Tag Archives: Trident

DECISION ON NEW BARROW BUILT SUBMARINES ‘MUST NOT BE DELAYED’

EXTENDING the life of Barrow-built nuclear submarines would not be safe, a top politician has claimed.

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Defence secretary Phillip Hammond made the admission in response to a parliamentary question asked by Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock.

There have been fears that the government’s Trident Alternative Review could recommend a further delay in bringing in new submarines, a move that would risk leaving a gap in the order book at Barrow shipyard.

The coalition government has already ordered a four-year delay to the in-service date of the successor deterrent boats, meaning that the existing Vanguard class vessels will have served for a record 35 years before they retire.

Following a question from Mr Woodcock in the House of Com mons, Mr Hammond confirmed the life of the hulls of the Vanguard submarine fleet cannot safely be extended beyond their latest retirement date, which for Vanguard – the oldest of the boats – is 2028.

Mr Hammond said: “We have already extended the life of the Vanguard class once and it is not judged possible or safe to extend it further.”

Speaking after receiving the response, Mr Woodcock said: “This clear view from the MoD that it would be unsafe to further extend the life of Vanguard should knock on the head any idea the government could put yet another delay into the build programme at Barrow.

“Aside from the extra cost and disruption that another delay would cause, we cannot countenance asking the sailors who bravely provide Britain’s nuclear deterrent to serve in life-expired, potentially unsafe hulls.

“By 2028, the Vanguards will have done good service, but the time will have come to provide the country’s vital deterrent with new submarines rather than spend huge amounts of money to extend the life of Vanguard still further, simply so we can again postpone the urgent decision on new boats.”

Source – North West Evening Mail

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UK must defend against North Korea’s nuclear threat, says PM – video

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/video/2013/apr/04/uk-defend-north-korea-pm-video

The prime minister has stressed the need for the UK to retain its Trident nuclear deterrent, saying it would be “foolish to leave Britain defenceless” in the face of the growing threat posed by North Korea andIran.

David Cameron’s insistence on the need for an independent nuclear deterrent came as the US said it was moving a missile defence battery to the Pacific island of Guam as Pyongyang continued to ratchet up the rhetoric against South Korea and its American ally.

What did Cameron say?

Writing in Thursday’s Daily Telegraph, the prime minister said such “evolving threats” underlined the need for the UK to maintain the ultimate deterrent.

“We need our nuclear deterrent as much today as we did when a previous British government embarked on it over six decades ago,” he said. “Of course, the world has changed dramatically. The Soviet Union no longer exists. But the nuclear threat has not gone away. In terms of uncertainty and potential risk it has, if anything, increased.”

Cameron said Iran was continuing to defy the will of the international community over its nuclear programme while North Korea may already be building a nuclear arsenal.

“The highly unpredictable and aggressive regime in North Korea recently conducted its third nuclear test and could already have enough fissile material to produce more than a dozen nuclear weapons,” he said.

“Last year North Korea unveiled a long-range ballistic missile which it claims can reach the whole of the United States.”

Were such a weapon to exist, he said, the whole of Europe – including the UK – would be affected.

The prime minister added: “Does anyone seriously argue that it would be wise for Britain, faced with this evolving threat today, to surrender our deterrent?

“Only the retention of our independent deterrent makes clear to any adversary that the devastating cost of an attack on the UK or its allies will always be far greater than anything it might hope to gain.”

What do the PM’s comments mean for the future of Trident?

Cameron’s comments underline the Conservatives’ commitment to a like-for-like replacement for the ageing Trident submarine fleet, although their Liberal Democrat coalition partners are seeking a cheaper alternative.

The shadow defence minister, Kevan Jones, said that while it was “absolutely right and necessary” for the UK to retain an independent nuclear deterrent, the costs involved needed to be taken into account.

“World events demonstrate that in an unpredictable era our country needs the ultimate security guarantee,” he said. “The precise nature of the deterrent must be judged on meeting military capability requirements and cost.”

The prime minister attempted to head off such questions in his Telegraph article, arguing that national security was worth the price of the deterrent.

“Our current nuclear weapons capability costs on average around 5%-6% of the current defence budget,” he said. “That is less than 1.5% of our annual benefits bill. And the successor submarines are, on average, expected to cost the same once they have entered service. It is a price which I, and all my predecessors since Clement Attlee, have felt is worth paying to keep this country safe.”

How much would renewing Trident cost?

According to conservative estimates, renewing Trident would cost £100bn. The key choice on a Trident replacement will arise in 2016, when the government will need to decide whether to spend between £25bn and £30bn on replacing the four Vanguard-class submarines, which are due to be taken out of service in the mid-2020s, with a Successor class. If the government commits to replacing the Trident nuclear deterrent fleet, the cost could swallow 35% of the military equipment budget over the coming years at a time when the MoD is facing deep cuts.

Where do the political parties stand on Trident?

The Conservatives are committed to replacing Trident with a “continuous at-sea deterrent” in which, similar to current practice, nuclear warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles are carried on four Vanguard-class submarines.

The Lib Dems have raised the possibility of a land or air-based system or carrying smaller nuclear warheads on cruise missiles on board Astute-class submarines.

Labour has a long standing commitment to a like-for-like replacement to Trident but is believed to be rethinking it and is yet to state a firm policy.

The future of Trident is also likely to feature in next year’s looming Scottish independence referendum campaign, with the SNP insisting that it would not allow nuclear missiles to be based in an independent Scotland.

The timing of the Trident decision means it could be a major issue in the 2015 general election.

David Cameron says North Korea’s nuclear possibilities are a ‘real concern’ for the UK, after visiting a British Naval nuclear submarine in Scotland on Thursday. The PM took a tour of the submarine following the printing of an article he wrote in the Daily Telegraph, stressing the need for strong nuclear defences. At a question and answer session after the tour, Cameron says of North Korea’s weapons: ‘They can reach Europe. They can reach us too’

Source – The Guardian

UK – Labour party urged not to back downgrading of Trident

Labour frontbencher and former Gordon Brown aide say party would look ‘dangerously weak’ if it supported diluted deterrent

A Vanguard class nuclear submarine, carrying Trident nuclear missiles. The two pro-Trident MPs hope Ed Miliband will resist pressure to support the downgrade the deterrent.

As Labour embarks on an intense debate on the future of Trident, a former aide to Gordon Brown has joined forces with a frontbencher to declare that the party would look “dangerously weak” if it diluted Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

John Woodcock, who served as the former prime minister’s spokesman, and Angela Smith, the shadow deputy leader of the Commons, issued their warning as senior figures in the party urge Ed Miliband to use a government review of Trident to support a smaller deterrent.

But in a Guardian article Woodcock and Smith warn: “While the world has changed greatly since the 1980s, the political reality has not: we will appear dangerously weak as a future party of government if we are prepared to give up that insurance while the world remains so unstable.”

The pro-Trident MPs express the hope that Miliband will resist pressure for Labour to change tack. Labour has been a wholehearted supporter of Trident for the best part of 20 years after it resolved a bitter debate in the 1960s, 70s and 80s between advocates of unilateral and multilateral disarmament.

The two write: “The unilateralists and those pushing the mini-deterrent fantasy will be disappointed. Labour under Ed’s leadership would never hand a gift to opponents by opting for a plan that might look fine in a Liberal Democrat election leaflet but would create a credibility gap in the eyes of the electorate, and do major damage to Britain’s manufacturing base.”

The intervention by Woodcock and Smith comes on the day CND holds a rally against Trident at the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment and after members of Labour’s anti-Trident wing recently briefed the FTthat the leadership is open to a downgrading of the deterrent.

The wing is hoping to seize on the government review led by the Lib Dem Treasury chief secretary, Danny Alexander, which is examining alternatives to Trident.

The Lib Dems have raised the possibility of a land or air-based system or carrying smaller nuclear warheads on cruise missiles aboard Astute class submarines. The Conservatives are committed to replacing Trident with a “continuous at-sea deterrent” (CASD) in which, similar to current practice, nuclear warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles are carried on four Vanguard-class submarines.

The key decision on a Trident replacement, known as the “main gate”, has to be taken in 2016. This is when Britain will have to decides whether to spend between £25bn and £30bn on replacing the four Vanguard-class submarines, which are due to be taken out of service in the mid 2020s, with a Successor class. The Trident missiles are due to remain in service until at least 2042.

The timing of thate “main gate” decision means Trident could be a major issue in the 2015 general election. Labour opponents of Trident are hoping to find common cause with the Lib Dems.

Woodcock is MP for Barrow-in-Furness, where the Successor submarines would be built. Many of Smith’s Penistone and Stocksbridge constituents work at Sheffield Forgemasters, one of the companies that would make components for the new submarines.

The Labour leadership, which is wholly committed to maintaining Britain’s nuclear deterrent, is keen to take the Lib Dem review seriously. It could opt for a mild change such as agreeing that the Successor submarines would number just three, an idea suggested at one point by Gordon Brown.

The leadership may support reducing the number of warheads on board the submarines following reductions in 1999 and 2010. This would allow Britain to make a contribution to disarmament.

But it is wary of some of the most radical proposals being examined by the Lib Dems such as placing nuclear warheads on cruise missiles on the smaller Astute submarines.

Source – The Guardian

Rolls-Royce begins work on new Raynesway factory to build reactors for submarines

WORK has officially started on Rolls-Royce’s new submarine reactor factory.

Yesterday, Vice Admiral Sir Andrew Mathews, the Royal Navy’s chief of fleet, conducted a ground-breaking ceremony at the company’s marine power site in Raynesway.

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The multi-million-pound Core Manufacturing Facility will replace existing production buildings at the site. It will produce reactor fuel cores for UK submarines and will support 300 Derby jobs.

Vice Admiral Sir Andrew Mathews leads the ground-breaking ceremony at the site of the new Rolls-Royce factory that will build reactors for the UK sub fleet.

Vice Admiral Sir Andrew Mathews leads the ground-breaking ceremony at the site of the new Rolls-Royce factory that will build reactors for the UK sub fleet.

The building is part of a phased revamp of the Raynesway site, which will take place over the next decade.

Sir Andrew said: “Rolls-Royce has played a vital role in supporting the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarine propulsion programme for over 50 years.

“This significant investment to regenerate the facility, to build our nuclear reactor cores, will ensure that the site continues to do so for decades to come.”

Jason Smith, president of submarines and chief operating officer for nuclear, said: “We are pleased to begin construction of this important facility, which will use the most advanced manufacturing techniques to enhance our world-leading nuclear manufacturing capability.

“The investment in this facility demonstrates the high level of trust that the Ministry of Defence has in both our technology and the expertise of our highly skilled workforce.”

Rolls-Royce is investing £500 million to regenerate its Raynesway site after striking a huge £1.1 billion deal last year to build submarine reactors for the MoD.

A further £600 million is being used to develop two submarine reactors.

One of the engines will be used to power a seventh Astute Class attack submarine and one will be for the first of the next generation of nuclear-deterrent submarines – the Vanguard, which can deploy Trident ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads.

They will replace the four existing Vanguards, the first of which is due to leave service in 2022.

The Government has said that a final decision on renewing the Trident missile system would not be made until 2016 – but long lead times meant that work on the project needs to start now.

Last week, Rolls-Royce signed a 10-year “foundation contract” with the MoD, worth £800 million.

It is aimed at delivering and supporting the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet.

The contract covers the overheads, running and business costs at Rolls-Royce’s submarines sites.

Source – This is Derbyshire

 

UK – Fears of Navy cuts and dock job losses in nuclear debate

The £100 billion price tag of   a “like-for-like” replacement for Britain’s Trident nuclear weapon would mean more cuts to the Royal Navy, a former armed forces minister has warned.

Sir Nick Harvey, Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon, said he believed Britain could not afford, and did not need, a further generation of nuclear weapons on such a scale, and that an “open mind” should be kept on doing something at a lesser cost.

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But speaking during a  Commons debate on the issue, fellow Westcountry MPs raised fears over the impact on jobs at Devonport dockyard – the biggest private sector employer in Devon and Cornwall – of a scaled-back nuclear deterrent. The Plymouth yard boasts the only UK licence to refit, repair and refuel submarines that carry the Trident missile.

Sir Nick, sacked as a Ministry of Defence minister in last year’s  reshuffle, said the UK had to decide by the middle of 2016 whether or not to proceed with a replacement of the existing Trident nuclear deterrent. He said: “I do not believe that we need to have a further generation of nuclear weapons based on the scale we thought we needed in 1980 at the height of the Cold War, and I don’t think that we can afford to do so either.”

Sir Nick said he did not   believe that Britain’s national   security assessment and strategy suggested the country needed it.

When Britain had a known nuclear adversary in the shape of the former Soviet Union, there had been a “logic” to having continuous at-sea deterrents, he said, but the circumstances of today were “very different”.

Sir Nick outlined the capital investment of a further generation of submarines, the running costs and decommissioning.

He said: “When you begin to total this out and factor in decommissioning at the end, what we are talking about is an expenditure of over £100 billion and we need to look closely at whether that is justified.”

The impact of committing to such sums, he argued, would be felt “above all else by the Royal Navy”.

Of the three Armed Forces, the Navy has the strongest presence in the Westcountry, from commandos in Plymouth, Taunton and North Devon to warships based at Devonport Naval Base. There are sharp differences between the Tories and Lib Dems over the future of a replacement for Trident, with most Conservative ministers and backbenchers reluctant to reduce its capability.

Oliver Colvile, Tory MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said in the Commons: “The nuclear licence is vital to my constituency. It is our stake in the ground and we must ensure that lots of work comes out of it.”

Sheryll  Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, added: “I was concerned at our going into coalition with partners who stated in their last election manifesto that they would be saying no to like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system.

“I am still concerned that they might scale down our vital nuclear deterrent in increasingly uncertain times.”

Source – This is Cornwall

MoD: Trident submarines cannot be moved from Scotland to Plymouth

Devonport is ruled out as home for submarines, raising questions over future of fleet if Scotland votes for independence

Trident submarine

A Vanguard-class submarine carrying Trident missiles at Faslane naval base in Scotland.

Britain’s nuclear-armed submarines cannot be moved from Scotland to the Devonport naval base in Plymouth because they do not have safety clearances to dock there.

The disclosure has huge implications for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) if Scotland votes for independence and a new government demands the withdrawal of the nuclear fleet.

The MoD has revealed that the safety arrangements for Devonport do not permit the presence of submarines carrying Trident nuclear warheads. The MoD’s safety experts are not considering changing that.

The problem is that the dockyard is in a densely populated area and, if there were an accident, thousands of people would be put at risk. The worst accident scenario envisaged by the MoD would kill up to 11,000 people in Plymouth and would not meet the official criteria for what is acceptable, according to a new report.

The Scottish government, which is run by the Scottish National party, has said it would eject nuclear weapons from the Faslane submarine base on the Clyde as soon as possible after Scotland became independent. A referendum on Scottish independence is due to be held in the autumn of 2014.

Experts and politicians have repeatedly suggested that the Vanguard-class submarines that carry nuclear-tipped Trident missiles could be relocated to Devonport. In evidence to a House of Lords committee in December, the former head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Lord West, said “they could go there”.

But a response under freedom of information law from the MoD now indicates that will not be possible. The “safety case” it has drawn up for regulators to demonstrate that Devonport can be operated without undue risk rules out nuclear-armed submarines.

“Neither the Devonport naval base nor the Devonport dockyard, which is owned and operated by Babcock, safety case permit the berthing of an armed Vanguard class submarine,” the MoD said.

It also disclosed that its internal safety watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator, “has not provided any advice on the feasibility of docking of an armed Vanguard class submarine in Devonport dockyard”.

The MoD was responding to questions from the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND), which wants to get rid of Trident altogether. “This shows that it is wrong to suggest that Trident can just move to Devonport if it is thrown out of Scotland,” said the campaign’s co-ordinator, John Ainslie.

A new report by SCND applies the MoD’s criteria for accidents at Faslane to Devonport. It concludes that Devonport would never be an officially acceptable location for Trident submarines because of the much greater population that would be put at risk.

There are about 166,000 people living within five kilometres of the Devonport base, compared with about 5,200 within that distance of Faslane. In assessing the dangers of a major accident at Faslane’s shiplift in 2000, the MoD concluded that the “societal contamination” that could result meant that “the risks are close to the tolerability criterion level”.

If a similar accident happened at Devonport, the MoD’s tolerability criteria would be massively exceeded, the SCND report says. If there was a light wind blowing from the south-west, it estimates that 800 people would be killed by leaking plutonium.

If the weather was calm, the report says that as many as 11,000 people could die from radiation poisoning. There would also be additional casualties from the blast, which could break windows across a quarter of Plymouth.

The MoD’s worst-case accident scenario assumes that all the conventional explosives in the eight Trident missiles carried by a single submarine detonate. It then assumes that all the plutonium in the missiles’ 40 nuclear warheads is dispersed, amounting to perhaps 160kg.

“A missile accident at Devonport, in the centre of Plymouth, could result in thousands of deaths,” said Ainslie. “In addition, a large proportion of the city would be abandoned for hundreds of years.”

The MoD stressed that the UK government was making no plans for independence, as it was confident that Scotland would not vote to leave the UK. “We are therefore not making plans to move the nuclear deterrent from HM Naval Base Clyde, which supports 6,700 jobs, and where all of our submarines will be based from 2017,” said an MoD spokesman.

“The government is committed to maintaining a continuous submarine-based nuclear deterrent and has begun the work of replacing our existing submarines.”

Source – The Guardian

REVIEW PUBLISHED INTO TRIDENT ALTERNATIVES

Read – Trident Alternatives Review 

THE Nuclear Education Trust has today published its report into the Trident Alternatives Review and the future of Barrow.

The report makes a case for the publication of the Lib Dem-led review into alternatives to “like-for-like” replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system.

It also concluded that while Barrow is heavily dependent on BAE Systems as an employer, the economic impact of an option other than like-for-like replacement is not ‘a “binary” choice between 6,000 employed or none’.

The report said: “The Nuclear Education Trust heard that diversification for BAE Systems and regeneration of the Barrow economy is extremely difficult. But we also heard that there is evidence of diversification that had been delivered over the past 20 years and that it would be possible in the future. In many respects Barrow, although still dependent on the shipyard, is already transformed from the town it was in the early 1990s.”

The report recommends that the government should ‘take a number of steps now to support a fragile economy’. Reducing Barrow’s dependence on BAE Systems (and thus the need for Trident replacement) could be achieved through a range of investment, regeneration and diversification mechanisms, the report argues.

This could include investment from the Energy Coast Initiative, creation of an Enterprise Zone for Barrow and transitional funding from European Structural Funds, as well as support towards industrial diversification.

The report also suggested an investment of £100m be made in Barrow if there is no like-for-like replacement of the Trident system.

It said: “In the event of a decision to proceed with an option other than a like for like replacement and which means a step down in employment, the government must provide immediate, sustained and considerable support, which should include for instance regeneration funding at the level of £100m for every 1,000 jobs lost to the local economy.”

The Nuclear Education Trust therefore commissioned its research and a survey to examine in detail the alternatives proposed by the Trident Alternatives Review (TAR) and their implications for Barrow.

The project sought to answer the key ‘what if’ question: “What if the UK proceeds with one of the options under consideration by the Trident Alternatives Review and not the full successor programme?”

In its foreword to the report, NET said it was “very aware that the issue of people’s future employment in Barrow is a very sensitive one – “even whispers in the corridors of Whitehall reverberate loudly throughout the town” (TUC). But sensitivity to – or concern about – what happens to people in areas dependent on military contracts is much more widely shared. Hence we hope that our report will resonate with many.”

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock said: “There are some valuable recommendations to diversify Barrow’s economy in this report, particular the call for the area to become eligible for energy coast support from which it is currently unfairly excluded.

“But a drive to broaden Barrow’s economic base should be done on the foundation of a thriving shipyard, not as an inadequate replacement for submarine jobs.

“Above all, we should not be distracted by talk of rescue packages when no-one has yet produced any credible evidence that there is a more effective way to provide the nation’s nuclear deterrent than building successor submarines in Barrow shipyard.”

Source – Whitehaven News