MICHAEL Rigg challenges me to back up my comment that some anti-nuclear campaigners are providing us with misleading information (Letters July 8, July 11 & July 13). I am glad to do so.

In 1994 the United Nations asked the International Court of Justice to give a formal Advisory Opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons. The ICJ took two years carefully considering all relevant factors including the Hague Conventions, the Geneva Protocol and the various general mandatory conventions on human rights and the conduct of war. In July 1996, the justices made a series of rulings. Ruling 3 was “There is in neither customary nor conventional international law any comprehensive and universal prohibition of the threat or use of nuclear weapons as such”, passed 11 votes to 3. This, then, is a definitive statement of international law by the highest legal authority. The possession of nuclear weapons, implicitly, is not contrary to international law. The justices went on to rule in what circumstances the use of nuclear weapons might be lawful and on this they were evenly divided. The chairman used his casting vote for defensive use in extremis, but specified this was not the last word on the matter.

The new UN Treaty is a treaty, not a mandatory international law. It will not change the situation in law as it will only apply to those states who sign the treaty. As the nuclear-armed states and their allies have indicated that they will not sign, no nuclear weapons will be banned and it is misleading to claim that they will be.

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In his July 8 letter, Mr Rigg said that there were 15,000 nuclear warheads in the world. That is an estimate from a reliable source, but he does not mention that source’s qualifier that only 4,000 of these are active. The remainder are deactivated awaiting dismantlement or have been partially or totally dismantled. Nor does he mention the qualifier that of the 4,000 some may be in storage and othesr not incorporated in weapons. Though 4,000 warheads may seem a huge number, it should be remembered that in 1985 there were an estimated 68,000 active warheads. So it is misleading to exaggerate the number of active warheads and to denigrate the progress made over the years in reducing their number.

Lastly, in his July 13 letter he says that the eight missiles on each submarine can each carry eight warheads. The word he uses is “can”. They can but they don’t. The Trident missile loads are classified, but we do know the loads on the old Polaris missiles from the 1980s. These also had eight “warheads”. However, of the eight, four were decoys, two were radar disrupters and only two were actual nuclear weapons. The object is to make sure one bomb gets through to the chosen target, not to attack eight different targets. The destructive power of one 100 kiloton bomb is awful, but exaggerating the offensive ability of a missile or submarine is misleading.

I appreciate the passion and anger the nuclear weapons debate can arouse. However, disarmers will achieve practical outcomes only by winning people over to the cause. Exaggeration and misleading information by campaigners only serves to damage credibility and alienate.

Russell Vallance,

4 West Douglas Drive, Helensburgh.

ON November 8, 2017, it will be 60 years since the United Kingdom succeeded in detonating a thermonuclear device. This was part of the Grapple tests, carried out over Christmas Island (Kiritimati) in the central Pacific Ocean from March 1957 to September 1958.

These tests, along with earlier tests, carried out in Australia from 1952, enabled the UK to be acknowledged as the third nuclear power. This resulted in the signing of the UK-US Mutual Defence Agreement.

While the UK had developed a nuclear capability, there was little understanding of the likely damage to health to the personnel present, and the long-term harm across future generations

Out of an estimated 22,000 personnel involved in the tests, fewer than 3,000 still alive. A large number have died through unexplained illnesses, and their families have suffered ill health. Successive Governments have denied any link to these illnesses from the nuclear tests, and have gone to court on several occasions to argue against the veterans claims.

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the Grapple tests, this would be an appropriate time for the country to show its appreciation to the personnel who carried out the unique service, along with the sacrifice made by many of them, to award a medal to all personnel involved in the nuclear testing programme.

Colin Moir,

9 Main Street, Hatton, Peterhead.