Media release, 6 August 2015
With a final decision on whether to replace the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system only months away, a new report highlights the latest scientific and technical information about the risks posed by the continued deployment of these hugely powerful weapons.
The report is published by Scientists for Global Responsibility, an independent UK organisation of scientists, engineers and others concerned about the use and misuse of science and technology.
In particular, the report points out the following.
- The explosive power of the nuclear weapons carried on just one Trident submarine is equivalent to about 320 Hiroshima bombs and is capable of inflicting more than 10 million civilian casualties.
- The most up-to-date scientific models predict that this firepower would cause devastating climatic disruption threatening global food supplies and leading to mass starvation.
- UK nuclear weapons are on patrol around the clock, and the possibility of unintended use poses an unacceptable risk. Whilst the chances may be low, the consequences would be catastrophic. There have been numerous known cases across the world of ‘near nuclear use’ over the past few decades. It is therefore only a matter of time before our luck runs out.
The report points out that nuclear weapons do not address real and pressing security concerns such as climate change, terrorism or numerous ongoing international conflicts.
The report argues that to reduce the nuclear risk, the UK should take Trident off continuous patrol at sea and place our nuclear warheads in storage. Trident replacement should be cancelled enabling active support of current international discussions to ban nuclear weapons in a similar process to other weapons of mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons.
Dr Philip Webber, Chair of SGR and lead author of the report, said “The latest scientific and technical assessments of the risks of nuclear weapons suggest even more devastating effects than those made in the 1980s. As we mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the Hiroshima bomb, the UK should take an active role in abandoning the illusion of nuclear security. There are enough nuclear weapons deployed across the world to destroy civilisation several times over. Only luck has saved us from numerous nuclear near misses over the last 70 years. The time has come to cease our gamble with nuclear weapons.”
Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director and co-author of the report, said “The UK is wasting billions of pounds and considerable scientific and technical expertise on a highly dangerous and essentially unusable weapons system – and the government wants us to continue to do this until at least the 2060s. We need to say no.”
1. The report is entitled UK nuclear weapons: a catastrophe in the making? It can be viewed at: /resources/uk-nuclear-weapons-catastrophe-making
2. Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) is an independent UK organisation whose membership includes about 700 natural and social scientists, engineers, IT professionals and architects. It was formed in 1992. SGR’s work is focused on several issues, including security and disarmament, climate change, sustainable energy, and who controls science and technology? For more information, see /
3. SGR's other work on the nuclear weapons threat can be viewed at: /projects/nuclear-weapons-threat-main-outputs
4. SGR is a signatory of the ‘Rethink Trident’ statement, http://www.rethinktrident.org.uk/