On August 6th 1945 the USA dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later they dropped the world’s first hydrogen bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Within twenty four hours of the first bomb, some 35,000 – 60,000 people were dead – either killed in the initial explosion, or dying very quickly afterwards from radiation burns, radiation sickness or injuries sustained in the bombing. When the second bomb went off a further 20,000 died within 24 hours. The total death toll in these two cities was estimated to be 246,000.
The Hiroshima bomb, Little Boy, was incredibly inefficient and only 1.7% of its fissionable material was consumed. Nevertheless it was the equivalent of 16,000 tonnes of TNT. A 1 mile radius of total destruction, along with the deaths of 30% of the population of Hiroshima, were the results.
The Nagasaki bomb, Fat Man, was more efficient, and produced an explosion equivalent to 21,000 tonnes of TNT. Large hills prevented the majority of the blast from levelling the city, but the heat generated from the blast was estimated at 3900 degrees Celsius and winds produced topped 624 mph. Amazingly only 150 died in the initial blast, but it is estimated 80,000 died as a result of the radiation.
To date this is the only time a nuclear weapon has been used in anger. The Soviet Union obtained the bomb in 1949 and there are now nine nations with nuclear weapons, including the USA, Russian Federation, the UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
The Royal Navy currently has four Vanguard class nuclear submarines, which are the lynchpins of our “independent” nuclear deterrent. Each of these four nuclear submarines carries 16 Trident II D5LE nuclear ballistic missiles, a total of 64 missiles. Each missile can carry a Mark 5 Multiple Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicle or MIRV, which can target up to 14 W88 warheads, which have a blast equivalent to 475,000 tonnes of TNT. William Hague told the House of Commons that the UK only has 160 warheads and that this number would not be increased.
The Royal Navy maintains a constant “at sea” watch with these weapons of mass destruction, which costs approximately £2.4 billion each year in operating costs, the equivalent of 6% of the UK defence budget.
We have the ability to destroy a city the size of Hiroshima 10 times over with every warhead. So we could, should we so wish, take out up to 160 cities of a million people or more. This nuclear deterrent is, we are told, vital to our national security.
Is it though?
The outrage expressed by the Tories when Jeremy Corbyn told the truth and said he would never push the nuclear button – were there such a thing – and therefore would not, as Prime Minister, order a nuclear counter-strike, is fake. Not one of the politicians currently lining up to condemn Corbyn would be prepared to order a nuclear strike – not even our current PM.
There is a reason that the acronym for Mutually Assured Destruction is MAD. You would have to be certifiably insane to ever order such weapons to be used. As a result, the very destructiveness of nuclear weapons guarantee their obsolescence. Nobody, not even Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump, would ever use nuclear weapons.
Among the nine states with viable nuclear weapons are India & Pakistan – two countries that have been to war 4 times since 1947 – and North Korea, who are still at war with South Korea. Yet not one of these three nations have used their nuclear weapons.
The State of Israel is in a permanent fight for its very existence. Yet despite having been a nuclear power for decades, it has never used nuclear weapons against Iran (who constantly carry out military operations in Israel using their proxies Hezbollah) or any other nation.
The idea that there would ever be a set of circumstances in which the UK felt the need to use nuclear weapons is just as certifiable as the idea that we might be successfully invaded by the Faroe Islands. It is NEVER going to happen.
Which brings me back to Jeremy Corbyn. Why on earth is it a threat to National Security for him to say what everyone already knows – that our nuclear fleet is pointless? That it is neither independent nor a deterrent. That it is a colossal waste of money and should be consigned to the history books.
While Mr Corbyn would no doubt rather spend the £2.4 billion each year saved by scrapping our nuclear force on education or hospitals, a position I might well agree with him on, there is no doubt that our conventional forces could do with significant better procurement and improved equipment. Surely freeing up £2.4bn from the defence budget would allow the Ministry of Defence to ensure that we really do have the best equipped and best trained military in the world.