Nuclear Notebook: British Nuclear Forces 2011

The United Kingdom has been the most successful of all the nuclear weapon states in terms of creating a minimum nuclear deterrent; in fact, there is reason to believe that the country is considering whether to move toward denuclearization. The authors assess the country’s nuclear forces, providing clear analysis on the British nuclear stockpile and its reductions, the modernization of its nuclear deterrent force, the British-French collaboration on defence and security matters, the country’s nuclear policy, and the country’s nuclear accidents.

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Scottish parliament seeks removal of Trident from Scotland

Following elections in May which saw the Scottish National Party to a majority of the seats in the Scottish Parliament, a resolution calling for the Trident nuclear submarine weapons system to be removed from Scotland is likely to be adopted in the near future. The move comes after UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox last week began the process for a new generation of submarine-based nuclear warheads to replace the current Trident weapons based at Faslane, Scotland. The UK has no other home-port for the Trident submarines and so is unlikely to yield to any call from the Scottish parliament to close the base. However, the move would be a demonstration of divergence between Scotland and the UK – putting some wind behind the sails of a more independent Scotland. In addition, the move would strengthen the arguments of Trident critics within the UK parliament who argue against replacement of the Trident system once it is retired, on the grounds that replacement is too costly and not necessary – in fact possibly detrimental – for UK defence.

Trident replacement and ongoing running costs were reported in 2007 as being £15 – 20 billion (buying replacement system) plus £26 – 31 billion (operating existing system 2007-2023 until replacement system is ready) plus £49 – 59 billion (operating new system 2024-2054) for a total cost of £90 – 110 billion. However, there are reports that these figures are under-estimated.

Time to scrap Trident subs

Action Alert

ICAN in the United Kingdom needs your help to get more British members of parliament to support a nuclear weapons convention. Since November 2007, over 180 MPs have signed Early Day Motions supporting such a treaty. The majority of these are either Labour or Liberal Democrat MPs.

So far, only three Conservative MPs are in favour of a nuclear weapons convention and none voted against replacing Trident in 2007. However, since the economic crisis, a new cross-party debate has begun over whether Trident is affordable and desirable.

ICAN UK is calling on the government to show real leadership in the world by scrapping Trident and entering multilateral negotiations towards the verifiable global abolition of nuclear weapons. We therefore need people to write to parliamentarians and lobby them to support a convention by signing Early Day Motion 498.

Furthermore, there are 34 MPs who voted against replacing Trident in 2007 but haven’t yet signed an Early Day Motion in support of a convention. So we particularly need people who are constituents of these 34 MPs to write to them and explain why the government should back this proposed treaty.

This article is from the news section of the ICAN website

Davis: Talk now or it will be too late to cancel Trident

Ian Davis comments in the Guardian on the Trident replacement: «We must question Britain’s nuclear weapons policy before long-term contracts lock us in». Saying that although the independent enquiry on Britain’s nuclear weapons policy (Trident Commission) is to be welcomed, the status of the replacement project seems – after reviewing the facts – to remain firmly on track. «A strong case can be made for a genuine delay in replacing Trident, ending the policy of continuous at-sea deterrence» says Davis.

Read Ian Davis’ comment in The Guardian.

Stop the War coalition calling for Lockheed Martin boycott

The Guardian reported that the coalition that protested against the Iraq war are urging British people to boycott next month’s UK’s census because the US arms manufacturer responsible for Trident is involved in gathering the information.

Refusing to fill in the 32-page questionnaire is against the law and protesters would face a £1,000 fine and a criminal record by boycotting the census. Resistance to the decennial census is growing as a coalition of anti-war groups, pacifists, religious organisations and digital activists begin raising public awareness about the role of Lockheed Martin, America’s largest arms manufacturer. Lockheed Martin makes Trident missiles for the British and US nuclear weapons systems, cluster munitions and F-16 nuclear-capable fighter planes. The company won the £150m contract to run the census on behalf of the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS)

A campaign to address the issue, bringing together religious groups, peace activists and digital data campaigners opposed to Lockheed Martin, is expected to emerge soon, the Guardian was told.

Read the article in The Guardian of Feb 19 2011

Liam Fox risks Lib-Dem backlash with steel order for new nuclear sub

London Evening Standard: «Liam Fox is to order the steel for the first new nuclear deterrent submarine – despite the Liberal Democrats winning a delay to the formal decision on replacing Trident until after the next election.» Read article

No ‘Back Door’ Trident replacement

Kate Hudson, CND UK

Kate Hudson, CND UK

By Kate Hudson.

Is a piece of nuclear double dealing going on? Last summer the government stated that the decision on whether or not to replace Trident would be delayed until 2016. Now, thanks to the good old Freedom of Information legislation, we know that the MoD is currently planning to order quite a bit of the first submarine – and nuclear reactors for three of them – before the 2016 decision is actually taken.

It also seems that construction is planned to start on significant parts of the first submarine ahead of the decision. These will include elements – if not all – of the hull, the propulsion systems, power plant, electrical, combat and life support systems. In fact, that adds up to quite a lot of the first sub.

This is a classic case of saying one thing and doing another – commonly known as double-dealing or being duplicitous. Surely this is unrepresentative of the ‘new politics’ promised by the coalition government? This smacks of getting Trident replacement in through the back door, bypassing proper political processes and making a mockery of any notion of accountability. And where do the Lib Dems stand in this? Last October they pledged that “Trident will not be renewed this parliament – not on a Liberal Democrat watch”. If that claim is to be anything more than a cosmetic sham – or at best the good intentions with which the road to hell is paved – then these multi-million pound orders must not be placed ahead of the next election.

So what is really going on? Maybe they just told the public what they want to hear – after all a majority is against Trident; or maybe it reflects differences within government about the future of Britain’s nukes? There are plenty of people in the top of politics who don’t want Trident but don’t want to say it. Or maybe we are seeing commercial and industrial interests taking over?

I am reminded of fiascos like the aircraft carriers where billions are committed to projects that no-one wants or needs but we are stuck with them because of contracts and advance expenditure. It’s like saying we have to go to war because troops have already been sent to the region. This is all clearly a total outrage. It is vital that the government commits to an honest debate and accountable process about the timetable, decision-making, cost and scope of the contracts for Trident replacement. Above all it must provide for a fundamental reappraisal – involving parliamentarians and public – of whether a Cold War nuclear weapons system is necessary for the defence of Britain in the 21st century. If you haven’t already done so, please ask your MP to sign EDM 909 calling for such a Review.

The majority of the population is opposed to Trident. Spending on Trident is a dead-end in every respect. No Trident through the Back Door.

Kate Hudson is General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. This article was originally published on Kate Hudson’s Blog.

A briefing discussing these issues in greater depth is available here.

CND welcomes Trident reductions in the Strategic Defence and Security Review

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “We welcome the reduction in the UK’s operational stockpile of nuclear warheads. This 25% reduction is a good first step towards the eventual elimination of all our nuclear weapons – a legally-binding commitment Britain made when it signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. We hope the Government will build on this to create positive momentum amongst other middle-ranking nuclear states like France and China to pursue similar reductions alongside those already being pursued by the US and Russia.

“The savings announced today are welcome, but a drop in the ocean when compared to the overall project costs. A £1.2bn saving amounts to less than 1.6% of the lifetime cost of the system. If David Cameron was really serious about saving money he should have cut the remaining 98% of the cash as well. With nuclear threats from states not even regarded as being amongst the top rank of challenges facing the country, we’d not be any less secure without these weapons and could really take the lead in pushing towards Obama’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.

“Pushing the main decision on new submarines back until after the next election will hopefully allow politicians to catch up with what the majority of the public and a growing number of military voices acknowledge – that nuclear weapons are a costly irrelevance to the threats Britain faces.”

“The reduction in the overall size of the warhead stockpile from 225 to 180 is welcome, meaning the destruction of 45 warheads. Whilst this is not due to be completed until the mid 2020s the UK could build confidence in its progress by annual declarations of how many warheads have been irreversibly disabled. The fact that no decision will be taken on building replacement warheads during this parliament is also very positive. Had the UK gone ahead with such a programme it would have had seriously damaging international implications, undermining the UK’s ability to oppose other states’ pursuit of nuclear weapons.

You can read the Strategic Defence and Security Review on the MoD website.

Source: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, UK

New Commission on Trident in the UK

BASIC Trident CommissionBASIC in the UK launched a cross party Trident Commission today to take advantage of the opportunity that was opened up by the British government to consider its nuclear weapons policy, when it decided to delay the timetable for the construction of the replacement submarines on which the Trident system crucially depends. Growing proliferation risks to states and terrorist groups, domestic fiscal constraints, and the decision to pay for Trident renewal (should it happen) from the core defence budget rather than the Treasury reserve mean there is a now new policy context that must be considered.

Co-chaired by Lord Browne of Ladyton, former Labour Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Conservative Defence and Foreign Secretary, and Sir Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats and Shadow Foreign Secretary, the  Commission will therefore conduct one of the most rigorous and thorough assessments of British nuclear weapons policy ever conducted outside government.

More on the Trident Commission: www.basicint.org/tridentcommission