Tag Archives: Trident

Nuclear Sub Protection Plan For Rolls-Royce

Nuclear Sub Protection Plan For Rolls-Royce

The financial woes at Rolls-Royce could result in the nationalisation of its nuclear submarine division, under contingency plans.

13:49, UK,Monday 14 December 2015

HMS Vengeance

HMS Vengeance is part of UK’s Trident fleet – powered by Rolls-Royce

Plans to protect the UK’s interests if the company powering the country’s nuclear deterrent runs into deeper trouble have been reportedly drawn up by the Government.

Rolls-Royce’s nuclear submarine business – which maintains the nuclear reactor propulsion systems aboard the Navy’s four Trident-fitted submarines – could even be nationalised under the contingency plans, according to the Financial Times.

It said several options had been drawn up to cover various scenarios, including the possibility of a takeover bid for the group by a foreign firm.

While there are existing safeguards to ensure the Government must approve any such deal, investors would perhaps be forgiven for considering any interest, given the fact the Rolls-Royce share price has lost a third of its value this year alone.

The company has issued a string of profit warnings – its problems exacerbated by weaker defence spending and lower demand for its services in the oil and gas industry following the collapse in commodity prices.

The company outlined the initial phase of its turnaround strategy under new chief executive, Warren East, a fortnight ago.

It involved hundreds of senior managers losing their jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds being slashed from the company’s annual cost base.

Its biggest shareholder, the American activist fund, ValueAct, has attracted particular attention.

It is pressing Rolls to go further and sell off its marine engine division – a move Mr East has signalled he is reluctant to do.

ValueAct is also seeking a place on the board.

Sky News reported last week that Value Act’s stake in Rolls-Royce – which remains one of the Government’s most important suppliers and engineering contractors – was said to have attracted increasing attention from senior Whitehall officials.

Representatives of both firms were expected to meet in Derby this week.

A Rolls-Royce spokesperson said on Monday: “We are in contact with Government as a matter of routine and regularly keep them updated on our performance and progress.”

The defence procurement minister Philip Dunne told the FT last week the Government was “concerned” Rolls-Royce was able to maintain its nuclear obligations and would “take a view in the event there was corporate activity.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said today: “Rolls-Royce is a major contributor to our economy. It’s an important supplier to the government. We will continue to work closely with them. I’m not going to get into specifics about the company’s future.”

Link – Sky News story
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Scottish independence: Where might Trident go?

Map of where Trident could end up

Scottish ministers say the UK’s nuclear deterrent – the submarine-based Trident – will be banished from Scotland if it becomes independent. The UK government says there are no plans to move it. But where could it relocate to if it had to?

The UK’s nuclear weapons system – currently made up of four Vanguard-class submarines which carry Trident strategic missiles – has been based at HM Naval Base Clyde on Scotland’s west coast since the 1960s.

The site is made up of two main parts – Faslane on the Gareloch, where the submarines are based, and Coulport on Loch Long, eight miles away, where the warheads are stored. The sites are kept separate for safety reasons.

The UK has had at least one submarine on patrol at any given time for more than 40 years and has used the Trident system since the 1990s.

Both Conservative and Labour want a like-for-like replacement when the existing fleet ends its working life in the late 2020s, while the Liberal Democrats want to downsize to three submarines, saying the existing system was designed for the Cold War era.

The UK government says all Royal Navy submarines will be based at Faslane by 2017 – supporting 8,000 jobs – and there are are no plans to move the nuclear deterrent. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said any alternative solution would come at huge cost and take decades.

In 2012, an inquiry into independence by a cross-party group of MPs concluded that identifying and recreating a suitable base to replace Faslane and Coulport would be “highly problematic, very expensive, and fraught with political difficulties”.

However, the Scottish government says if Scotland votes “Yes” in the independence referendum on 18 September, Trident will be removed – with the weapons’ withdrawal by 2020 – and a written constitution would ban nuclear weapons from being based in Scotland.

It also says Faslane has a “strong future” as a conventional naval base and the joint HQ for defence forces of an independent Scotland, and military personnel employed there would match current numbers.

So if the UK had to relocate Trident, where might it go?

1. Milford Haven

Tanker in Milford Haven dock Milford Haven is home to two liquefied natural gas facilities

In 2012 Wales’s Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones said the UK’s nuclear-armed submarines and jobs associated with it would be “more than welcome” in Wales if they left Scotland. The remark that was met with an angry response from Plaid Cymru politicians and activists who cited safety risks.

When the original shortlist was drawn up for basing Trident’s predecessor Polaris in the 1960s, Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire was one of the candidates.

The Welsh site is an attractive option because it is a natural deep-water port. But In the 1960s Esso had just established an oil refinery in the town and the MoD decided the two were incompatible on safety grounds, according to William Walker, one of the authors of Uncharted Waters: The UK Nuclear Weapons and the Scottish Question.

“The dangers of handling and storing high explosives near major oil facilities ruled it out. Imagine a big submarine colliding with a tanker. It’s common sense – even if there is a low probability, the consequences could be horrific,” he says.

Nowadays the town’s economic and industrial output makes that line of thinking even more tricky. The haven is home to two liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities and handles 30% of the UK’s gas supply. It also hosts two oil refineries and will soon have a new power station.

Dr Nick Ritchie, a lecturer in international security at the University of York, says it’s inconceivable that the MoD would allow LNG plants and oil refineries to stay open if Trident was relocated to Milford Haven.

And he says closing the refineries and petrochemical plants would have “a pretty significant economic impact”.

Walker thinks there would also be a question over whether the port could take the submarine traffic. There is also the possibility Wales might follow in Scotland’s footsteps and call for further devolution or independence. If it voted for that, and took the same stance as Scotland, the MoD would be back to square one.

2. Plymouth

HMS Turbulent at Devonport Trafalgar-class submarine HMS Turbulent at Devonport

Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth – the biggest private-sector employer in Devon and Cornwall – is the main nuclear repair and refuelling facility for the Royal Navy.

It is also home to the Trafalgar-class submarines, which will be moved to Faslane by 2017.

The port’s size – the largest naval base in Western Europe covers more than 650 acres and has 15 dry docks, 25 tidal berths and five basins – and familiarity with submarines has led some to believe Devonport might be the best option for an alternative location for Trident.

However, the Royal United Services Institute’s Malcolm Chalmers says even though – time and expense allowing – Devonport might work as an alternative to Faslane, it couldn’t recreate Coulport.

Coulport possesses a huge floating dock where warheads are placed inside the missiles, 3km from the small village of Garelochhead on one side and the small village of Ardentinny on the other, Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee heard in 2012. Any new warhead storage facility would need similar distances from population centres for loading and offloading warheads from missiles.

Devonport naval base, Plymouth

The dockyard is also in a densely populated area, which poses a safety risk. There are about 166,000 people living within 5km of the Devonport base, compared with about 5,200 within that distance of Faslane and fewer close to Coulport. The city of Plymouth has about 250,000 residents and is within 3.5km of the dockyard. Glasgow has a population of about 600,000, but it is 25km away from Faslane.

Walker says loading warheads into the missiles on Trident is “very delicate and complicated” and a process that shouldn’t be done in or near built-up areas.

“You can’t have Trident missile bodies laden with rocket fuel and nuclear warheads near a city of quarter a million people – the UK regulatory authorities would be very uncomfortable with that,” says Ritchie.

Lifting missiles is also a safety risk. “There needs to be an explosive handling jetty that is designed for the worst case scenario – if a missile is dropped or there is an earthquake, even if this might only happen once in several thousand years, and high explosives are scattered,” says Chalmers.

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Trident facts and figures

HMS Victorious
  • UK has four Vanguard Class submarines: HMS Vanguard, HMS Victorious, HMS Vigilant, and HMS Vengeance
  • They were launched between 1992 and 1998
  • Vanguard-class vessels are 150m (492ft) long
  • Ministry of Defence estimates cost of replacing all four submarines at £20bn
  • Submarines are based at Faslane on Gareloch
  • Missiles are kept at Coulport on Loch Long
  • UK has access to 70 Trident missiles held in communal pool at strategic weapons facility in Georgia, USA
  • Trident missile system replaced the Polaris system
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In 1963, Falmouth was suggested as a warhead depot option – like Coulport – in combination with Devonport. However the MoD dismissed the idea because it wanted the ammunitions depot to be within one hour’s sailing of the submarine base. Falmouth is 70km west of Devonport. However Chalmers thinks this combination could be a runner. “But it would require substantial political will,” he says.

Falmouth was also seriously considered in its own right in the 1963 shortlist. However, the area has a strong tourist economy and the proposed site would have required National Trust land acquisition which would be very difficult, if not impossible.

Olympic games 2012 Weymouth hosted the sailing events in the 2012 Olympics

Portland, Weymouth, was the third English port to make the shortlist. It was ruled out because it didn’t have a close enough site for the warheads depot. Chalmers says it was the issue of warhead loading being kept far enough away from people and sites of economic value that meant Scottish locations made six of the 10 shortlisted 1960s options.

Portland’s naval base and the neighbouring Naval Air Station have now been closed down and replaced by a residential and commercial marina which hosted the sailing events in the 2012 Olympics.

3. Barrow-in-Furness

The BAE Systems construction hall dominates the skyline above the town of Barrow-in-Furness, The Vanguard submarines were built in Barrow-in-Furness

An existing nuclear site that could be considered is Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, where BAE are currently building the nuclear-powered Astute-class submarines.

However, the base didn’t make it on to the 1963 shortlist because Walney Channel is thought to be too shallow for nuclear submarines.

Part of the problem is tidal. There are only a certain number of hours in each month when the tide is high enough for nuclear submarines to transit into the open sea, a 2005 investigation by research group RAND found.

Even at these restricted times the vessel has to travel fast to complete the journey.

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Trident II D5 missiles

  • Length: 44ft (13m)
  • Weight: 130,000lb (58,500kg)
  • Diameter: 6ft 11in (2.11m)
  • Range: 7,500 miles (12,000km)
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The problem isn’t just theoretical. The second Polaris submarine to be built at Barrow, HMS Repulse, ran aground when it was launched in November 1967.

However, Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, told the 2012 inquiry by a cross-party committee of MPs that Barrow’s advantage was that it already had support facilities, including a ship-lift, similar to Faslane.

Substantial dredging would also make the site more accessible.

There are other problems though. The size of the current dock means it would not have room for more than two Vanguard-class submarines and the town – which has a population of about 69,000 – is close by. There is also the issue of where the warhead depot would be.

As with most of the options, Barrow could work but it would be costly and require extensive changes. “The bottom line with all these potential sites is we are talking about huge infrastructure projects like high-speed rail or Heathrow. It’s only when the detail is looked at that it becomes clear how complicated it is, and nobody has done the very detailed feasibility [studies] that would be needed,” says Chalmers.

4. Ile Longue, Brittany, France

Submarine at Ile Longue Ile Longue base, north-west France

The idea of the UK’s nuclear deterrent being based abroad would horrify some in the British military and raise big questions about its independence.

No country has ever kept their deterrent force in its entirety in a foreign country, based on the principle that a country’s last resort has to be somewhere where it has total control of it.

However, the UK and France have recently signed up to two new defence agreements.

One of these is for a joint nuclear weapon’s research establishment – where the two countries will share the hydrodynamic test facilities but keep the data from their experiments separate – at Epure.

And there have been calls for the UK to consider patrols with France, following the collision between Le Triomphant and HMS Vanguard in February 2009.

Trident graphic

It might be possible to expand Anglo-French nuclear cooperation by asking France to host the British nuclear fleet. “I would say that’s the best option from economic and ease point of view,” says Dr Michael John Williams, a reader in international relations at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Tusa told the Scottish Affairs Committee there was also a precedence for storing warheads abroad.

“We shared American storage facilities for nuclear warheads at Iserlohn for 40 years and no-one seemed to care. There were American, German and British guards. The UK had British bunkers on German soil, but it was a US sovereign base. I did not notice anyone caring one way or the other,” he said.

However, Ritchie says a separate nuclear submarine base and nuclear armaments depot would have to be built in France because of commitments to the UK’s nuclear safety regulatory authorities and Nato.

That would be a problem at Ile Longue – where France’s fleet of nuclear-armed submarines are based – because it doesn’t have space, according to John Ainslie, co-ordinator at the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which wants to get rid of Trident altogether.

It also shouldn’t be assumed that the French would be prepared to have a sovereign foreign nuclear weapons base on their territory, says Ron Smith, professor of Applied Economics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

5. King’s Bay, Georgia, US

Kings Bay, Georgia

The equally radical idea of re-siting to the US raises similar questions over independence as France.

However, Trident is a joint venture between the UK and the US. Trident II D5 missiles are leased from the US in King’s Bay, Georgia.

British submarines return to Georgia for their maintenance on a regular basis and the UK contributes £12m a year to the US as part of the running costs of the base. Non-nuclear warhead components are also made in the US.

Past UK prime ministers have always stressed Trident’s independence, saying its firing does not require the permission, the satellites or the codes of the US.

But Ritchie says there has always been a degree of controversy over the “incredibly high level of US support that allows the UK to remain a nuclear weapons base”.

Despite the “special relationship” between the US and the UK, as with the France option, there would be massive political obstacles to be overcome.

Essentially it comes back to independence. “Even when countries get on well, they can disagree. For the UK to have its ultimate security guaranteed, it would want to be fully independent,” says Williams.

6. It could stay put

David Cameron with Commander John Livesey aboard HMS Vanguard, 2013 David Cameron with Commander John Livesey aboard HMS Vanguard, 2013

The Scottish government says it is committed to removing Trident if it becomes independent and maintains it would not negotiate with the UK in exchange for concessions on other issues such as national debt and currency union (the UK government has ruled out the latter anyway).

But Ron Smith says there would be considerable pressure within an independent Scotland to do a deal and create a type of Sevastopol military enclave as Ukraine did, before Russia took over the Crimea.

The UK would be under pressure to do a deal too because even if it was feasible to replace the Clyde naval bases – “and it’s not clear that it is” – it would be incredibly expensive and time consuming, he says.

But Ritchie thinks the scenario is unlikely. “The SNP has staked its political credibility on getting rid of Trident – it’s unlikely to concede. The MoD would also find it very uncomfortable to have the UK’s nuclear deterrent in another country, even if it was a sovereign UK territory,” he says.

Earlier this year, First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, ruled out the prospect of a “Cyprus-style” leaseback scheme. Chalmers says this is a distraction. “A sovereign base area would be UK territory, but a foreign base is different. The SNP has already conceded four years of basing to 2020, so there is no point of principle in extending this for some more years,” he says.

Another option would be to change the UK’s nuclear deterrent to an airborne or land-based system, according to Williams. However, they have been dismissed as too vulnerable and highly problematic the past.

But Chalmers believes it probably would be possible to find an alternative home for Trident – “given time and political will”. But it would not be easy, he says.

Source – BBC News

UK – First glimpse of new nuclear subs

Defence bosses have revealed the first glimpse at the  future  of Britain’s nuclear deterrent today, publishing the first artist’s impression  of the submarines due to replace the Vanguard-class boats which carry Trident  missiles.

The image was included on the cover of the second annual report to MPs about  developments in the Successor Submarine programme.

 ​DEFENCETrident

 

The boats are designed to be amongst the stealthiest in the world and the  image, created by the design  team  working on the new vessels, shows a submarine built with sweeping curves.

In the report to MPs, the Ministry of Defence announced it had agreed two  contracts worth a total of £79 million to BAE Systems Maritime-Submarines for  initial work on the new  vessels, which are due to be in service by 2028.

The items include structural fittings, electrical equipment, castings and  forgings which must be ordered now, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said.

Mr Hammond said: “The Successor programme is supporting around 2,000 jobs and  up to 850 British businesses could benefit from the supply chain as we exploit  the most modern technologies, and employ a significant portion of the UK’s  engineers, project  managers  and technicians over the coming years.”

Admiral Sir George Zambellas, First Sea Lord, said: “The Royal Navy has been  operating continuous at-sea deterrent patrols for more than 40 years and the  Successor submarines will allow us to do so with cutting-edge equipment well  into the future.”

Both contracts, one of £47 million and another of £32 million, will be filled  by workers in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

The Ministry of Defence said the total number of MoD and industrial staff  currently working on the Successor programme is around 2,000, with more than  half working as engineers  and designers.

More than 850 potential UK suppliers have so far been identified as  benefiting from investment in the programme and as many as 6,000 people will be  involved by the time that the construction reaches a peak.

Source – Western Morning News

UK – Vernon Coaker to visit yards building Trident’s replacement submarines

Shadow defence secretary to show Labour remains committed to new nuclear deterrent with visit to Barrow’s Vanguard site

Vernon Coaker

Vernon Coaker replaced Jim Murphy in the shadow cabinet reshuffle last week.

The new shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker will display his personal commitment to Labour retaining an independent nuclear deterrent on Wednesday when he visits the yards building the Vanguard replacement submarines that will be the successors to the current Trident programme.

Coaker replaced Jim Murphy in the shadow cabinet reshuffle last week and will travel to Barrow to show that Labour remains committed to a new nuclear deterrent.

In advance Coaker said: “In an uncertain and unpredictable world in which other nations possess nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation remains a deep concern, Labour believes it is right that the United Kingdom retains the minimum credible independent nuclear deterrent.

“We will continue to look at ways in which the Successor programme can be delivered efficiently, through the strategic defence and security and zero based spending reviews we have pledged to conduct under a Labour government.”

The local Labour MP John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness, said “Vernon’s decision to come here first signals the strength of Labour’s support for the UK’s submarine programme and the value a future Labour government will place in the extraordinary manufacturing expertise it sustains in Furness and across the country. ”

Source – The Guardian

Trident: Does Britain need a submarine-based nuclear missile system that will cost £100 billion?

Ministers argue that having nuclear submarines permanently patrolling our waters has “served us well”

So, the Lib Dems’ long-awaited review of alternatives to Trident is Here.

Having pledged to “say no to the like-for-like replacement” in their election manifesto in 2010, then being forced to cede ground in order to enter into power, the review was always going to represent something of a fudge. Essentially it outlines a slimmed down version of the current system, which would deliver a bit less firepower and very little in the way of savings to the taxpayer.  It’s done little to paper over the cracks in the Coalition with the Defence Secretary condemning the plans as “reckless”, and the Prime Minister flatly rejecting them.

Most importantly the review fails to address the blindingly obvious question of whether Britain, decades after the Cold War and in the grip of austerity, actually needs a submarine-based nuclear missile system that will cost an estimated £100 billion over the next 30 years. I’ll be raising this point in a debate in Parliament today.

In any case, what the Lib Dems think seems to be of little relevance.

The Government, regardless of the views of its coalition partners, Parliament, or the public has been ploughing money into a replacement.

In response to a parliamentary question I tabled in 2010, the MoD revealed it was already spending billions on enriched uranium components and high explosives.

Ministers argue that having nuclear submarines permanently patrolling our waters has “served us well”.  But has our security really been greater than other nations that have chosen not to spend billions on a permanent flotilla of nuclear submarines?  Do we sleep safer in our beds than the Germans or the Japanese?

The fact is that the Liberal Democrats, like the Conservatives and like Labour, refuse to accept the major strategic and economic benefits that non-renewal would offer.  These include improved national security (with flexibility to spend elsewhere on the armed forces) and improved global security.  Britain’s moral authority in global multilateral disarmament initiatives depends on its own behaviour.  How can we dictate to Iran or other nations seeking to join the nuclear club while we remain wedded to Trident?

This is a time when growing numbers of our citizens are relying on food banks. When public sector workers are having their pay frozen.  When vital services that the most vulnerable in our society depend on are being cut daily. And when the armed forces themselves are under strain.

It’s not lefty-pacifist propaganda to ask whether we should be refusing to move on from a past era of warfare. Four former senior military commanders have voiced concerns  that “replacing Trident will be one of the most expensive weapons programmes this country has seen” and highlighted concerns about its impact on  defence equipment budget.

You might reasonably ask, like the former Prime Minister John Major: “In what circumstances, and upon whom, is Trident likely to be used?” The Government’s own National Security Strategy has downgraded the threat of state on state nuclear warfare, while highlighting the emergence of new 21st Century threats – including climate change, pandemics, organised crime and cyber warfare – as well as terrorism, the threat of which is arguably heightened by the kind of posturing that Trident represents.

But instead of facing up to the real threats of the modern world, the Government sadly seems determined to lock the UK into the costly technologies of the past.

Source – The Independent

Trident submarine base: No 10 disowns MoD’s Faslane sovereignty proposal

Whitehall row and SNP anger ignites over report of plans to make naval base UK territory if Scots vote for independence

Faslane naval base in Scotland which hosts the UK's nuclear submarines

Faslane naval base in Scotland which hosts the UK’s nuclear submarines.

A furious behind-the-scenes row has prompted Downing Street to disown a proposal to designate as sovereign UK territory the Scottish naval base that hosts Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, in the event of Scottish independence.

No 10 rushed out a statement saying that it was neither “credible or sensible” to give the Faslane base the same status as the British sovereign military bases in Cyprus, following an argument involving senior members of the cabinet and the former chancellor Alistair Darling.

Amid an angry reaction from the Scottish National party (SNP), which drew parallels with Saddam Hussein’s annexation of Kuwait, a No 10 spokesman said: “This government has not commissioned contingency plans over Faslane. No such ideas have come to the secretary of state or the prime minister. They would not support them if they did. It is not a credible or sensible idea.”

Downing Street swung into action after Darling, who heads the pro-UK Better Together campaign, telephoned No 10 on Thursday morning to warn about the impact of a report in the Guardian about the Faslane base on Gare Loch in Argyll and Bute.

The Guardian reported that Ministry of Defence officials were starting to examine plans to designate the Faslane base as a Sovereign Base Area along the lines of its military bases in Cyprus.

The report dominated the morning lobby briefing in No 10, usually chaired by David Cameron, after the MoD confirmed the report in an email to the BBC late on Wednesday night.

A decision was taken to try to kill the story after the unit in No 10, run by Andy Dunlop who co-ordinates the government’s handling of the independence referendum, issued a stern warning that the sovereign base idea was a gift to the SNP.

One source close to a senior cabinet minister said of the MoD’s interest in the sovereign base idea: “What a ridiculous thing to say. Talk about handing a gift on a plate to the SNP.”

The SNP accused Westminster on Wednesday night of seeking to bullyScotland. Speaking during the weekly session of business questions,Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said: “May we have a debate on the dangers and evils of imperialism and annexation of another country’s territory, whether it be Saddam Hussein in Kuwait or, at the other end of the spectrum, the Westminster government who, as the front page of the Guardian reports, are bullying Scotland as part of ‘project fear? Free peoples across the world will condemn that and stand with Scotland in the name of freedom.”

Darling was understood to be particularly concerned because he feared that the MoD’s proposals for Faslane would undermine the central theme of a major lecture he gave at the University of Glasgow on Thursday on the referendum. The former chancellor he said he wanted Scots to make a positive choice to remain in the UK and “not merely to reject the risks and uncertainties of independence”.

It is understood that a senior official from Darling’s Better Together campaign telephoned the No 10 Scottish referendum unit late on Wednesday night to express deep alarm about the Faslane plan. The group was assured that the No 10 unit was equally appalled that the private thinking of the MoD on such a sensitive matter had entered the public domain.

One source in the Better Together campaign said: “We phoned Downing Street to bluntly ask what was going on. They were already on to it.”

Darling, who called No 10 himself, showed his irritation after his speech in Glasgow. Picking up on the submarine theme, he said: “It was a row that quickly surfaced and equally quickly it was sunk. It was a frankly ridiculous proposal to suggest we could possibly designate part of Scotland as different from the rest. I am glad the UK government has hit it hard on the head – that’s exactly what it deserved.

“Any normal person looking at it for more than 10 seconds would come to the view that this was something that should just go straight into the bucket.”

The Guardian reported on Wednesday night that MoD officials were starting to examine plans to ensure that the Vanguard submarines could remain at the deep-water Faslane base and nuclear warheads could continue to be stored at the nearby Coulport base on Loch Long. The Guardian reported that, ahead of next year’s referendum, the MoD was officially working on only one option for the Faslane base – a defeat for the SNP. An MoD spokesperson told the Guardian: “No contingency plans are being made to move Trident out of Scotland. The scale and cost of any potential relocation away from Faslane would be enormous.”

But a defence source said the idea of designating Faslane as sovereign UK territory in the event of an SNP victory was being taken seriously. The source said: “It would cost a huge amount of money, running into tens of billions of pounds, to decommission Faslane. Those costs would be factored into any negotiations on an independence settlement. The sovereign base area is an option. It is an interesting idea because the costs of moving out of Faslane are eye wateringly high.” A version of this was emailed to the BBC, which ran a story on its website with the headline: “Faslane Trident base could be in UK after Scottish independence”. The MoD emailed the BBC to say: “The sovereign base area is an option. It is an interesting idea.”

Source – The Guardian

Trident: Lib Dems consider end to continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent

Trident nuclear submarine

The future of Britain’s Trident nuclear programme has split the coalition

The Liberal Democrats are considering calling for Britain to give up its permanent at-sea nuclear deterrent within the next few years.

They are expected to use a review of Trident to say some of the UK’s four nuclear submarines should not be replaced after they are decommissioned.

But senior figures are now pushing to end Britain’s continuous at-sea deterrent even earlier, from 2016.

A decision about the future of Trident has to be made by that point.

This would mean that some of the existing Vanguard submarines would be confined to port with skeleton crews and used for spare parts to keep the remaining boats operational.

The hope among Lib Dems is that this would not just save billions of pounds but would also send a signal that it is possible for a nuclear state to reduce its arsenal while keeping some kind of a deterrent.

‘Kept in port’

This was hinted at last week when Lib Dem Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander said it was time “to move on from the Cold War postures of the past” with a credible deterrent that “can play a role in supporting disarmament in future”.

One senior Lib Dem MP said: “We are looking at ending continuous at-sea deterrent even earlier. We don’t have to wait until the subs need replacing. We could just keep them in port now.”

Another Lib Dem MP said: “If you thought that you could sustain a meaningful deterrent with two boats, then nothing would prevent you using the existing boats on the same principle.

“It would be reckless to scrap them but you could cannibalise them for parts.

The proposal is contained in an internal party policy paper on defence which is said to be at a “pretty late stage of development” and will be put to the Lib Dem conference in September.

Mr Alexander has chaired the government’s review of Trident which is sitting on David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg’s desks and will be published shortly.

It is expected to say that some of the potential alternative ways of delivering nuclear weapons – from land or from air – are either too expensive or too impractical. But the review is expected to consider the option of scaling back the current submarine-launched system.

Most military experts agree that it would be impossible to provide a continuous, around-the-clock nuclear deterrent with less than four Vanguard submarines. With training and repairs, there is frequently only one submarine on duty at sea.

‘Credible’

The Conservatives are committed to a like-for-like replacement of Trident which is estimated to cost as much as £20bn. But many Lib Dems believe that Trident is too expensive and distorts the defence budget.

They hope to argue that it would be better to spend the money on troops and kit.

Last week Mr Alexander told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme that the review was seeking to answer whether like-for-like replacement was “the only way to protect our country in future”.

“And while the review doesn’t come to any conclusions, I think when we publish the results in a few weeks time people will see that there are choices available to this country, there are alternatives where we can move on from the Cold War postures of the past and try and set out a new future for this country with a deterrent that is credible but where this country can play a role in supporting disarmament in future.”

A Lib Dem spokesman said: “The Cabinet Office-led review into alternatives to Trident has now been submitted to the prime minister and deputy prime minister.

“The review’s findings will now be considered and an unclassified version will be published in due course.”

A senior Conservative source said: “Abandoning our continuous at sea deterrence, which has been the ultimate safeguard of our national security for more than 45 years, would be a reckless gamble.

“And leaving our nuclear-armed submarines rusting in port, and then seeking to deploy them at a time of crisis would not only put Britain’s security at risk, but would also risk escalating global tensions.

“Conservative policy is clear: we will safeguard Britain’s national security and maintain our continuous at sea deterrent.”

John Woodcock, Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, said: “Unilaterally ending the commitment to keeping at least one nuclear submarine operational at all times will make no meaningful contribution to global non-proliferation, in fact it could have the opposite result by unsettling other countries who are currently under NATO’s umbrella of protection.

“The Liberal Democrats are finally admitting there is no alternative mini-deterrent that could save billions, but few will be taken in by their latest fallacy that a part-time deterrent could save lots of money and protect Britain adequately in the event of a threat in future decades.”

Source – BBC News