equipped to fire nuclear or conventional missiles is a possibility, but more subs would be needed, making this a costly option.

Despite the end of the Cold War, those in favour of keeping Britain as a nuclear weapons state say no one can predict which enemies we will face in decades to come. Having the ultimate deterrent is still seen as an insurance policy against old and new threats such as China and Pakistan, and as the main means of ensuring a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

While the US and EU are trying to dissuade nations such as Iran from developing nuclear weapons, such an extensive re-armament programme as a Trident replacement sends the wrong signals to real and potential proliferant nations. Britain's nuclear weapon system Trident will reach the end of its lifespan in 2025. A decision will be made in this parliament on its replacement.

Costs to the taxpayer? Effect on social spending?

It is estimated that the total cost of replacing 'Trident' missiles, warheads, submarines and related facilities could be as much as £25 billion. To maintain the Trident system it will cost another 1.5 billion per year. Nothing could make the UK secure than the billions we are spending in the name of security.

What could the government spend £25 billion on?

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Britain is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a decision to replace Trident could run counter to our treaty commitments. It costs billions of pounds, will escalate global tensions and undermine- rather than secure- our real security. As Harold Pinter, the playwright and Nobel Prize winner, asked who I wonder is Trident aimed at? Osama Bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Docks? China? Paris? Who knows? Can you imagine what the government could spend £25 billion on? It can make our health and education system much better or help reverse worst effects of climate change or meet United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aid target of 0.7% of GNP every year for next 6 years.

Links of US – UK Trident system and options for the government

The US Connection

Trident is a US nuclear system. The US provides assistance to Britain with its nuclear programme under the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement.

Although the Government claims that Trident is "independent", it is clear that the UK depends heavily on the US for nuclear assistance and that the US therefore has leverage over British foreign and defence policy.

Trident missiles

The UK has access to 58 missiles from the US pool of Trident II D5 missiles. British Trident Submarines collect the missiles from the US Trident base at Kings Bay, Georgia in the South-East of the United States. While the submarines are in the United States, they will usually test fire one or two missiles at the US Eastern Test Range, off the coast of Florida, where the US test fires its Trident missiles. The Trident missiles are maintained and serviced in the United States.

Trident warheads

The UK Trident warhead is closely based on the US Trident W76 warhead and was tested underground at the US nuclear test site in Nevada.

The UK works closely on design and maintenance of its nuclear warheads with the 3 main US nuclear weapons laboratories, Lawrence Livermore in California and Los Alamos and Sandia in New Mexico. Components for British nuclear weapons are transported by air and road between AWE Aldermaston and RAF Brize Norton in the UK and the US weapons laboratories for ongoing tests.

The UK participates in numerous exchange visits with staff from the US nuclear weapons laboratories. It also participates with the US in "sub-critical" nuclear tests (tests which fall just short of releasing a nuclear explosion) at the Test Site.

Cooperation on Nuclear Posture

Under the terms of the agreement under which the US provided assistance with Trident to the UK, UK Trident submarines are assigned to NATO to be used for the "defence of the Alliance" except where the UK government "may decide that supreme national interests are at stake".

UK nuclear strategy and targeting is closely coordinated with the US through the NATO Nuclear Planning Group. NATO's nuclear posture, which is heavily influenced by the United States includes the option of using nuclear weapons first and the option to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries. As the Bush administration has moved towards a more aggressive nuclear posture, the UK and NATO are expected to fall into line.

Options for the government

There are three possible options facing the government:

1. Trident is not replaced with another nuclear weapons system and the UK takes the initiative towards fulfilling its obligations to disarm under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

2. The lifespan of the Trident system is extended in the short term.

3. A replacement of the Trident system is procured, encompassing various new technologies. Delivery is likely to be based on a nuclear powered submarine system.

Several opinions suggest that the government has already made a decision in secret on a replacement and preparations may already have begun to procure new nuclear weapons capabilities, even though the government denies this.

So, without any proper public debate on either side of the Atlantic, both nations might have begun developing a new nuclear weapons programme which could last for 40 or 50 years. Throughout that period, their missiles will continue to provide everyone else with an excuse to flout the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The Royal Navy recently announced that it is spending £125m upgrading the Faslane naval base on the River Clyde in Scotland. The base houses the submarines which carry the UK's Trident missiles. Like the Orion project, where the £100 million of government spending is likely to go ahead on the laser project at Aldermaston, the spending has been approved before parliament or the public has had a chance to decide whether it is necessary: what it means, in effect, is that the Trident replacement programme has already begun.

The first option, not to replace Trident, is the only lawful and moral one. It is a path that has already been taken by other previously nuclear-armed states, including South Africa. It is also the one that is most likely to enable the UK to face the real security challenges of the 21st Century. At this time, this option may be the least likely for a number of reasons, most importantly the UK’s current stance on nuclear weapons and the strong connection with the US on nuclear and other defence issues including the UK’s membership of NATO.

Political Opinions and global implications

It can be said that terrorism and wars called as humanitarian intervention have made nuclear disarmament and arms control a lesser priority.

But the majority of the British people don't want to spend their money on these weapons of mass destruction, which even the Prime Minister accepts would be useless against a terrorist threat. In a recent MORI/Greenpeace poll 54% of the British public said they would oppose a costly replacement of Trident. This money would be better spent on defeating poverty at home and abroad, and providing for employment, education and health.

We believes that far from deterring nuclear threats, replacing Trident will increase the risk of nuclear conflict. The British government should take this opportunity to press for nuclear disarmament worldwide, as required under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and become a force for peace in the world.

There are 30,000 nuclear warheads in the possession of the declared nuclear weapon states USA, Russia, France, UK and China with their arsenals on hair-trigger alert. On top of that there is worldwide proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology which is being deployed by countries such as India, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea and Israel. When so much military hardware is available around the world terrorists can easily create mayhem by indiscriminate mass killing and destruction. Political violence, organised crime and inciting fear in the civilian population are becoming the hallmark of new terrorism. The war on terror has offered a whole set of justifications for countries to increase their arsenals and push the budget on military spending.

The development of mini nukes and bunker buster bombs by US and its doctrine of pre-emption which has replaced arm control and collective security has made the world a far less secure and stable place. It also gives wrong signals to other countries as they feel vulnerable to attack.

The decision on whether or not to replace Britain’s nuclear weapons system must be taken on the basis of what will most contribute to the security of the British people. That non-replacement would best meet that requirement and would also make a significant contribution to international security by strengthening and advancing the disarmament and non-proliferation regime that is widely supported by states and civil society organizations globally. The requirements of the international treaty framework outlines together with the links between the failure of the nuclear weapons states to disarm and the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Legal opinion that a Trident replacement would be a material breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should make replacement illegal.

Rather than disarming in the post-Cold War period, Britain adapted some of its weapons for sub-strategic use and in part restated the function of Britain’s nuclear weapons as the defence of vital interests. At the present time, there is widespread opposition to a Trident Replacement, partly because it is generally thought to be irrelevant against the threat of terrorism. Britain’s links with the US, including nuclear sharing via the Mutual Defence Agreement, and policy similarities that include the abandoning of negative security assurances and the considering of nuclear weapons as part of a useable arsenal are a force behind UK’s decision to go ahead with new generation of nuclear weapons.

Michael Portillo, a Conservative former defense secretary, noted that Blair appeared still to be nursing scars from the bitter 1980s battles over nuclear policy. After 1979, Labour lost the next three general elections, in 1983, 1987 and 1992. Of course, there were many reasons for Labour’s four consecutive electoral defeats, but some still blame its nuclear disarmament stance of 1983, most cruelly lampooned in a clever Tory poster that depicted a British soldier with his arms raised in surrender. At that time, Blair, like most Labour Party members, opposed the Conservative decision to acquire Trident and supported the widespread anti-nuclear movements sweeping through Europe against the deployment of a new generation of mobile U.S. and Soviet nuclear weapons. Arguing that times have changed, Portillo in effect told Blair to evaluate the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons based on future needs and not past traumas. "It lies entirely in his hands to make a unilateral cut in the global arsenal of weapons and to lead the world by example," he said.

The British decision, whichever way it goes, could prove to be a tipping point, with profound implications—positive or negative—for global nonproliferation efforts.

We now in a position where the Prime Minister has made it clear that he is determined to fund a new generation of nuclear weapons to replace the ageing Trident system. At the same time we are being told we must be ready to take military action against Iran on the grounds that it may be planning to develop nuclear weapons; although Israel, with a huge nuclear arsenal, is never criticised, and India, which has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has been offered a share in US nuclear technology.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty has been completely ignored by the major nuclear powers because under its provisions the nuclear powers have pledged themselves to negotiate nuclear disarmament and never to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state – a pledge that has been ignored, with direct threats that they might be used if a nuclear state felt endangered.

Bush and Blair are, in effect, positively encouraging the spread of nuclear weapons in that any country that fears a US attack must be tempted to argue that if they had the bomb the USA would never dare attack them. That is why North Korea seems to be a bit safer than Iran, and indeed if Saddam Hussein has had nuclear weapons the 2003 invasion might never have occurred, although it was justified on the grounds that he might have had them.

Of course Britain does not actually have its own weapons at all, because after the Vulcan bomber was scrapped we became dependent on the USA; it lends us its technology but retains control of the global satellite navigation system needed if our missiles are to be targeted.

Legality of Trident under International Law

Britain is committed to eliminate its nuclear arsenal under Article VI of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which states that:

"Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."

At the 2000 NPT Review Conference, Britain agreed to make an "unequivocal commitment" to "accomplish the elimination" of its nuclear weapons, and signed up to a programme of action for nuclear disarmament. Britain agreed to make "further efforts" to reduce nuclear weapons unilaterally, to increase transparency, to reduce the operational status of its nuclear weapons, to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its military strategy, and to engage in the process leading to the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

The Government is yet to do anything to implement the 2000 NPT agreement or to fully implement Article VI. Instead it appears determined to maintain Trident indefinitely. This is viewed as hypocrisy by most non nuclear weapon states - why should they abide by the NPT when the UK (and the four other nuclear weapon states) have no intentions of abiding by their obligations?

International Court of Justice ICJ

On 8th July 1996 the International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons. The Court concluded that:

" the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law." (para 2E)

"states must never make civilians the object of attack and must consequently never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets." (para 78)

The basis of humanitarian law is that parties to any conflict should seek to distinguish between civilian and military targets. This is repeated in the basic rules of the 1949 Geneva Convention.

The Geneva Convention Protocol 1977 prohibits attacks on civilians and methods of warfare which are intended, or may be anticipated, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment. (Article 35)

The inherent impossibility of distinguishing between civilian and military targets and the obvious fact that the use of Trident would result in a massive number of casualties in a wide area, clearly renders the use or threat of Trident illegal. It is clear that the use of Trident would result in a massive number of casualties across a wide area.

The use of nuclear weapons would generally breach all of the following declarations and conventions:

Terrorism and escalation of nuclear hostilities with Iran and North Korea

Following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September, urgent action is needed to renew international efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Tackling the threat posed by transnational terrorism will require a fresh review of UK defence and foreign policy. In the past the UK and its NATO allies have viewed nuclear weapons as providing the ‘ultimate guarantee’ of security.

However, the terrorists who carried out the attacks on the United States were clearly undeterred by Western nuclear forces, and it is difficult to see how nuclear weapons could be used in the current (or any) war against terrorism.

Proliferation and trade

Among the most important aspects of nuclear industry which touch communities in developing countries is the issue of proliferation. The Non-Proliferation Treaty has built into it provisions which authorise any state to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, while forbidding the production of atomic weapons. However, as is clear from the ongoing crises over Iran’s and N. Korea’s programmes, it is extremely difficult for the IAEA inspectors to determine whether a clandestine weapons programme is indeed being pursued. The fact that the technology offers a possible future weapons capability (even if not exercised currently) means that there is an added temptation – in an uncertain world – to follow the nuclear path, even if this is not in fact the best energy choice for that country. Reasons for this could include the enormous cost of developing facilities and training technicians and experts; the dangers of contamination; the insoluble issue of nuclear waste; and the burden of erecting a complete national grid distribution system for carrying the electricity from a central source. This is a good illustration of the argument that possibilities in the military sphere have a tendency to overrule rational development choices.

The enrichment of uranium by Iran is in the centre of the international debate over Tehran’s nuclear programme. Numerous other officially non-nuclear countries e.g. Brazil, South Africa, have more advanced uranium enrichment programmes than Iran. None of them have been subject to the kind of pressure the US and its allies are imposing on Iran. Bush and Blair stress that the world cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran and have asked the UN Security Council to take stricter steps. However, Iran has refuted the allegation by saying that IAEA have found no diversion of nuclear materials.

The case with North Korea is different as US is opening up negotiations for resolving the nuclear proliferation issue as they fear nuclear confrontation with North Korea will lead to a policy failure and will encourage Iran further. So they want to negotiate a deal with dictatorial regime and abandon the earlier policy where they had insisted that there will be no talks before it dismantles its nuclear weapons programme. Now they are negotiating on the basis to give security and economic benefits in return for abandonment of its nuclear weapons capabilities.

Nuclear accidents, effects of radiation and damage to the environment

The legacy of Chernobyl stresses the importance of security and nonproliferation. The world experienced its worst nuclear accident, in the early morning of April 26, 1986, when a steam explosion blew the top off one of the Soviet-designed reactors at Chernobyl, Ukraine. The resulting fire burned for nine days and released massive amounts of radioactivity into the environment.

Traditionally, 20 years represent a human generation. As the nuclear industry is gearing up for regeneration after decades of little growth in power plant construction, this is a perfect time to take stock of Chernobyl's lessons.

In 1986, the nightmares of the nuclear age were disastrous reactor accidents, thermonuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries, and nuclear terrorism. Today, while the first threat has greatly diminished, the other threats have grown and demand urgent action.

Despite the Soviet Union's demise almost 15 years ago, the US and Russia still maintain thousands of nuclear warheads ready to launch at each other. Recent improvements to the US arsenal aimed at achieving nuclear dominance are stimulating Russia to increase its spending on nuclear weapons. As a result, both sides are raising the likelihood of nuclear war, whether intentional or accidental. Moscow and Washington should renew arms-control talks to work toward soon reducing their stockpiles below 1,000 warheads.

For this reason, the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident provides a timely reminder for what can go wrong without careful safety planning. The Chernobyl accident spurred dramatic improvements in reactor safety. Reeling from the accident, the nuclear industry quickly formed a peer review group called the World Association of Nuclear Operators. WANO has done extensive safety examinations of nuclear plants worldwide.

Industry should now build on the success of WANO to address security and proliferation problems. It should form a peer review organization to assess and improve the security of nuclear plants against attack or sabotage. Such an organization would identify best security practices and then perform comprehensive and confidential security reviews of all nuclear reactors.

Once needed security improvements are identified, the question becomes who will pay for the work. Of course, industry wants to minimize security costs to maximize profits. But there is also a growing realization among industry officials that an act of nuclear terrorism would likely torpedo the nuclear power renaissance under way in the US and other parts of the world.

The legacy of Chernobyl should teach industry and government that they should seize the opportunity now to take proactive steps to enhance security and prevent proliferation to pave the way for the next generation of nuclear power.

Effects of radiation

The health effects of radiation among survivors of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are well documented. As a result of the acute radiation syndrome, thousands of people contracted cancer, leukemia, tumors, growth impairment, and mentally retarded- the effects of which are felt till now in the surviving hibakusha.

The effects of radiation emanating from nuclear weapons tests is a subject of great controversy among scientists, health officials ands environmentalists. Among the research problems is the fact that populations located within range of the fallout are also subject to other forms of radiation (including natural background radiation) and that the effects take decades to show up as cancers and other diseases. However the following gives some idea of the scale of the problem, at least in the USA. (Figures for other parts of the globe are less easy to obtain).

"Radioactive fallout from Cold War nuclear weapons tests across the globe probably caused at least 15,000 cancer deaths in U.S. residents born after 1951, according to data from an unreleased federal study. The study, coupled with findings from previous government investigations, suggests that 20,000 non-fatal cancers — and possibly many more — also can be tied to fallout from aboveground weapons tests. The study shows that far more fallout than previously known reached the USA from nuclear tests in the former Soviet Union and on several Pacific islands used for U.S. and British exercises. It also finds that fallout from scores of U.S. trials at the Nevada Test Site spread substantial amounts of radioactivity across broad swaths of the country. When fallout from all tests, domestic and foreign, is taken together, no U.S. resident born after 1951 escaped exposure, the study says."

(Peter Eisler,’ Fallout likely caused 15,000 deaths’, in : USA Today, 28 Feb. 2002)

Environmental damage - contamination and waste

During the Cold War, the US and Soviet armed forces – and the other nuclear states - produced enormous amounts of hazardous wastes. As a result of naval accidents there are at least 50 nuclear warheads and 11 nuclear reactors littering the ocean floor. There are more nuclear reactors at sea than on land.

Because of the close links between the nuclear arms industry and civil nuclear power generation, the nuclear weapons industry is partly responsible for the environmental contamination caused by the whole nuclear chain, which includes:

Heavily irradiated large sites as Chelyabinsk, La Hague, Yucca Mountain, Hanford, Sellafield and Murmansk are likely to be condemned in perpetuity on account of the huge amounts of nuclear materials (and especially waste) they contain.

The role of the United Nations in promoting nuclear disarmament

Working towards the three pillars of the NPT

The primary function of United Nations and central part of its mandate for which it was established is to maintain international peace and security as is enshrined in its charter. It carries its functions through its various agencies i.e. UN peace keeping operations, office of Disarmament affairs, conference on Disarmament (CD), The International Atomic Agency (IAEA). These agencies have the responsibility of general principles of co-operation in the maintenance of International Peace and Security, including the principles governing disarmament treaties and regulation of armaments. Some of UN achievements have been the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons 1968 (NPT), Anti-Personnel Landmine treaty 1997, the chemical weapons convention 1992, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty 1996 and many multilateral and bilateral agreements including creation of nuclear weapon free zones. The IAEA plays a prominent role in peaceful uses of atomic energy and at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons by its International Inspectorate team and its verification measures.

The UN Disarmament machinery works in New York and Geneva through General Assembly First Committee, Disarmament commission, conference on Disarmament and Department for Disarmament all playing pivotal role in preparatory committee and review conferences of NPT. IAEA supervises peaceful uses of nuclear energy and controls spread of nuclear proliferation.

There are three main features to this changing landscape of nuclear proliferation: the emergence of an extensive black market in nuclear material and equipment; the proliferation of nuclear weapons and sensitive nuclear technology; and the stagnation in nuclear disarmament. There is a strong argument for establishing a multilateral system for "safe enrichment" for nuclear energy. The IAEA would oversee an international bank of uranium to ensure a reliable fuel supply for countries utilising nuclear power without the need for everyone to own their own fuel cycle.

The UN was instrumental in getting the NPT into force in 1968. NPT is still the corner stone and the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of general and total disarmament by nuclear-weapons states. Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. On 11 May 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely. 188 states have joined the NPT, including the five Nuclear-Weapon States. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms or disarmament treaty. The NPT is essentially a nuclear disarmament treaty. Its central pillar, Article VI, obliges its signatories "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control".

What can we do? Links, contacts & 13 Practical Steps for Disarmament

Here is a list of action points – things that we can all do to oppose the replacement of Trident and promote a nuclear weapons-free Britain:



The only sustainable long-term solution will require the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons and weapon-usable nuclear materials. Although there is still a chance to prevent proliferation by limiting the available sources and increasing physical safety and security, the United Kingdom and the other nuclear powers have to recognize that their own weapons and policies are part of the problem and hinder international efforts to devalue nuclear weapons and reduce proliferation incentives. Now is the time to begin phasing out nuclear weapons, starting with a decision not to replace Trident. Contrary to myth, giving up nuclear weapons will not happen overnight or leave the United Kingdom naked and vulnerable. It is high time to recognize their irrelevance and start planning for a safely managed transition to a more relevant security approach, with a more appropriate allocation of defense resources.

For total and general disarmament, education should be enhanced for a culture of peace, nonviolence and reconciliation. By eliminating root causes of war we can eliminate the need for nuclear weapons leading to lasting peace. The world today spends billions preparing for war.  Should we not spend a billion or two preparing for peace. The reduction of defense budgets and demilitarisation should be applied to fund the economic aid and conflict resolution. 

I will close with a paragraph from Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, director of IAEA:

Imagine what would happen if the nations of the world spent as much on development as on building the machines of war. Imagine a world where every human being would live in freedom and dignity. Imagine a world in which we would shed the same tears when a child dies in Darfur or Vancouver. Imagine a world where we would settle our differences through diplomacy and dialogue and not through bombs or bullets. Imagine if the only nuclear weapons remaining were the relics in our museums. Imagine the legacy we could leave to our children. Imagine that such a world is within our grasp.

Thank you very much.




The full version of this speech can be downloaded from:

Vijay Mehta is a author, peace and development activist. His latest book, The United Nations and Its Future in the 21st Century, discuss ideas about the UN’s central role in contributing to international peace and security. He is president of VM Centre for Peace and Chair of Arms Reduction Coalition, and World Disarmament Campaign. He is a founder member of the New School of Athens and a member of the National Council of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

Links and Contacts:

There are several other organisations working to prevent the replacement of Trident, many of which have some excellent resources available:

Abolition 2000:

Acronym Institution for Disarmament Diplomacy:; 020 7503 8857.

Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp (AWPC):; 07969 739 812.

Atomic Mirror:; 01799 516 189

Arms Reduction Coalition (ARC):

British American Security & Information Council (BASIC):; 0207 324 4680

Block the Builders:; 07969 739 812

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND):; 0207 700 2393

Christian CND (CCND):; 0207 700 4200

Faslane 365:; 01263 512049

Greenpeace:; 0207 865 8100

International Peace Bureau (IPB):

Medact:; 0207 324 4739

Nuclear Information Service:; 023 8055 4434
Oxford Research Group (ORG):; 01865 242819

Scientist for Global Responsibility:; 07771 883 696

Trident Plougshares:; 0845 458 8366

United Nations:
United Nations Association UK (UNA-UK):

VM Centre for Peace:

WMD Awareness Programme:; 020 7405 6661
World Court Project:; 01323 844 269
World Disarmament Campaign:; 0131 447 4004

13 Practical steps


The Conference agrees on the following practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and paragraphs 3 and 4 (c) of the 1995

Decision on "Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament":

1.    The importance and urgency of signatures and ratifications, without delay and without conditions and in accordance with constitutional processes, to achieve the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

2.   A moratorium on nuclear-weapon-test explosions or any other nuclear explosions pending entry into force of that Treaty.

3. The necessity of negotiations in the Conference on / Disarmament on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in accordance with the statement of the Special Coordinator in 1995 and the mandate contained therein, taking into consideration both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation objectives. The Conference on Disarmament is urged to agree on a programme of work which includes the immediate commencement of negotiations on such a treaty with a view to their conclusion within five years.

4.   The necessity of establishing in the Conference on Disarmament an appropriate subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament. The Conference on Disarmament is urged to agree on a programme of work which includes the immediate establishment of such a body.

5.   The principle of irreversibility to apply to nuclear disarmament, nuclear and other related arms control and reduction measures.

6.    An unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all States parties are committed under Article VI.

7.   The early entry into force and full implementation of START II and the conclusion of START III as soon as possible while preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons, in accordance with its provisions.

8.    The completion and implementation of the Trilateral Initiative between the United States of America, the Russian Federation and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

9.   Steps by all the nuclear-weapon States leading to nuclear disarmament in a way that promotes international stability, and based on the principle of undiminished security for all:

*     Further efforts by the nuclear-weapon States to reduce their nuclear arsenals unilaterally.
*     Increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States with regard to the nuclear weapons capabilities and the implementation of agreements pursuant to Article VI and as a voluntary confidence-building measure to support further progress on nuclear disarmament.
*     The further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons, based on unilateral initiatives and as an integral part of the nuclear arms reduction and disarmament process.
*     Concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems.
*     A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimize the risk that these weapons ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination.
*     The engagement as soon as appropriate of all the nuclear-weapon States in the process leading to the total elimination of their nuclear weapons.

10. Arrangements by all nuclear-weapon States to place, as soon as practicable, fissile material designated by each of them as no longer required for military purposes under IAEA or other relevant international verification and arrangements for the disposition of such material for peaceful purposes, to ensure that such material remains permanently outside of military programmes.

11. Reaffirmation that the ultimate objective of the efforts of States in the disarmament process is general and complete disarmament under effective international control.

12.  Regular reports, within the framework of the NPT strengthened review process, by all States parties on the implementation of Article VI and paragraph 4 (c) of the 1995 Decision on "Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament", and recalling the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice of 8 July 1996.

13.The further development of the verification capabilities that will be required to provide assurance of compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear-weapon-free world.