Seeking to outlaw nuclear weapons

Issue 

By Peter Anderson

Robert Green has seen the nuclear industry from the inside, and what he found convinced him he should do everything possible to stop it. A former British navy commander, he is now seeking international support for a campaign to have nuclear weapons outlawed.

The plan is to persuade the UN General Assembly to ask the World Court in the Hague for an opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons. He recently visited New Zealand and Australia as UK chairman of the World Court Project.

A "window of opportunity" now exists in the wake of the Gulf War and the collapse of the former Soviet Union, he said, adding that "so long as nuclear powers insist on threatened use of nuclear weapons, they cannot complain if the Saddam Husseins of the world follow their example".

He left the navy in 1982 and, after a series of dramatic events, came out publicly against all nuclear activities in 1991.

Recently, his mail was interfered with when he attempted to get hold of the full transcript of a British television program, Polaris in Deep Water, which had exposed defects in the reactor coolant system fitted to Polaris and other attack submarines.

In one part, a member of the government's nuclear power warship safety committee stated that the government was so concerned about potential radiation leaks from defective nuclear submarines that they were banned from foreign port visits.

When Green got a full transcript of the interview from Thames Television, it arrived in a sealed

envelope, but a number of pages had clumsily been ripped out. The missing pages contained the sensitive admissions about banning foreign port visits.

"My phone was tapped, the Royal Mail Interception service swung into action, an MI5 thug played around with the package, put it in the envelope and sent it on to me. The message was clear."

In 1984, Green's aunt, Hilda Murrell, an anti-nuclear campaigner, took advantage of an inquiry into Britain's first proposed pressurised water nuclear reactor to present critical objections about unresolved waste disposal problems.

She sought advice from a dissident nuclear scientist who, unknown to her, had found very sensitive information about a major flaw in the design of reactor control rods.

Before he could testify, the scientist suffered a heart attack, thought to have been induced by an overdose of caffeine in his coffee. Prior to that and after, he suffered no heart problems.

Murrell was about to present her own objections to the inquiry when she had a fortuitous meeting with the scientist, at which neither told the other of their findings.

She was already under surveillance by the nuclear industry, which suspected this meeting was a secret briefing and that Murrell would appear at the inquiry as the scientist's proxy.

Six weeks later she was abducted from her own house and was not seen alive again.

"A lot of frightened people have come forward to give me information from inside. It is quite clear there was an orchestrated state-sponsored

cover-up. The police were out of their depth. The further I went into it, the more it stank, and that radicalised me. I picked up her torch."

During his 20-year stint in the navy, Green had been trained to drop nuclear depth bombs against Soviet submarines because British torpedoes were not fast enough to catch them. The navy brass claimed that using the nuclear charges in the middle of the Atlantic ocean was okay because there were no civilians and no-one would even notice.

In 1979 he entered the corridors of power as secretary to an admiral in the Ministry of Defence just at the time when Thatcher began a major expansion of all things nuclear — Trident, Cruise and the new pressurised water reactors. Seeing the "submarine mafia" going hard for Trident was enough to convince him he should leave.

Originally, inspiration for an anti-nuclear World Court ruling came from Nobel Peace Prize winner Sean MacBride, who was secretary general of the International Peace Bureau in the mid-'70s. Ten years later it was picked up in New Zealand by a prominent lawyer, Harold Evans, and in Australia by former Liberal politician Ted St John.

The International Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms joined with the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the International Peace Bureau to push for the World Court challenge. A public awareness campaign to force politicians to take the question seriously will be followed by intensive lobbing for a range of countries to sponsor the proposed UN motion.

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