Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Trident missile propellant a disaster in waiting

Editor's Note: Glen Milner of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has previously written about the danger inherent in the sensitive rocket fuel used in the Navy's Trident II D-5 submarine launched ballistic missile (a "design flaw"). Now British whistleblower William McNeilly has leaked a top-secret manual in which the British Navy addresses the potential "accidental ignition" of the Trident rocket fuel and the disastrous consequences.

If submerged... goodbye submarine and crew. If an accident occurred in port, plutonium and other radioactive substances would likely contaminate surrounding areas putting the public at great risk.

On November 7, 2003 a missile handling crew preparing to unload a Trident missile from the USS Georgia accidentally left an access ladder in the missile tube when a crewmember switched on the crane, which began hoisting the missile out of the tube. The missile contacted the ladder, which punctured the nose fairing, coming within inches of the warheads and third stage rocket motor before someone noticed the error and stopped the hoist. I'll let you imagine the potential consequences had someone not stopped the hoist!!!

An insider's view of the Bangor Second Explosives Handling Wharf
where Trident missiles are loaded and off-loaded.
Finally, I have uploaded the full statement by whistleblower William McNeilly; click here to read it.


Trident missile flaw could cause explosions and radioactive contamination, reveals whistleblower

By Rob Edwards, Originally published in HeraldScotland.com on Sunday, May 24, 2015

An INHERENT flaw in Trident missiles could lead to fires, explosions and widespread radioactive contamination, according to a top-secret safety manual leaked by the naval whistleblower, William McNeilly.

The Royal Navy's official instructions on how to take care of nuclear weapons reveal that the "chief potential hazard" from a live missile is the "accidental ignition" of solid rocket fuel.

This could cause the warheads' conventional high explosives to detonate and scatter plutonium and other toxic materials "over a wide area", it says.

The Trident D5 missile, used by both the UK and US, is designed with nuclear warheads closely wrapped around the third stage rocket motor. This has been highlighted as a design flaw by US experts in the past, but has not previously been acknowledged by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The results of a rocket fuel fire at sea or on land could be "catastrophic" for submariners and the public, critics warned last night. The MoD, however, said it had to train for every scenario "no matter how extreme and unlikely".

McNeilly, as well as alleging 30 Trident security and safety concerns in an 18-page dossier revealed by the Sunday Herald last weekend, says he filmed the weapons safety manual on his smartphone. Code-named CB8890, it is a book kept in a safe in the submarine missile control centre, he says.

Extracts quoted by McNeilly disclose that the warheads "clustered around the third stage rocket motor are at risk from a rocket motor propellant fire". Exposed to heat, the warheads' conventional high explosives "could cook to (non-nuclear) detonation, releasing radioactive materials and aerosols over a wide area," the manual says.

If warhead containment is breached, "several radioactive and/or toxic materials may be exposed to the atmosphere," it says. "These include plutonium, uranium, lithium compounds, tritium gas and beryllium. If mixed with water, fumes or toxic gases will be generated."

The navy manual paints a dramatic picture of what could happen. "The chief potential hazard associated with a live missile is the accidental ignition of the first, second or third stage rocket motor propellant," it says.

"If this were to happen in the missile tube with the muzzle hatch shut and locked, the pressure hull and bulkheads of the missile compartment would burst within a matter of seconds," it continues.

"The missile contains a number of subsidiary propulsive and ordnance items that could cause damage to the missile and/or release toxic gases into the missile compartment if initiated prematurely. In some cases, this could also result in ignition or detonation of one of the rocket motors."

The manual also warns that warheads could be ruptured by an accident and cause "radioactive contamination." Serious damage "could also result from a successful terrorist attack", it says.

The risk of a third stage rocket fire was raised in a report on nuclear weapons safety by the eminent physicist, Sidney Drell, for a US congressional committee in 1990. More recently, it has been highlighted by Eric Schlosser, the US author of a book, Command and Control, exposing safety problems with nuclear weapons.

He pointed out that Trident's solid rocket fuel was a high-energy propellant that was "relatively easy" to ignite. "The conventional explosives used in the American and British warheads designed for Trident are vulnerable to fire," he said.

"The third stage of the missile - where the warheads surround the rocket motor, instead of sitting on top of it - combines both risks. A fire or explosion involving the third stage could cause the dispersal of plutonium - and perhaps a nuclear detonation with a small yield."

Schlosser added: "These extracts from the Royal Navy safety manual on Trident, if they are authentic, seem to confirm the danger. To my knowledge, there has never been a serious accident with a Trident missile. But improper handling, a fire, or a terrorist act could be catastrophic."

Peter Burt from the Nuclear Information Service, which is critical of nuclear weapons, pointed out that Trident was designed 40 years ago to deliver a huge destructive force to the maximum range possible. Mounting the warheads next to a rocket motor was "a short cut which has created an inherent design flaw and drastically increased the risks from an accident involving the missile," he said.

The MoD stressed that the Royal Navy had safely operated the nuclear deterrent for over 40 years without a nuclear weapons accident. "This is a safety record it is vital to maintain, which is precisely why we prepare and train for every scenario no matter how extreme and unlikely," said a spokesman.

But the SNP's new defence spokesman in Westminster and MP for Argyll and Bute, Brendan O'Hara, thought that the new revelations would shock the public. "It makes for very chilling reading and reinforces just how dangerous these weapons are," he said.

"It starkly lays out what could potentially happen in various scenarios all of which would be catastrophic for the crew and potentially the public, with the release of radiation."

Original article URL:  http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/trident-missile-flaw-could-cause-fires-explosions-and-radioactive-contamination-revea.1432463191

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Activists Make Statement at Nuke Base: Our Children Deserve Better!

Activists briefly blockaded the entrance to a West Coast nuclear weapons base in a statement against U.S. Nuclear modernization efforts on the eve of Mothers Day.

On Saturday, April 9, 2015 anti-nuclear weapons activists gathered at the main entrance gate to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Silverdale, Washington, home to eight of the nation's fourteen OHIO Class (Trident) ballistic missile submarines. Carrying signs saying “Our children deserve better”, five protesters walked into the roadway and blocked traffic entering the base. Washington State Patrol officers moved in and escorted the protesters off the roadway.

Anthony DeLorenzo, Seattle, WA; Tom Karlin, Tacoma, WA; Mona Lee, Seattle, WA; Brenda McMillan, Port Townsend, WA; and Alice Zillah, Olympia, WA were cited for being in the roadway illegally, released and escorted back to the designated protest zone where others were protesting. Other activists on the overpass over the entrance road held a large banner that read: "Abolish Nuclear Weapons."

The Mothers Day eve protest and nonviolent direct action was an annual event held by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action at the Bangor Trident base. This year's event was held at a time when the U.S. Government continues to modernize its nuclear weapons, their delivery systems and the infrastructure that builds and maintains them at a cost estimated at roughly a trillion dollars over the next three decades. At the same time nations are meeting at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York.

Brenda McMillan being escorted off the roadway
As Leonard Eiger, spokesperson for the NO To NEW TRIDENT Campaign put it, “We can't have it both ways. The rhetoric coming out of The White House is simply not in accord with good faith negotiations towards total nuclear disarmament as required by the NPT. Our nation's actions, rather than slowing nuclear proliferation, are driving it and creating a new nuclear arms race.”

Alice Zillah (left) and Anthony Delorenzo awaiting their citations
Eiger points out that the U.S. Navy's plans for a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines, costing nearly $100 billion in construction, is at the center of the rapidly developing submarine nuclear arms race. “The U.S. has deployed Trident at near Cold War levels since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Do we seriously think that other nations have not taken notice of this?”

In a statement announcing the Mothers Day eve action event organizer Mona Lee said that, “The world's children deserve better than to struggle to live under the threat of a renewed nuclear arms race. Increasing militarization steals resources desparately needed to mitigate global warming and improve living conditions worldwide.”

Event co-organizer Mona Lee
Ground Zero Center calls on the U.S. government to change course on Trident and its overall nuclear posture, and begin to live up to its obligations as a member of the United Nations and as a signatory to the NPT. Anything less is a theft of our children's future.

The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, contains the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. Each of the 8 Trident submarines at Bangor carries up to 24 Trident II (D-5) missiles, each capable of being armed with as many as 8 independently targetable thermonuclear warheads. Each nuclear warhead has an explosive force of between 100 and 475 kilotons (up to 30 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb). It has been estimated that by the time the new generation of ballistic missile submarines are put into service, they will represent 70 percent of the nation's deployed nuclear warheads.

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is currently engaged in legal actions in Federal court to halt the Navy’s construction of an unnecessary Second Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor. Ground Zero's NO To NEW TRIDENT Campaign (notnt.org) is working with other organizations to de-fund the Navy’s plans for the next generation ballistic missile submarine, also known as the OHIO Class Replacement or SSBN(X).

For over thirty-seven years Ground Zero has engaged in education, training in nonviolence, community building, resistance against Trident, and action toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Contact: Leonard Eiger, Media and Outreach
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Another vision of "Apocalypse" by Kate Hudson

Editor's Note: In the United Kingdom there is open and significant debate about whether to build a replacement fleet of Trident ballistic missile submarines to replace their current fleet of four Tridents. Interestingly enough, the British Tridents carry U.S. designed and built Trident II D-5 missiles just as the 14 Trident subs in the U.S. fleet. What is noteworthy is that there is absolutely NO public debate about whether we should build the 12 Trident replacements currently in research and development by the U.S. Navy. The only "debate", and it is not much of a debate, is how to fund the massive, budget-busting $100 construction price tag!!!

Trident is a bad idea, no matter on which side of The Pond one resides (or for the rest of the world for that matter). It is a Cold War relic, a first-strike tool of mass destruction beyond anyone's worst imagination. Should just one of those subs unleash just one missile (with it's multiple thermonuclear-armed warheads) it would mean instant death for upwards of a hundreds of thousands to a million (or possibly more) people in a large city. Of course, that is not how it will likely work should Trident actually be used. Even a limited nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, still a possible scenario) would mean the end of civilization as we know it; a humanitarian disaster incomparable in human history.

As debate intensifies about the future of Britain's nuclear weapons, it's worth remembering that Trident isn't just an increasingly unpopular, expensive status symbol - it is also a weapon of mass destruction. Britain's own stockpile could kill hundreds of millions of people and current global nuclear weapons stocks have the capacity to destroy human civilization and the environment many times over.

We who resist Trident here in the U.S., and work to prevent a new generation of Trident, support our colleagues in the UK as they push for "Bairnes [children] Not Bombs!" This struggle is a global one, and we can only hope that (as the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference continues at the UN) the voice of the people will drown out the voices of the nuclear weapons status quo. The world can ill afford it.

Dr. Kate Hudson, who wrote the following article, is General Secretary of the UK-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).


Visions of Apocalypse

By Dr. Kate Hudson, published in The Huffington Post UK, May 6, 2015

Yet this truth does not really figure in the current debates over Trident in the way that it has in the past. It seems as if we know it in the abstract, but the knowledge of that no longer holds the same terror, the same imminent sense of destruction beyond our control, that it held in decades gone by.

Perhaps the reality of modern day warfare and our extensive exposure to it via our screen-dominated culture has inured us to the potential horrors of nuclear use, whether by accident or design. Scenes from Fallujah or Gaza are far more immediate than the risk of nuclear Armageddon. As deaths through small arms reach exponential proportions, discussion of nuclear bomb deaths from seventy years ago seem like ancient history to the younger generation. And when it comes to end-of-history scenarios, climate change with its tsunamis and extreme weather events, or risk of mass starvation, global pandemics or mass population movements, seem much more powerful, indeed already present.

A message you don't see on buses in the U.S.
Our vision of the apocalypse, simultaneously terrifying and compelling, has shifted to these seemingly more contemporary threats which have certainly taken over the fear factor in popular culture - as I'll be discussing in a session on 'Visions of Apocalypse' at HowTheLightGetsIn festival in May. And these threats have displaced earlier preoccupations with the impact of atomic science, whether through weapons use or experimentation, through blast, radiation or mutation. During the Cold War, fear of the bomb and fear of the unknown impact of scientific experimentation took hold on people's imaginations. Then as now, film was a mirror of society's anxieties, and Hollywood paved the way with the developing science fiction genre. Them!, directed by Gordon Douglas in 1954 featured giant radioactive ants on the rampage, the result of an atomic test in New Mexico. Stanley Kramer's On the Beach, a 1959 film adaptation of the novel by Neville Shute, was set after a nuclear apocalypse as a group of people await death from radiation.

This film affected audiences strongly and a subsequent generation was equally affected by Threads and When the Wind Blows. No doubt, if viewed today, they would not have the same impact. Yet the same reality would ensue, if nuclear weapons were used. Radioactive fallout would render parts, if not all, of the planet uninhabitable. There would be no place to run to, no place to hide; in the event of a nuclear war, you may escape the blast but you cannot shut the door on radiation. It will poison and destroy, bringing sickness, cancers, birth deformities and death. No one is exempt.
That is what makes nuclear weapons uniquely terrible, and a foretaste of that is already with us, not only through the experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the catastrophic health and environmental impacts of nuclear weapons testing, but also through the fallout from nuclear power disasters at Chernobyl, Fukushima and elsewhere.

When we debate Trident's future, we would do well to recognise that although we no longer live in direct fear of nuclear weapons, as the older ones of us may remember from the Cold War, the risk and threat still remain as powerful as ever. The nuclear danger has not dissipated, the weapons are still there, and unless they are dispensed with, we may all yet disappear into a mushroom cloud of our worst imagining.

Kate will be speaking at HowTheLightGetsIn, the world's largest philosophy and music festival, running from 21st May - 31st May in association with The Huffington Post UK.

Follow Dr Kate Hudson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kate4peace2015

Article source URL:  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-kate-hudson/trident_b_7223612.html