Campaigners call for halt to nuclear convoys

The nuclear convoy travelling on the M40 motorway
The nuclear convoy travelling on the M40 motorway

Anti-nuclear campaigners have spoken out against lorry convoys loaded with nuclear materials that pass through Banburyshire and which they say pose a potentially catastrophic risk to human life.

Oxfordshire-based NukeWatch UK supporters Nigel Day and Paul Mobbs slammed the decision to send a convoy carrying potentially deadly materials such as plutonium – which ignites when exposed to air – along the M40 past Banbury on January 28, in poor weather conditions which they say heightened the risk of a collision. Banbury-based environmental consultant Mr Mobbs said: “The January 28 convoy was absurd because the weather conditions were awful. If you want to reduce the risk you don’t make a journey when there’s limited visibility on the M40.”

The components for the warheads are made at AWE Aldermaston (Atomic Weapons Establishment) in Berkshire and taken to nearby AWE Burghfield for assembly. The convoys take the completed warheads from Burghfield to Coulport on Loch Long, north of Glasgow, where they are used to replace submarine-based ballistic missile warheads which degrade every few years. The convoys frequently stop at RAF Kineton for a rest break.

Mr Mobbs, who cited a recent incident in Scotland in which convoy trucks slid off a road, said: “If there was a fire involving nuclear materials it could contaminate an area up to 25 miles away.”

Campaigners believe the government is breaching international law by maintaining warheads and planning to spend £40-50 billion upgrading the Trident submarine system.

Mr Mobbs called on residents to write to Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry highlighting the local and global risks.

MOD spokesperson Sahar Rehman said: “We keep the number of nuclear convoys to a minimum, only transporting nuclear material to meet operational requirements. All routes used are subject to a rigorous selection process and appropriate measures are taken to ensure they operate safely.”