UK government snubs international conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons

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The UK has announced that it will not be participating in an international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapon use hosted this week by the Norwegian government.  The UK's decision – which has been heavily criticised by civil society organisations campaigning on nuclear weapons issues – represents a common position alongside other permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council, who have all decided to boycott the event.

The conference - which is taking place in Oslo on 4-5 March 2013 - aims to highlight the humanitarian consequences of a nuclear weapon detonation, following international recognition of concerns over the impacts of the use of a nuclear weapon at the last Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty,

The Norwegian government intends that the conference will allow “fact-based discussion” of the human and developmental consequences resulting from a nuclear explosion through a programme of expert presentations and discussions which will cover the immediate humanitarian impact of a nuclear detonation, the wider developmental, economic and environmental consequences, and government plans and capacity to respond to this type of disaster.

Nearly 130 governments have registered to attend the conference, including the majority of EU and NATO countries, as well as leading scientific experts and international non-government organisations

In advance of the conference, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANW) in the UK has prepared a series of studies on the impact of the use of nuclear weapons on or by the UK, or an accident at a UK nuclear weapons facility.  Calculations in one of the these studies showed that if one 100 kiloton nuclear warhead exploded over Manchester, 81,000 people would be killed and 212,000 injured within one minute.  

The UK government has not responded to the ICANW studies or provided its own evidence on the predicted humanitarian implications of a nuclear weapon explosion.

According to the Norwegian government: “A nuclear weapon detonation, whether intentional or accidental, could cause catastrophic short- and long-term humanitarian, economic, developmental and environmental effects. Such a detonation could have global implications”.

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