Inspecting illegal nuclear weapons

Feature story - 24 May, 2005
The one international treaty dedicated to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons is deadlocked by the unwillingness of those countries which already have nuclear weapons to let the treaty do its job.

Greenpeace has joined with other groups in setting up citizens inspections of illegal nuclear weapons sites around the world.

Despite the fact that the treaty obligates the "official" nuclearweapons states to pursue nuclear disarmament, a US State Departmentofficial is quoted in the National Security Newswire as stating "we donot accept this notion that the United States must take steps to"devalue" nuclear weapons to be in compliance."  

Butcountries pursuing nuclear capability like Korea and possibly Iran arenot going to "devalue" the quest for nuclear weapons in a world inwhich being a nuclear power like the US means the ability to conduct aunilateral, pre-emptive war fighting strategy.

While the US declared Iraq in violation of international law over anuclear weapons programme that didn't actually exist, the US, andthe other nuclear weapons states, UK, France, Russia, China, Pakistan,India, and Israel are in violation of international law with their ownvery real arsenals.

The International Court of Justice decided in 1998 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal.

It'stherefore up to all of us to enforce the law. Greenpeace has partneredwith other peace organisations to begin a series of "Citizens'Inspections" of nuclear weapons sites.


Accompanied by a flotilla of 35 yachts from the Brest area, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise entered the military exclusion zone around the French Military Nuclear Base at L'Isle Longue near Brest on Sunday, May 15th, after announcing our intention by radio to conduct a citizens' inspection.

We had information that two of the four French nuclear-armed submarines wereat the base during the inspection (although of course governmentofficials never confirm or deny this kind of information), with a totalfire power of 1000 times the Hiroshima bomb.

When the ArcticSunrise was stopped by two French military boats, GP France CampaignDirector Yannick Jadot, accompanied by two of the Arctic Sunrise Crew, Erkutand Craig, continued the citizens' inspection by inflatable zodiac,finally being stopped by a boat full of well-armed French commandos. Atthe same time, the citizens' inspection was backed up by 150 Greenpeacesupporters and local activists, as well as members of the ArcticSunrise crew, who marched to the front entrance of the nuclear base,demonstrating against the continued presence of nuclear weapons.

"Wegot to within 100 meters of a nuclear armed submarine" said YannickJadot "in an unarmed inflatable raft.  Nuclear weapons cannot bemade secure."


InApril our activists joined with regular Bombspotting activists toinspect three military facilities in Belgium, with the aim ofpressuring NATO member states to renounce their nuclear weaponsarsenal.  The inspections took place at Kleine Brogel Air basewhich houses nuclear weapons, NATO's Brussels Headquarters and itsSHAPE military headquarters in Mons/Bergen.

1000 activists showed up to carry out the inspection. 500 bombspotters were arrested. A massive police presence greeted inspectors from Greenpeace and Bombspotting at NATO- HQ.


Mayor Murray Matson led a Citizens Weapons Inspection team of local dignataries and Greenpeace activists to Lucas Heights to check on secretive research into uranium enrichment.

"Wewere always told this was a medical research facility... while thisstory was being told to us, all along there was another type ofresearch going on, uranium enrichment, that is conducive to producingnuclear weapons," said Dr Tilman Ruff, president-elect of the MedicalAssociation for the Prevention of War.

Mayor Matson is a member of Mayors for Peace, an initiative begun by the mayor of Hiroshima to abolish nuclear weapons.


InTurkey we've established a semi-permanent inspection facility about 50meters from the entrance to the Incirlik NATO Air Base near Adana: thePeace Embassy.

Polling data in Turkey has shown that less thanhalf of the population is aware that US nuclear weapons are actuallypresent in their country, and 72% support Turkey being a nuclear freezone.

ThisPeace Embassy is being established at a time when a report beingdiscussed by the US Congress could result in additional US nuclearweapons being stationed in Turkey.

"These US nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey are a danger to regional stability and global security",says Aslýhan Tümer, our Nuclear Disarmament  campaigner in theMediterranean, "We're bearing witness, and calling on Prime minister Erdogan to say no to any US nuclear weapons in Turkey"

ThePeace Embassy has created a weblog which they will maintain throughouttheir presence.  As Ertank noted in one post: "Incirlik is astrange town. The only means of economy is the Americans. There is nosingle shop with a Turkish name here. They work for the American troopsand their wives."

Escalating pressure

Greenpeace, along with Bombspotting and othercitizen inspection groups, will be escalating their pressure on thecountries owning and hosting nuclear weapons as we move closer to the60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th.

"Weare part of a growing network of people who will continue to conductthese inspections," said our campaigner Nicky Davies. "We're callingupon all our supporters and activists to join in increasing thepressure on the nuclear weapons states to abolish nuclear weapons."

You can help by writing today to the Prime Minister to ask that Turkey become nuclear-free.

Want to organise your own citizen's inspection of a nuclear weapons facility near you?

You can find out where nuclear weapons are stationed all over the worldwith our Zoom on Doom map (below), and you can download materials andfind out more from the Citizens' Inspection Working Group of the Abolition 2000 Campaign.

Nukes out of Turkey

Join our Peace Embassy in asking the Prime Minister of Turkey to make nuclear weapons unwelcome in his country.

Give peace a chance

Help keep Greenpeace working for the abolition of nuclear weapons. To preserve our independence, we don't accept money from governments or corporations: we count on you to help us give peace a chance.