Letter George Wilson: ON Monday afternoon a Ministry of Defence nuclear weapons convoy snaked its way across Scotland, through East Lothian and the Borders along the A1. If fact, unbeknown to many of us, this has been a regular occurrence for around 30 years. Much has been written about the huge risk involved in road transportation of weapons of mass destruction, especially near our urban centres. Indeed, the MoD itself confirms this in emergency planning instructions to local authorities and emergency services. Specifically, in relation to nuclear weapon road convoys, it prescribes measures relating to “threat to life” further to the release of “radioactive material”, including an “evacuation zone” of 600 metres and downwind shelter zone” of five kilometres. With the wind in central Scotland and on the A1 you can imagine the area might be far larger in reality! All local authorities have a legal health and safety duty to assess any risks to the public and inform us about them. As part of that, they are legally bound tell us what to do in an emergency. Nukewatch.org.uk has recently written a report about the risks from the nuke road convoys and the “alarming lack of any risk assessments” by Scottish councils. A nuclear warhead is plutonium and high explosive together. My own council, East Lothian, has a statement on its website relating to “emergency planning” and “man-made … major disaster” such as “travel-related, toxic hazards or as a result of terrorism”. It simply notes: “… if the worst happens, it is essential that local authority services are maintained, that those affected are properly cared for, and that the community is provided with the best possible support to re-establish normality.” It helpfully provides us, in addition, with the emergency services telephone number 999! If there were a serious accident (and we are talking A1 here), are we confident that we would be warned in time to ensure our families and children were inside so that they did not breathe in plutonium particles? As noted, the MoD indicates that it could happen. Would we be evacuated, provided with iodine tablets to counter radiation, and access to appropriate medical support at home etc? Other local authorities are likewise reticent in their public statements. In relation to East Lothian, maybe the council has undertaken in-depth risk assessment and has a detailed, emergency plan (one exists in relation to Torness). However, it is not of much use if no-one knows about it. My concern is that, more broadly, our councils do not appear to be meeting their minimum legal obligations to protect and inform us in relation to these regular nuclear convoys and the grave risk that they entail. For the sake of our families and communities, I say it is time for all our councils to come clean on nuclear convoy risk assessment and emergency planning!
The National 21st Nov 2017 read more »