The British Nuclear Weapons Programme, 1952-2002

The British Nuclear Weapons Programme, 1952-2002

The British Nuclear Weapons Programme, 1952-2002

The British Nuclear Weapons Programme, 1952-2002


"The first British nuclear weapon test took place in Australia in October 1952 and British nuclear weapons have been a source of controversy ever since. In this book, scientists, doctors, peace researchers and others assess the military value, political impact, health effects and legality of the programme and tell the story of opposition to successive generations of weapons. With the future of Trident soon to come under review, this book questions whether British nuclear weapons should have a future."


Joseph rotblat

Fifty years of British nuclear weapons. For most of that period the British public was made to believe that our possession of a nuclear arsenal—tiny though it was in comparison to those held by the superpowers—was essential to avoid another world war, a war in which the whole civilization would have been destroyed by nuclear weapons. the obvious alternative, that there would be no nuclear holocaust if there were no nuclear weapons in the world, was not accepted by the nuclear powers. Even after the major threat ceased, with the collapse of one of the superpowers, the need to maintain nuclear arsenals was claimed as necessary for world security. But by endorsing the nuclear deterrent as an essential element for safeguarding peace in the world, we have forsaken the ethical and moral values that are the basis of our civilization.

Morality is at the core of the nuclear issue: are we going to base our world on a culture of peace or on a culture of violence? Nuclear weapons are fundamentally immoral: their action is indiscriminate, affecting civilians as well as military, innocents and aggressors alike, killing those alive now and generations as yet unborn. the consequence of their use might be to bring the human race to an end. All this makes nuclear weapons an unacceptable instrument for maintaining peace in the world. But this was exactly our policy during, and after, the cold war. Nuclear weapons were kept as a deterrent, to prevent war by the threat of retaliation.

For the deterrent to be effective the threat of retaliation must be real; we must convince the would-be aggressors that nuclear weapons would be used against them, otherwise the bluff would soon be called. George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, or Tony Blair must show convincingly that they have the personality that would enable them to push the button and unleash an instrument of wholesale destruction. It is terrifying to think that among the necessary qualifications for leadership is the readiness to commit an act of genocide and this is what it amounts to in the final analysis. Furthermore, by acquiescing in this policy, not only the leaders but each of us figuratively keeps our finger on the button; each of us is taking part in a gamble in which the survival of human civilization is at stake. We rest the security of the world on a balance of terror.

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