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Activists fined after protest against nuclear missile carrying subs in Plymouth

14th August 2002

Seven anti-nuclear activists have been fined £200 each after demonstrating against the arrival of nuclear missile-carrying submarines at Devonport docks in Plymouth.

HMS Vengeance was the first of Britain's four Vanguard class submarines to pull into Devonport Dockyard for a refit in February. The Vanguard class submarines are the UK's largest nuclear subs and carry Trident nuclear missiles. Devonport Management Limited (DML), which now privately owns and manages the naval docks in Plymouth, have soared above the estimated budget of £417 million which won them the contract in 1998, and spent £659 million of taxpayers money on preparing docks for refitting and refueling nuclear submarines. Local residents insist it is entirely inappropriate for nuclear operations to take place within a city with a population of 250,000.

DML is a subsidiary of the huge US corporation Halliburton, whose long time Chief Executive was Dick Cheney until he stood down from the job to become the current US vice president. In order to carry out work on nuclear submarines, DML applied to the Environment Agency for permission to increase the amount of radioactive Tritium flushed into the local environment. The Environment Agency gave them permission to increase Tritium release into the River Tamar by 583 per cent, and into the local atmosphere via a chimney by 400 per cent.

Plymouth has traditionally been compliant with whatever the navy sanctions, but a series of investigative articles published in SQUALL, Red Pepper, The Ecologist and the local Big Issue South West examined the scientific consequences of tritium pollution and revealed the navy's plans to store nuclear material within the city. The articles were photocopied and distributed in the locality and helped swell the small band of residents who were concerned wabout the nuclear escalation in their city. As a consequence 200 people blocked the Tamar Bridge in demonstration last year.

In February this year, as HMS Vanguard was arriving at Devonport Docks, the Trident Ploughshares direct action group joined with local residents in a demonstration outside the nuclear dockyard. Seven activists took part in a sit down protest outside Drake Gate and were arrested by police for obstruction.

The seven defendants included six from Trident Ploughshares and one from Plymouth's local action group, CANSAR (Campaign Against Nuclear Storage and Radiation). When their case was heard at Plymouth Magistrates Court on August 13, they were refused permission to explain why they had carried out their action. One defendant, Margaret Jones, has refused to pay her fine, saying she prefers to face prison "than support a nuclear state".

A spokesperson for the Plymouth Nuclear-free Coalition confirmed local residents would "continue to build the campaign here in Plymouth against this crime in our back yard."

A full investigative feature on DML, nuclear operations in Plymouth, MoD shennanigans and the health consequences of Tritium pollution can be found in Silent But Deadly on the SQUALL Features page.

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