Feature

Nuclear Weapons: A Country’s Pivotal Demise

A Vanguard class nuclear submarine carrying Trident nuclear missiles makes its way from Faslane naval base. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A Vanguard class nuclear submarine carrying Trident nuclear missiles makes its way from Faslane naval base. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The P5+1 negotiations in Geneva ended last week leaving one question to be answered; where does this leave us?

The focus of attention on UK’s nuclear weapons has never been greater and the public has had little opportunity to voice its opinion on the subject.

In a recent study, UNA-UK commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct a survey of 1,053 UK public perceptions of international security and their attitude towards UK’s potential use of nuclear weapons.

The study’s key findings revealed that 68 per cent of the public state that no countries should be allowed to keep nuclear weapons under international law and 47 per cent believe nuclear weapons should never be used by UK.

In the UK, nuclear weapons development, acquisition and deployment now occurs entirely within the organizational structure of the Ministry of Defense (MoD), but Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), which is under the authority of the Procurement Executive of the MoD, controls nuclear deterrent, building and maintaining warheads for Trident.

Trident is a submarine-launched inter-continental ballistic nuclear weapons system, which is currently carried by four Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarines, according to AWE.

According to American Journalist and investigative author on nuclear weapons, Eric Schlosser, Britain does not own any missiles, but “has access to a pool of missiles that are based in the United States.”

“If the U.S. decided next week that they didn’t want Great Britain to have nuclear weapons anymore, it might take breaking their treaty, but at some point Britain wouldn’t be able to use Trident anymore because Britain is dependent of our missiles,” Schlosser explained at a public lecture in London.

Protesters in London demand a halt in UK's Nuclear Weapon use.

Protesters in London demand a halt in UK’s Nuclear Weapon use.

If the UK does not control and own Trident, what is the purpose of having such a program? According to recent polling of Liberal Democrats, many are looking to scrap Trident.

A majority of Lib Dem members survey by Liberal Democrat Voice want the UK to ditch the Trident nuclear weapons system altogether. 58 per cent want it not to be renewed compared to just 26 per cent who back the party’s preferred ‘contingency posture’ of a reduced number of submarines

While decisions to scrap politicians are debating UK’s nuclear weapons, slowly and quietly the Ministry of Defence is dismantling its Trident warheads, according to Sue Ford, from the MoD’s defence equipment and support policy secretariat.

In an open FOIA request, Ford says, “Since 2002, the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has been running a Stockpile Reduction Programme to disassemble Trident warheads to reduce stockpile numbers.”

If this is the case, the program fulfills a government promise to cut the number of the nation’s nuclear weapons from 225 to 180 by the mid 2020s, leaving little to the debate about where UK’s nuclear weapon program is going.

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