Replacement Trident nuclear programme gets £1 billion boost
Posted: 06/18/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Defence, has said that a £1 billion deal has been struck to develop the next generation of nuclear reactors that will replace Britain’s current Vanguard class submarines, which carry the Trident nuclear missiles.
The Trident programme is one of the most hotly debated of any political policy and this announcement, due later this week, is sure to put pressures on the UK’s coalition government as the Liberal Democrats fiercely oppose a direct replacement for the Trident nuclear deterrent.
Hammond told the Sunday Politics’ Andrew Neil that, “the government's policy is very clear. We're committed to maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent and we're placing orders now.”
Liberal Democrat Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey is currently undergoing a review of alternative nuclear deterrents and is due to report his findings to David Cameron later this year.
Hammond confirmed that this deal, along with the contract placed last month for design work on the new programme, does not necessarily mean a direct replacement for Trident will be procured. He explained that the long lead times and the nature of the work means that the government has to make decisions now if the new nuclear capability, in whatever configuration it may be, is to be delivered on time to maintain Britain’s defences.
“We announced £350 million a couple of weeks ago for the design work – for the long lead items that will be necessary to deliver a successor to the Vanguard class submarines in the late 2020s – but the actual decision on whether to build them won't be taken until 2016. What we're doing now is ordering the things we have to order now to give us that option.”
Hammond went on to say that the deal will support 300 jobs at Rolls Royce’s Raynesway facility in Derby.
“What we're going to be announcing is a commitment to the major refurbishment of the plant at Rolls Royce in Derby which builds these core reactors, not just for the nuclear deterrent submarines but also for our attack submarines, the Astute Class submarines. This is sustaining a sovereign capability in the UK and some very high-end technical skills in the UK for the next 40 or 50 years.”
It’s yet to be seen whether Trident 2.0 will be the government’s chosen nuclear deterrent when the time comes in 2016, but this latest contract is the clearest signal yet that it will be. Certainly the programme has its detractors in the House of Commons but many still believe it is the only solution, even regardless of cost.
The Henry Jackson Society, a cross-partisan British-based think-tank, released a report today entitled ‘The Necessity of Nuclear Deterrence.’ In the report, Peter Cannon argues that Trident “provides a deterrent effect which no other military capability could match. Other nuclear powers are not considering giving up their nuclear weapons, countries such as Iran are seeking nuclear weapons and we cannot predict what threats may emerge in the future.
“For the capability which it offers, the UK's nuclear deterrent is good value for money.
“Alternative systems offer an inferior, not an improved capability. Land-based missiles are vulnerable to pre-emption. Cruise missiles are slower and fly lower than Trident ballistic missiles and would require a new missile and warhead to be designed. Any alternative system which ended the principle of continuous at-sea deterrence would leave the UK vulnerable to a pre-emptive strike and remove the guaranteed 'second strike' capability offered by Trident.”
Nick Harvey will have a hard time convincing the government, and many of those in opposition, that an alternative to the Trident nuclear deterrent is a valid one.
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