Report on nuclear testing, May 1998

At last year's AGM, our chairman was able to report on the signing of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. However, he identified some remaining problems on which I will now try to give you an update.

* India, who proposed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1954, has not signed it.

* Israel is believed to have 100 nuclear warheads. While it received the technical assistance and other benefits of being a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it continues to refuse to sign the Non Proliferation Treaty and therefore to subject itself to the same inspection and monitoring regime that the other 180 countries are subjected to by that agency.

* Both France and the UK are continuing their nuclear testing programme through above-ground experiments and computer simulation. France has now closed its Pacific test site and the Irish Times reported on he 3rd of April that France said it would publish a report on how many people developed cancer because of French nuclear testing in the South Pacific from 1966 to 1996.

* In the UK, Trident and its trappings are reckoned by British CND to cost £1.5 billion a year. One of British CND's campaigning themes for this year is "Stop the Nuclear Waste!". In the face of this, evidence came to light on the 22nd of April that 5 kilos of fresh and spent highly enriched uranium fuel was being secretly flown from the former Soviet republic of Georgia to the nuclear plant at Dounreay, in Scotland.

* In the US, in the spring of '97, the Secretary of Energy announced US plans to conduct a series of "subcritical" underground nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site as part of a larger programme to maintain and expand US weapons capabilities, the Stockpile Stewardship and Management programme. (Subcritical tests are tests that do not produce a nuclear chain-reaction explosion. Among other things, they are more difficult to monitor!) The first of these tests was scheduled for June 1997 with a second test to follow in the summer or fall. Thanks largely to protests from NGOs and foreign governments, these tests, originally scheduled to begin in June and September 1996 had been quietly postponed in order to minimize controversy about their purpose during the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty negotiation.

US citizens were challenging the stockpile Stewardship and Management programme in court on environmental grounds.

On the 19th of February 1998, the European Parliament also passed a resolution, which I include, and which is a proof of the unease and suspicions that in fact these tests might form part of a new weapons design programme. That did not stop a subcritical nuclear test being conducted at the Nevada Test Site on Wednesday March 25th. Such tests obviously violate the spirit of the comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and introduce a new means of pursuing improved nuclear weapons.

* It is in fact the case that the US are developing new weapons as part of their new strategy of deterrence.

In spite of negative security assurances given by President Clinton in 1995 to encourage nations to sign up for the Non Proliferation Treaty, regional nuclear war planning has been going on for years in the US. This new nuclear strategy, which expands the range of targets to include so-called "rogue states" such as Iraq, Iran, Libya and north Korea, combined with the nuclear arms reductions imposed by the various Start treaties, leads inexorably to the necessity of upgrading weapons systems.

The Pentagon's new nuclear bomb, the B61-11, with its enhanced earth-penetrating capabilities and low yield, is likely to be the weapon of choice against "rogue states" but it is not the only modified nuclear weapon being worked on and other design concepts are being studied at Sandia National Laboratory.

* In the meantime, NATO expansion in Europe remains controversial. Although "Nato has stated theta it has no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members" (NATO-Review, Nov.Dec. '97) NATO expansion is obviously perceived as a threat by Russia. I also include the text of a letter dated 11th. of March '98 and signed by 16 ex US senators which point out that Russia has delayed ratification of Start II because of NATO expansion and that NATO expansion creates instability in Europe.

As for France, at the NATO summit in Madrid in July, it had actively campaigned for more countries to become members of NATO, but in November '97 there were reports of hostility to NATO expansion from French parliamentarians this time for economic reasons. According to a member of the senate Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee:

"Washington's concern is not the security of Eastern European countries but their political and technological dependency on the alliance - that means the USA."

As the French see it, NATO expansion is more about American interests than about French security.


The Preparatory Committee meeting of the Non Proliferation Treaty review conference is taking place in Geneva at the moment. The nuclear weapon states are currently stalled in efforts to fulfil their promise in the NPT to eliminate their nuclear arsenals so it is more important for the people's voice to be heard.

That is what the Abolition 2000 petition allows us to do. In Japan, 13 million signatures were collected from November '97 to January '98. We won't do better, we can't even do as well, but we must do our best.


Resolution on sub-critical nuclear testing

NATO expansion

To the U.S. Senate

Letter dated 11 March 1998

We believe that NATO expansion is a serious mistake. In this post-Cold War period, we should concentrate on reducing Russia's arsenal of nuclear weapons, ensuring that her warheads and nuclear materials are secure from diversion, and bringing Russia into the Western family of democratic nations. As you know, Russia has delayed ratification of the START II Treaty because of NATO expansion. Further, the tensions raised by expanding NATO towards Russia's borders can only make more difficult our critical effort to ensure her stockpile of nuclear warheads do not fall into the hands of terrorists or rogue regimes.

We lament that, after the expensive and dangerous Cold War, we seem to take rather cavalierly the opportunity at long last to build a friendship with Russia. Surely, moving NATO right up to Poland's border with the Russian province of Kaliningrad cannot be taken as an act of friendship, however we might dress it up with rhetoric. Admitting the Baltics, who share long borders with Russia, will make matters even worse,

The Administration has stated repeatedly the first round "will not be the last." Thus, this first vote is not simply about Poland Hungary and the Czech Republic. It is as much about Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia and the several others whose expectations have been raised. How can we admit some and exclude others without creating instability and tensions? Indeed, how can there be stability if Russia is destabilized by expansion?

We share the goal of a stable Europe, but suggest that it would be far better to address the needs of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltics by opening the markets of Wastern Europe to them and by pressing our allies to admit them to the European Union, an organization much better suited to nation-building than a military alliance.

Signed by former Republican Senators and by former Democratic Senators

Jim Abdnor of South Dakota,     Thomas Eagleton of Missouri,

Edward Brooke of Massachusetts,     Gary Hart of Colorado,

Dick Clark of Iowa,     John Melcher of Montana,

John Culver of Iowa,     George McGovern of South Dakota,

Mark Hatfield of Oregon,     Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin,

Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire,     Sam Nann of Georgia,

Roger W. Jepsen of Iowan, and     Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, and

Mack Mattingly of Georgia;     Harrison Williams of New Jersey.


Back to Irish CND page on nuclear testing