Monday, 9 August 2010

Nagasaki and nukes

The A-bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August 1945 killed over 110,000 civilians at once. A flash so bright it burned peoples’ shadows into the pavement. And the same number dying slowly over the next 5 years from burns and cancers.

Yet, perhaps as never before, a nuclear free world beckons with North Korea, now declaring its nuclear weapons and missiles, facing renewed sanctions as a nuclear pariah again threatening Seoul, Tokyo and perhaps even the Russian nuclear fleet in Vladivostock and Beijing itself.

While the closure of Futenma airbase in Okinawa represents the end of the last main US military umbrella in East Asia.

With Japan and Taiwan foreswearing nuclear weapons only North Korea remains as the last block to the nuclear free regions of South East Asia and the South Pacific.

President Obama may have gained a Nobel Peace Prize for reducing nuclear weapons with Russia but the dangers of a Jihadist bomb with Iran and Pakistan has never been greater. Or worse, the rogue nations of Central Africa and the Sahara trading with Burma and North Korea for missile and nuclear technology.

But the days of disarmament have perhaps never been closer than the late 1970’s when the dictatorships of Argentina and Brazil and even South Africa binned their nuclear weapons.

Britain and France have both scaled back the EU’s nuclear potential in the face of budget cuts and the likelihood that any nuclear threat comes from backpack bombers rather than fleets of ships and planes.

But here in Kent are nuclear weapons an irrelevance?

Largely so, aside from those Kent citizens still suffering the aftermath of British nuclear tests of the 1950’s, toxic waste from nuclear submarines at Chatham or uranium-tipped weaponry from the Gulf War. While the threat of nuclear technology via our ports and shipping represents an atomic lottery of containerisation.

Yet the closure of Lydd cites the danger of damage to the Dungeness reactor, and concerns at Manston over banned EgyptAir flights landing at the closed airport are less the beginnings of a Jihad Open Skies over Kent, and more the failings of Infratil and councils in downgrading public safety measures – and the potential for nuclear accidents.

The theft of fission material or broken flasks of toxic material on a train accident are a likelihood. While disposal of nuclear waste in the English Channel by nuclear electricity firm EDF poses an issue for future generations from Cornwall to Kent.

While here by the coast in Ramsgate discussions on the “Mayors for Peace” organisation ( is perhaps the single most effective way for Kent’s towns to unite with the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 65th Anniversary to reduce the impact of nuclear weapons and technology.

Medway Council for example already works with Mayors for Peace - with over half of the one hundred most populous cities of the world.

The Decade of Disarmament sponsored by the United Nations will undoubtedly result in at least “threshold status” for nuclear weapons: warehoused on land with UN inspections, and the removal of stocks of other WMD of chemicals, nerve gas, napalm, phosphorous and landmines.

With the Defence Review recommending the merger of the Air Force and Navy, perhaps it’s simply a matter of time before much of the Royal Navy and EU fleets are placed under UN control for humanitarian duties and crises.

The reality is that the greatest threat to world peace is no longer a nuclear Armageddon but dictatorships and the failure to achieve the UN Millennium Goals.

With the anniversary of Hiroshima last week and Nagasaki today, Europe can now follow Asia in beginning to establish a Nuclear Free Zone.

While Climate Change and the importance of renewable solar power represents a final nail in the coffin of nuclear fossil fuels and real power, not brighter than a thousand suns, but renewable from the power of one sun.

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