In the past week our Government here in the UK has announced in the latest Defence Review, which they have every five years, that they intend to increase the number of nuclear warheads that we hold from 180 to 240. This comes at a time when the rest of the world, with the exception of the nuclear armed states and their friends, has decided even one warhead is too much. At the United Nations this year the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force making the possession, threat of use, or development illegal. Our Government has refused to ever sign or ratify this law, and has openly also stated that it is happy to use our weapons in a first strike at a perceived enemy. Many people do not know what happens when a bomb explodes so ignore this, here is why you should not, and make our Government change its mind.

First some background on my knowledge of Nuclear Weapons. I was trained in 1979 as a Warning and Reporting Officer for nuclear strikes. My job was to go out and investigate any enemy strike, to work out how big it was, how much damage was caused, how much down wind fallout was present, and how soon our troops could operate in the area and for how long they could fight before radiation would kill them.

 The first weapon to be ever used was at Hiroshima, a  15 kiloton weapon, that is a yield of 15,000 tons of TNT, exploded at a height of approximately 5000 feet. It killed an estimated 149,000 people  within 24hrs, and 200,000 by 6 months. More followed over the next 50 years, dying as a result of their injuries or the many cancers that the radiation caused. The second bomb fell on Nagasaki two days later, a ground burst with a yield of 19 Kilotons. 95,000 dead at 24hrs, another 100,000 by 6 months. The difference was due to Hiroshima being hilly with densely packed houses, whilst Nagasaki was flat and spread out. Both cities were packed with refugees from previous carpet bombing air raids, so the final total of dead people could never be known. What is known is that in Hiroshima, 90% of Doctors and Nurses died in the first 24hrs, along with over 80% of firefighters. No telephones worked to call for help. No medical facilities survived.

But it brought about the end of the war didn’t it? No, the Russians invading from the North did. And Japan had been trying to surrender for months but the Americans would not let them until they had been able to use their new weapons and so demonstrate to the world how powerful they were.

So what about our weapons and what would happen if one of the same size was used against us. The American designed W76 warhead that we manufacture in this country has a yield of 100 Kilotons, six times bigger at least than Hiroshima, five times Nagasaki. As a Yorkshireman I have selected our County Town, the city of York as the target, as it is an important railway junction, has lots of military bases, and is our pride and joy. Middle of the day, and an airburst weapon, just like Hiroshima. So what will happen?

At explosion, a fireball, 4miles across, at 1,200,000 degrees centigrade, will hit the floor, destroying every living thing and building within the ring road area. Three major hospitals gone, all firefighting gone, no comms available as the electromagnetic pulse takes out all mobile phones and the fireball all landlines. Out to a radius of 5 miles the radiation of 500 rem will kill up to 90% within a week. The shock wave will destroy all buildings out to 8 mile radius and kill everything in the open, the overpressure of 20lbs per square inch will stop most breathing indoors in shelter, for a period of time, 50% death for survivors. Out to 21 mile radius most buildings will have collapsed 80% will be injured, even if indoors. The thermal radiation will cause third degree burns to anyone in the open up to 48 miles away, and set lots of buildings on fire, even up to 50 miles away. As the fire ball rises it creates a vacuum below, sucking debris high into the air and the positive airblast will become negative with winds rushing back in causing even more devastation. Downwind of the now rising fireball large pieces of highly radioactive debris will begin to fall back to ground, covering a large area. Yorkshire will no longer be able to function. Cities such as Leeds and Hull will be 50% destroyed. Europe will get hit by fallout across the North Sea after two days with only a mild wind from the West. All this from One Warhead.

Let us now respond with our own warheads against whoever did this to us, and cause the same damage over and over again to their cities and people whilst they continue to do the same to us. Within a day Europe would be finished, Britain a charred wilderness, and as the debris from all these blasts spread around the world in the stratosphere, a nuclear winter forms, starving all life in the Northern Hemisphere for years to come. There has to be a better way to solve our problems than nuclear war.

Join the campaigns now being redoubled by peace groups to stop this from ever happening. We need to get rid of these weapons once and for all, and end this threat. “War is never the answer to the problems we face in the 21st century”. Nuclear war has no winners, only losers. Now is the time to stop this madness once and for all. Let us together stop and think, and pressure those in power of all parties to make the right choice to scrap these weapons and be an example to the world by signing the TPNW at the earliest opportunity.

Michael Elstub

Chair VFPUK 2021.


  1. Thomas Cooke says:

    I refer to 2 pamphlets, I’ve read many years ago, “PROTEST AND SURVIVE” by (CND) E P Thompson, 1980. Also a less known pamphlet in Bristol, BRISTOL & THE BOMB. 1981
    It was produced by Bristol City Council. Labour was the dominant Group on the Council at that time and it was opposed by the Tory group. It suggests that, if a nuclear bomb dropped on the Council office118,000 would be dead within seconds in the inner City and 62000 would die in the outer city. Multiply this around the world and, /// and we’ll have no world. OR …>> many nuclear winters.

  2. David Westgate says:

    A thorough demolition of the case for nuclear weapons, British or anyone else’s. Does this government not have any sense of morality, let alone practical knowledge of what is at stake?
    Well done anyway, Michael.
    All the best,

  3. David Collins says:

    Well written Michael, an excellent report with the local detail that brings the full horror home. What makes this madness even worse is the statement in the Integrated Defence Review by government that it is prepared to launch nuclear weapons if the country was faced with cyber attacks or other “emerging technologies.” That is a “first strike” policy unheard of before and in direct contravention of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

  4. Mervyn t says:

    .Read the technical data from CND

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