United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is a nuclear-armed state, estimated by the SIPRI Yearbook 2013, and in accordance with the Coalition Government’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), to possess no more than 225 nuclear weapons, of which some 160 are operationally available.  After British scientists participated in the US Manhattan Project, the UK clandestinely pursued a nuclear weapons programme of its own before going public with its...

The United Kingdom is a nuclear-armed state, estimated by the SIPRI Yearbook 2013, and in accordance with the Coalition Government’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), to possess no more than 225 nuclear weapons, of which some 160 are operationally available.  After British scientists participated in the US Manhattan Project, the UK clandestinely pursued a nuclear weapons programme of its own before going public with its first nuclear test on 3 October 1952 at Montebello, Australia.  The UK conducted 45 nuclear tests at various Pacific sites and then the US Nevada Test Site before the 1992 US moratorium forced Britain’s nuclear testing programme to an end.

Though it developed a range of different nuclear forces during the Cold War, the UK now deploys only one system, using UK warheads on US Trident missiles carried on four Vanguard-class nuclear submarines.  After an in-principle decision by Parliament in 2007 to procure 4 new submarines and renew the Trident-based nuclear weapons to 2050 at an estimated cost of £76-100 billion, public opposition to the replacement of Trident has been increasing.  The ‘main gate’ procurement decision has been delayed until 2016, amid growing questions about the purpose and affordability of replacing Trident.  Debates in Scotland over independence are also calling the feasibility of Trident replacement into question, as the UK’s nuclear warheads are stored in Scotland at Coulport, close to the Faslane naval base where the submarines are home-ported.   UK nuclear warheads are designed and manufactured at the Atomic Weapons Establishments (AWE) at Aldermaston and Burghfield, near London.

The UK is a depositary state for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and one of the treaty’s five defined Nuclear Weapon States (NWS).  The UK signed and ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1998.  The UK is a state party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) and a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).  As at January 2012, the UK is a state party to the Mine Ban Treaty and a state party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). The UK signed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in June 2013, and ratified it in April 2014. It is a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It is a member of the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD).   It is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

1 November 2015

Scottish Labour party delegates have backed a vote to scrap the UK's Trident nuclear missile system, which is based at Faslane naval base on the Clyde.

A motion at the party's conference in Perth calling for the system not to be renewed was supported by an overwhelming majority....

22 October 2015

Trident is far more a political than a military entity – it does not even command uniform support across the military.

The change in leadership of the Labour Party has brought the issue of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system back into the spotlight. Depressingly, however...

19 October 2015

Editorial: Full-spectrum change
Ray Acheson | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

Download the full edition in PDF

At some point between the...

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...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
24 May 2010

Oh dear oh dear oh dear! Today in Main Committee I we were treated to what looked like a semi-coordinated Push Back by the P-5 Nuclear Weapons Addicts.  One by one they took the floor to complain about a number of places where the nuclear weapons possessors were, to quote Russia, being “put...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
20 May 2010

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference President Libran Cabactulan (Philippines) held his 14th plenary late on Wednesday 19th May to “take stock”. The three Committee chairs all reported that negotiations were proceeding on the basis of the draft reports...

9 June 2015

Parliamentary update: Nuclear Weapons Policy Liaison Group, 9th June 2015.

 
Read about the latest political activity around nuclear weapons in the UK.
This parliamentary update is also attached as a...
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 2015

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

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

20 October 2015

20 Oct 2015 : Column 913

6.24 pm

Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP): 

As has been pointed out, this measure is very much part of the overall narrative of this Government. They have enthusiastically embraced...

15 October 2015

Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP): 

The continued retention of weapons of mass destruction for the UK is of grave concern to millions of people, not least in Scotland, where people live in their shadow. This issue is much too important to be...

9 October 2015

Dr Paul Monaghan: To ask the Prime Minister, under which criteria the Government would consider it justified to launch (a) a pre-emptive nuclear attack on another independent state or states using the Trident nuclear weapons system based in Scotland and (b) a retaliatory nuclear...

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): Negotiators for P5+1 & Iran
24 November 2013

Preamble

The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that
would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no
circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any...

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