M6 Nuclear Convoys

Nuclear warheads regularly travel through our region using the M6 in MoD convoys. They travel between Burghfield near Reading and Coulport just north of Glasgow. For more information on spotting the convoys and the hazards involved, read on.

Military convoys regularly carry nuclear warheads up the M6

Highly dangerous military convoys carrying nuclear warheads travel regularly up and down the country by road - between the nuclear warhead factory at Burghfield (near Aldermaston) in Berkshire and the Trident nuclear base at Coulport in Scotland. No radiation warning symbols are carried and neither the public nor local authorities are warned of these nuclear convoys.

Nuke convoy truck

They carry lethal radioactive materials...

The warheads in the lorries contain plutonium and other deadly radioactive materials. With each lorry carrying up to 8kg of plutonium, any accident involving an explosion or fire could lead to a radioactive plume spreading for miles, poisoning a huge area for thousands of years. US and British government research has still been unable to rule out even the risk of a catastrophic nuclear explosion. The risk of a major accident is growing as traffic on British roads increases.

They can travel by day and night...

In 2004 the MoD changed its 50-year policy on nuclear convoys to allow making the 500 mile road trip in one go, travelling in the dark and without overnight stops: more hazardous and with higher risks to the public. They may also use additional routes to those frequently used and marked on the map.

They carry illegal weapons...

The nuclear warheads these convoys carry are Weapons of Mass Destruction owned and wielded by the UK Government. Deploying Weapons of Mass Destruction is fundamentally wrong, illegal under international law, deeply hypocritical and flawed in its approaches to the modern world's challenges.

Nuke UK route map

Routes

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 north to Coulport on Loch Long, north of Glasgow. At Loch Long the carriers are unloaded and the warheads placed in underground bunkers in the Trident Area.

When required they are taken to the Explosive Handling Jetty at Coulport where they are fitted onto the missiles on the Trident submarines. The warheads require to be checked every so often and batch samples are taken from the Coulport depot to Burghfield and returned to Coulport after servicing. The frequency of convoys varies from year to year. 2004 saw only one or two loaded convoys, but unladen training runs every month or so.

The MOD prefers convoys to travel on motorways and A roads but at either end of the route they must use smaller roads. Not all roads are passable due to the great weight of the convoy trucks. There is an eastern route, mainly relying on the A1(M), and a western route using the M6/M74.

Emergency exercises take place on bases in East Anglia and occasionally elsewhere.

What are the Dangers?

The Ministry Of Defence (MOD) says there is little risk of a nuclear detonation during transport, but in an accident the highly volatile “conventional” explosive could be set off, causing the warhead to ‘jet’ plutonium. It estimates that, in a serious accident a circle some 600 yards in radius would be affected by blast and fragments of explosives. Even more problematic than the explosion itself would be its effect in dispersing alpha emitting plutonium and uranium particles down wind for miles. Alpha particles emitted by plutonium are not a serious risk if they remain outside the body, but if particles are ingested or inhaled they can cause cancer.

Nuclear weapons convoys often pass close to or even through large towns. It would be impossible to evacuate heavily populated areas on the routes in time to avoid the potential consequences of a traffic accident involving a nuclear warhead. MOD accident guidelines do not explain whether traffic would be quarantined, sent on its way or gridlocked in the contaminated zone.

Nuclear weapons convoys and Local Authorities

Local Authority Emergency Planning Officers have been given guidance (the Local Authority & Emergency Services Information) about how to respond to any emergency arising from the passage of convoys. Local police are informed when a convoy is due to pass through their area, but not Fire Brigades.

Notes:

Help us to stop these nuclear weapon convoys...

Nukewatch is a nation-wide network which monitors the convoys, informs the public, local authorities and media of their movements and campaigns against them.

http://www.nukewatch.org.uk

Attachments

  • Nukewatch leaflet front (896 Kb - Format pdf)
    Nukewatch
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  • Nukewatch leaflet back (583 Kb - Format pdf)
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  • Nukewatch Information Pack (1260 Kb - Format pdf)
    Nukewatch
    NukeWatch is not a membership organisation. It is a network of individuals who campaign against nuclear warhead convoys, mainly because they are part of a system of Weapons of Mass Destruction, but also because we believe that communities potentially affected by the convoys should be aware of their existence and the risks they pose.
    PDF logoThis document is in PDF format and can be read using Acrobat Reader.
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