Britain to Spend $1.8B to Preserve Nuclear Deterrent
A GBP 1.05 billion ($1.83 billion) package has been finalized to ensure the continuing safe maintenance of the UK’s nuclear warheads for the rest of their intended service lives. In light of the UK’s ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which means that the UK does not undertake live nuclear testing, GBP 350M will be spent in each of the next three years to upgrade facilities at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield to provide continued reliability and safety assurance.
At present, over 80% of the infrastructure at AWE pre-dates 1960 and it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to sustain. The package will enable AWE to take forward a program of work aimed at sustaining key skills in the AWE workforce and modernizing some of its core research and manufacturing facilities, including the provision of some extra supporting infrastructure.
Britain’s planned investment is required to sustain the existing warhead stockpile in-service, and while there has also been talk of modernizing the nuclear force, the AW actvities are required irrespective of any decisions regarding successor warheads. The July 2004 UK Defence White Paper ‘Delivering Security in a Changing World: Future Capabilities‘ reiterated Government’s commitment to maintaining the effectiveness of the nuclear deterrent, including making the necessary investment in facilities at AWE. Local Planning Authorities will apparently be consulted on this work in the normal way.
Decisions on any replacement for the UK’s Trident submarine-launched missiles and warheads are likely to be needed during this Parliament, but have not yet been taken. Until then, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has stated that will continue to take appropriate steps to ensure that the range of options for maintaining a nuclear deterrent is kept open.