PERSPECTIVE: Nuclear Waste of Lives and Resources; on August 6 1945, the Japanese City of Hiroshima Was Devastated by the First Nuclear Bomb and Three Days Later Nagasaki Suffered a Similar Fate. It May Have Heralded the End of the Second World War but Jenny Maxwell, Treasurer for the West Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Argues That Nuclear Weapons Have Not Made the World Safer

Article excerpt

Byline: Jenny Maxwell

The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, on August 6 1945, at a time when Japan was already suing for peace, was a massive leap in the horrors which human beings can inflict upon each other.

Never before had so much damage been done to so many in so short a time. Never before had weapons continued to kill and maim for many years after their use.

It is only by sheer good luck that a full-scale nuclear attack has never been launched since. The nearest we have come to nuclear war was the Cuban crisis in 1963, but that is not the only time that nuclear weapons have nearly been released.

The good fortune does not extend to the populations living near the several nuclear test sites in the world - the Pacific Islands, used by the French; the US Nevada desert, used by both the US and the UK; Lop Nor in China and the Russian test site in Kazakhstan. The radiation from the many nuclear tests has caused cancers and terrible birth defects.

Nuclear weapons do not have to be used in war to have awful effects. Neither have they deterred war.

During the Cold War, the USA fought its 'war against Communism' by proxy, in far away places, most notably in Korea and Vietnam, and without nuclear weapons. France's nuclear weapons did not prevent bloodshed in Algeria, nor did UK weapons prevent the Falklands War. The logical conclusion of the argument that nuclear weapons prevent war is that every country in the world should have them, a horrifying prospect. Every increase in the world's nuclear arsenals makes accident or theft of nuclear materials more likely.

Far from keeping us safe, nuclear weapons are an ever-present threat to the populations of the countries where they are based. Our UK warheads are manufactured at Aldermaston, in Berkshire, and based at Faslane on the Clyde estuary. They are carried by road, often on the West Midlands motorways, and even through Spaghetti Junction. There have been several minor accidents to the warhead convoys, though, thankfully, not yet a serious incident.

We cannot let an event as terrible as Hiroshima happen again. Today's nuclear weapons are far more destructive than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and, three days later, Nagasaki.

Each UK Trident nuclear warhead is eight times more powerful than the bomb which destroyed Hiroshima. Each of the four Trident submarines can carry 16 missiles, and each missile can carry three warheads. We do not know how many are actually carried because this information is classified. The UK, Chinese and Israeli arsenals are believed to be roughly the same size, France has slightly more, while Russia and the US have several thousand each. India and Pakistan have fewer than 100 each. North Korea claims to have produced a nuclear weapon. The entire world population could be killed several times.

In July 1996, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that the use of nuclear weapons is subject to International Humanitarian Law, which forbids the use of weapons which do not discriminate between civilians and the military.

Would a nuclear weapon really be fired at a troop ship in the middle of the Pacific, so far from land that no radiation could reach the nearest inhabitants? …