Nuclear weapons are often described as an 'insurance policy' against an uncertain future by their advocates. However, rather than acting as a guarantee of stability and predictability over years to come, they can actually create instability and increase the risks faced by the public and governments. An accident involving a nuclear accident is one possibility, but less obvious examples include the potential for nuclear weapons to act as a driver of global nuclear proliferation; the economic risks associated with the immense costs of maintaining a nuclear weapons programme; and the political risks resulting from nuclear weapons falling into the hands of a belligerent extremist government.
These issues are explored in an essay by Nuclear Information Service Director Peter Burt in the latest Blackaby Paper published by Abolition 2000 (available to download below). The essay examines some of the risks which the UK's nuclear weapons programme both poses and faces, looking in particular at the safety record of the Ministry of Defence's nuclear programme over recent years and analysing the chances and consequences of an accident. It is based on the submission made by Nuclear Information Service to the BASIC Trident Commission, which is currently considering the need for the UK to replace its Trident nuclear weapons.
The essay is one of three included in the Blackaby Paper, alongside a critique of the morality of nuclear weapons by Jim McCluskey and a historical review of the emergence of the atomic era and the role played by scientists in the development of nuclear weapons by Howard Gest, who sadly died unexpectedly soon after authoring his essay.
Blackaby Papers are published on a regular basis by Abolition 2000 in memory of Frank Blackaby – a distinguished researcher on economics and peace issues who helped pioneer much of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's work and played a major role in shaping debate on nuclear disarmament in the 1980s.
Download Abolition 2000's tenth Blackaby Paper here: