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Councils expected to demand a public inquiry at Aldermaston

"ensure that the UK's current strategic nuclear weapon "Trident" is reliable without resort to physical testing (and be able to) build a new nuclear warhead to replace Trident."

The laser facility could also be used to design and test a new generation of more useable 'mini-nukes' with smaller warheads. Such developments are underway in the USA. Many analysts fear that developing and deploying smaller nuclear weapons brings us closer to the day when they are used again. Even small nuclear weapons would inflict devastation not seen since two atomic devices levelled the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 killing over 200,000.

The Nuclear Free group meets at the offices of the Greater London Authority this Friday, 2 July, to discuss a demand that the Government set up a public inquiry to openly consider the full implications of its laser proposal.

The Ministry of Defence notified West Berkshire Council of its proposal but because it is not yet bound by planning laws, council officers advised the Council that it had no power to withhold any planning permission for the laser. As a result, on 23 June, it decided to raise no formal objection and declined to recommend that the new developments at AWE be the subject of a non-statutory public inquiry. This was despite receiving over 300 written objections and petitions and the fact that the controlling group on the Council oppose nuclear weapons.

A reply from the Chairman of West Berkshire Council, Councillor Keith Lock, to an objection from the Mayor of Hiroshima, Dr Tadatoshi Akiba, said:
"Our view is that our Government should not maintain a Trident submarine force and money would be better spent on conventional weapons or other things."

Speaking for the Nuclear Free Local Authorities, their Acting Chair, Bury Councillor Alan Matthews, said:
Opinion in the country is divided on the need to continue as a nuclear power. Now is the time to openly consider the costs and benefits of spending so much on a weapons programme when our public services are in need of more support."

ENDS

Contact: Jamie Woolley 0114 220 4452 Nuclear Free Local Authorities Legal Adviser

Notes
Those opposing the proposed development consider that it would represent a breach of the UK's obligations under international treaties. The UK has signed and ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: banning nuclear tests and so reducing the likelihood of nuclear weapons proliferation. The Treaty is not yet in force as some other states have yet to ratify, but the UK is rightly observing a moratorium on testing meanwhile. However, simulating testing by computer and laboratory means as proposed at Aldermaston - while not formally a breach of the Treaty, is a deliberate bypassing of the purposes of the Treaty and as such a breach of the spirit if not the letter of the treaty.

The UK is also a State Party, and indeed a depository state, of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under Article VI of this Treaty, the nuclear weapon states undertake to work for nuclear disarmament by negotiation - interpreted in 1996, by the International Court of Justice (the judicial instrument of the United Nations and, as such, the worlds highest legal authority) as an obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament at an early date. Any work preparing for a successor to Trident or facilitating the production of new nuclear weapons is accordingly a clear breach of the UK's NPT undertakings (confirmed in 2000 at the NPT Review Conference).

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