Anger erupts over arms

EXPERTS today reacted to credible new evidence that US nuclear weapons are being stored in Suffolk.Officials at RAF Lakenheath, near Bury St Edmunds, have never confirmed nor denied their existence, but a respected American research agency claims the base houses more than 100 tactical nuclear bombs.

EXPERTS today reacted to credible new evidence that US nuclear weapons are being stored in Suffolk.

Officials at RAF Lakenheath, near Bury St Edmunds, have never confirmed nor denied their existence, but a respected American research agency claims the base houses more than 100 tactical nuclear bombs.

The report by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) has raised the question of why the weapons are still present in England more than a decade after the Cold War ended.

It may also increase safety fears, although there is nothing to suggest there is a danger of a nuclear bomb being detonated.

According to the NRDC, a private arms control and environmental group, there is no justification for such stockpiles since the Soviet threat no longer exists.

The report's author, Hans Kristensen, says he discovered that 110 nuclear bombs - three times the rumoured number - were based in the county when he saw official papers authorised by president George W Bush.

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The weapons are free-fall or "gravity" bombs and therefore are not suitable for any probable targets such as in the Middle East.

Speaking to The Evening Star from New York, Mr Kristensen said: "I was very surprised that the authorised number was so much bigger than that which was rumoured.

"Neither the United States nor Nato has been able to articulate a credible mission for the weapons. I say ship them out of Suffolk."

Dr Frank Barnaby, a consultant at the Oxford Research Group, which conducts research into nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, said: "We have known there are tactical nuclear weapons at RAF Lakenheath for a long time.

"There is no rational reason for it as there is no obvious target. I would like to see them taken out of Europe."

Responding to safety concerns, Dr Barnaby added: "There is a finite possibility that a bomb could be accidentally dropped from an aircraft, but even if it did, the fail-safe mechanism would prevent a nuclear explosion.

"However, there could be a fire and some plutonium (radiation) released, which could have environmental consequences."

However, Roger Stern, a member of Suffolk's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, rejected the report because he believes RAF Lakenheath does not have sufficient facilities.

He said: "It is most unlikely that it is true. They haven't built anything to hold 110 bombs at Lakenheath.

"I also don't think there are any purely gravity bombs carried on any planes by American forces. We are way past that."

Suffolk County Council refused to comment on the report, but said: "This is a military matter and one for the US Air Force."

Will Ackerman, spokesman for RAF Lakenheath, said: "The Department of Defence is unable to confirm or deny the existence of nuclear weapons at specific locations."

The NRDC also disclosed that the US would provide non-nuclear Nato allies with nuclear bombs in the event of war.

The organisation says this breaches international law because the nuclear non-proliferation treaty prohibits a nuclear state from transferring such weapons to a non-weapon state.

The 100-page report is based on documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, military publications, commercial satellite imagery and other material.

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