Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why there should be a full public inquiry over the decision to site Cruise missiles at Greenham

It is rather frustrating to read this news without the accompanying detail:

Nuclear missiles stationed at the former RAF base at Greenham Common in Berkshire put 10 million people at risk from radioactive contamination, according to documents released by the Ministry of Defence.

It is also frustrating that the risk assessment referred to was not available publicly in the 1980s before the Cruise missiles were moved to Greenham.

Why would the government have moved the missles to what was assessed as the most risky of the eleven sites considered?:

SCIENTISTS warned the Ministry of Defence that Greenham Common was the worst available location for nuclear missiles three years before the US airbase began stockpiling them in 1983, previously secret documents reveal.
Reports seen by the 'New Scientist' show that, of the 11 bases in England being considered for the missiles, Greenham Common posed the highest risks in terms of the “plutonium dispersion hazard”.
This was because it was in closest proximity to large centres of population which could become exposed to radiation in the event of an accident.

I lived a mile from the Cruise missiles for all but two of the eight years they were at Greenham. I have always got the impression that if you asked the Ministry of Defence what date Christmas Day is on this year, they would refuse to reveal the date on security grounds. True to form, even now, they will not even "confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons at any particular place at any particular time".

It really is intolerable that, 18 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is not full accountability of the decisions made over the Greenham Common Cruise missiles. There should be a full public inquiry and full disclosure of the facts of the decision so learnings may inform future decision-making of this type. I don't imply anyone did anything wrong. However, secrecy at this stage damages our democracy and the future well-being of our country.

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