Trident

The United Kingdom has possessed nuclear armaments since 1952 and presently deploys a nuclear weapon system comprising four Vanguard class nuclear-powered submarines - home-ported at Faslane in Scotland, US Trident II (D5) missiles, and a stockpile of up to 180 warheads, manufactured and maintained at the Atomic Weapons Establishments (AWE) at Aldermaston and Burghfield, near London, and stored at Coulport, near Faslane, Scotland. Generally referred to as ‘Trident’...

The United Kingdom has possessed nuclear armaments since 1952 and presently deploys a nuclear weapon system comprising four Vanguard class nuclear-powered submarines - home-ported at Faslane in Scotland, US Trident II (D5) missiles, and a stockpile of up to 180 warheads, manufactured and maintained at the Atomic Weapons Establishments (AWE) at Aldermaston and Burghfield, near London, and stored at Coulport, near Faslane, Scotland. Generally referred to as ‘Trident’ – or the political euphemism ‘independent deterrent’ – this nuclear-weapons system came into service during the 1990s, with an expected 30 year service life, based on policies that entailed ‘continuous-at-sea-deterrence’ (CASD) patrols and regular refits. In 2007, despite disarmament commitments undertaken in accordance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and deep reductions in the Russian and US strategic arsenals from their cold war levels, the Labour government of Tony Blair decided to procure a replacement fleet of up to 4 new submarines to carry British nuclear weapons into the 2050s. Even prior to the debate and parliamentary vote in March 2007, the government had authorized billions of pounds for upgrading warhead design and testing facilities at Aldermaston, including a new ‘Orion’ laser and supercomputer.

The Acronym Institute published an in depth analysis of the roles and options relating to UK nuclear weapons in the context of Britain’s security, legal and international priorities in our 2006 report “Worse than Irrelevant: Britain’s Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century”. This provided discussion of the political and technical questions facing decision-makers, and called for a comprehensive security and defence review, noting that the choice would have significant budgetary, security and proliferation ramifications for Britain and the international non-proliferation regime for the future.

Following the May 2010 General Election, Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition rushed through a ‘Strategic Defence and Security Review’ (SDSR) which took as its starting point the “need for a minimum effective nuclear deterrent as the ultimate means to deter the most extreme threats”. Placing emphasis on the requirement to get ‘value for money’, the Coalition government announced that deployed submarines would each carry 40 rather than 48 warheads, the numbers of operational missiles would be reduced, and only 120 warheads in the stockpile would be ‘operationally available’. It was also decided that the Main Gate decision on the acquisition plans and number of submarines would be delayed until 2016. In the meantime however, the Coalition continues to announce contracts and commit public money to Trident replacement projects.  This is despite differences of opinion between the Conservatives, who support like-for-like replacement, and the Liberal Democrats, who favour 'stepping down the nuclear ladder' by scrapping CASD and reducing the number of submarines. Recently moreover, several high profile figures - including the Conservative Chair of the Commons Defence Select Committee James Arbuthnot - have questionned Trident renewal and the logic of nuclear deterrence and criticised the government for failing to participate in a widely attended international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.  From publications and meetings in parliament to high profile public debates, the Acronym Institute has remained at the forefront of questioning the utility and relevance of nuclear weapons for Britain's security.

18 June 2015

A Royal Navy submariner who published an online dossier of safety and security concerns about the Trident nuclear programme has been discharged from the service.

Able Seaman William McNeilly warned the UK’s nuclear deterrent was a "disaster...

17 June 2015

The Trident safety whistleblower, William McNeilly, says he has been dishonourably discharged from the Royal Navy to protect its public image.

In a nine-page report posted online, the former...

17 May 2015

Trident submarines are plagued by serious security lapses, beset by multiple safety blunders and “a disaster waiting to happen”, according to a nuclear weapons engineer turned whistleblower now being hunted by the police.

William McNeilly, who says he was on patrol with HMS...

22 April 2013

The Spring 2013 edition of Proliferation in Parliament offers a review of news, debates and developments in the UK Parliament and Government on issues relating to nuclear weapons, disarmament and proliferation.  It is published in mid-April 2013 as parliamentarians return...

15 January 2013

The Winter 2012-2013 edition of Proliferation in Parliament offers a review of news, debates and developments in the UK Parliament and Government on issues relating to nuclear weapons, disarmament and proliferation.  It is published in January 2013 following the Christmas...

11 September 2012

This is the Summer 2012 edition of the Acronym Institute newsletter Proliferation in Parliament.  It offers a review of news, debates and developments in the UK Parliament and Government on issues relating to nuclear weapons,...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
16 July 2013

The government's Trident Alternatives Review" (TAR), an edited version of which was made public Tuesday 16 July failed to resolve the fundamental differences between the Conservative and Lib...

28 January 2015

Read about the latest political activity around nuclear weapons in the UK, including the Opposition Day Debate about Trident replacement.

Parliamentary update: Nuclear Weapons Policy Liaison Group, 5th - 26th January 2014

 
This parliamentary update is also...
Dr Rebecca Johnson
17 December 2014

Driven by “the imperative of human security for all", Austria pledged at the...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
27 November 2014

Preventable Threats: The humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons: UK risks and challenges

Something new and challenging is shaking up the world of nuclear weapons and proliferation. In March 2013, 128 governments met in Oslo to discuss the humanitarian impacts of these weapons of mass...

9 June 2015

Marquess of Lothian:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent is vulnerable to espionage as a result of insufficient maritime patrol surveillance.

Earl Howe:

The...

28 May 2015

HM Naval Base Clyde

4.51 pm

Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): I should first thank the Justice Secretary. In his anxiety to avoid answering a simple question, he has extended the time available for the Adjournment debate by 10 minutes, with his customary generosity....

9 March 2015

 

The UK parliamentary debate on the NPT on 9 March was opened by former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, but sparsely attended by members of the House of Commons. While some MPs evoked Britain's role in the NPT and P5 as justification for retaining nuclear weapons and...

22 December 2014

The third annual report by the MOD, detailing the progress made on the Successor programme over the last 12 months and plans for the coming year, was published in December 2014. It is available on the www.gov.uk website...

Author(s): House of Commons Defence Select Committee
27 March 2014

Read below the Conclusions and Recommendations of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee Enquiry into Deterrence in the twenty-first century, published in March 2014.  The full report is available to view on the...

Author(s): UK Govt Cabinet Office
16 July 2013

In 2011,the UK Prime Minister & Deputy Prime Minister jointly commissioned the Cabinet Office to conduct a focused review into alternative (nuclear) systems and postures to the UK's current Trident nuclear weapons system. The attached document is the resulting, unclassified version of...

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