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Trident decision expected next week

The Coalition Government are expected to announce next week that they will spend several billion pounds over the next 5 years designing new nuclear-armed submarines, according to an article in today’s Observer

.

This “Initial Gate” decision had originally been scheduled for September 2009 but was delayed for 20 months. The MoD has finally decided to adopt the more expensive American designed PWR3 reactor for the new submarines, rather than the less safe PWR2 design which is used for the Astute class.

The announcement comes soon after the Scottish people elected, by an unprecedented majority, an SNP government which is strongly opposed to Trident.

Dr Alan Mackinnon, Chair of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament said:

“David Cameron is taking money which should be spent on public services and he is squandering it on new nuclear-armed submarines. These Weapons of Mass Destruction would be based in Scotland for the next 50 years, in direct defiance of the will of the Scottish people, as expressed in the latest election.”

 

British CND has also issued the following press release:

 

Cost of Trident to double as ministers set to announce replacement plans

Ministers are set to give the go-ahead to the next stage of the replacement of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system this week, yet figures released to an MP show that rather than the original estimate of £11-14bn, the bill for new submarines is expected to come in at around £26bn.

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said "Trident is a ruinously expensive white elephant that the country can ill afford. Yet the government seems willing to pay whatever it costs to get their hands on an updated version. Yet these are weapons designed to fight the Cold War that ended a generation ago. The Liberal Democrats in the coalition may have delayed some decisions, but have ultimately crumbled under the pressure, allowing the development of the 'like-for-like' Trident replacement they pledged to oppose. The billions that will now be squandered on the next phase of Trident are funds that will be unavailable for combating real threats to Britain's security and the cost increase of this project will cause even deeper cuts to public services by other departments. How many more billions are to be poured into these vanity projects which have no military use other than triggering armageddon?"

The new figures were revealed in a response to Katy Clark MP, when Defence Equipment Minister Peter Luff described the costs of the two planning phases expected before a final decision ('main gate') is taken in 2016:  "The combined cost of the Concept Phase, totalling approximately £900m, and the Assessment Phase, totalling approximately £3bn at outturn prices, is consistent with the departmental guidance that programmes should spend approximately 15% of the total costs before Main Gate." [Full letter available on request]

If the combined cost of the Concept and Assessment phases - £3.9bn - is 15% of the total, that would give an outturn cost for the submarines of £26bn. The original MoD cost estimate, using prices as they were in 2006 was of £11-14bn being required for the submarines [see note 2]. Inflation as felt by the general economy would only be expected to have added £1-2bn to costs in that time.

Ministers have also stated they will not release the growth in costs required by the decision to go ahead with a new untested reactor design (PWR3) after having ruled out using the existing reactor or an upgraded variant of it (PWR2 and PWR2b). Campaigners have consistently called for greater transparency and in this case there can be no question of security or commercial reasons for ministers telling MPs "We will provide a description and revised cost estimate of the selected  design int he initial gate parliamentary report, but not for those  designs that have been rejected." [note 3]

Noting the changed circumstances after the Scottish elections, Kate Hudson said "Scotland is expected to host these nuclear weapon submarines just 40  miles from Glasgow. Yet with an avowedly anti-nuclear government in  Edinburgh keen to push for independence, that option may well become  impossible long before these boats are finished. Unless ministers are willing to throw billions more at the project to create bases elsewhere  to host them, Britain could end up with nuclear submarines, but no base  from which to operate them. We can stop this madness now, and join the overwhelming majority of countries who are secure and prosperous, yet nuclear weapon free."

 

- ends -

  1. For further information and interviews please contact CND's press office on 07968 420859.
  2. Trident white paper from 2006 with cost estimates on page 26: http://www.mod.uk/nr/rdonlyres/ac00dd79-76d6-4fe3-91a1-6a56b03c092f/0/defencewhitepaper2006_cm6994.pdf  
  3. Answer to a Parliamentary Question to Defence Minister Peter Luff on reactor costs: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-04-26b.51175.h