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NUCLEAR WEAPON NEWS

On 8th October MPs will return to the House of Commons after their long summer break. One of the first items that will be dealt with is the Comprehensive Spending Review. This will determine all Government spending, including the Scottish block grant, for 2008-2010. This will include an allocation of £4.5 billion for nuclear weapons.

In May the MoD created the Future Submarine Integrated Project Team. This is the team which will implement the decision to build a new nuclear-armed submarine. Over the next two years they will carry out concept studies to narrow down their options for the new submarine and its nuclear weapons.

On 26 July Des Browne said that the “Initial Gate” for the Future Submarine Programme would be in 2009 and that the MoD would report to Parliament at this time. The “initial gate” is one of the two main decision points in any MoD project. In 2009 there should be a thorough review of the MoD’s proposals. We should take full advantage of the opportunity to stop the plans for new nuclear weapons at this point.

NEW REACTOR

Dounreay Prototype Nuclear Reactor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In April Rear Admiral Matthews, Director General Nuclear, said that they would design a new reactor for the new submarine. The new reactor will be substantially different from the current PWR2. This means that a prototype will have to be built. The previous two prototype submarine reactors were at HMS Vulcan in Dounreay. The current navy reactor at HMS Vulcan is due to close in 2014. There is a distinct possibility that the MoD are planning to build a successor at the same site. While the rest of Dounreay is being decommissioned, a new reactor may be started for the Trident Replacement.

NEW WARHEAD

There has been further confirmation that Aldermaston are working on a new design of nuclear warhead. Dr Jeffrey Lewis of armcontrolwonk.com has revealed that the designation of the project is the “High Surety Warhead”. This has echoes of the US programme for a “Reliable Replacement Warhead”. Both are efforts to design a new generation of nuclear warheads. The term “High Surety” implies that the new weapon will be safer. It also suggests that the new warhead will have a high probability of detonating with the planned yield. This was reported in an article by Ian Bruce on the front page of the Herald on 4 September.

NUCLEAR ACCIDENTS

Meanwhile investigative journalist Rob Edwards has obtained details of nuclear incidents involving British nuclear warheads. In May 1984 an RAF nuclear bomb was damaged when it was dropped from a trolley at RAF Bruggen in Germany. The base was closed and experts for Aldermaston were concerned about the safety of the explosive in the weapon. In December 1987 a Polaris missile was inadvertently hoisted into the air by a crane at Coulport on Loch Long. The report into the incident revealed serious defects both in the crane and in the approval process for Navy crane drivers. Years earlier there had been another near miss when a nuclear missile was dropped by a US Navy crane operator at the Holy Loch base.

Rob also reported in the Sunday Herald that there had been 67 incidents involving the transport of nuclear weapons across Britain between January 2000 and June 2007. 50 of these were “engineering” incidents and 17 were “operational” incidents. For example in October 2003 the axle on a nuclear weapon transporter began smoking due to excessive use of wheel brakes when going down a steep hill. Trident nuclear warheads are regularly transported across Southern and Central Scotland on route from Burghfield in Berkshire to Coulport on Loch Long.

For more information the Scottish CND Blog:

www.banthebomb.org/blog

John Ainslie

 

 
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