A new report has warned that the UK’s nuclear weapons programme could cost £172bn between now and 2070, and suggests the government should review the UK’s possession of nuclear weapons.
The report, published today by the Nuclear Information Service (NIS), states that the UK must make a choice in the near future: increase the overall defence budget, reduce spending on conventional weapons in order to fund nuclear weapons, or reducing spending on/scrapping the nuclear weapons programme.
NIS also argues that the UK should work to “achieving a nuclear free world”, and must “re-examine” the case for nuclear disarmament.
We've been busy over the last few months working on our new report. 'Trouble Ahead: Risks and rising costs in the UK nuclear weapons programme' will be released next Tuesday, 30th April. Watch this space. pic.twitter.com/rTykE4KTTa
— NIS (@Nuclearinfo) April 26, 2019
The report identifies 21 individual issues associated with the UK’s nuclear programme, including inaccurate MoD costings, submarine availability, shortage of dock space at Devonport, and a lack of qualified staff.
The most recent data released by the MoD, which covers the years 2018–28, estimates that the equipment plan is likely to cost £7bn more than the MoD’s available budget. The National Audit Office however have warned that this funding gap could be as high as £14.8bn.
Indeed the MoD’s Permanent Secretary Stephen Lovegrove has admitted that without a funding boost, planned projects will have to be delayed, altered or even cancelled.
Assessing whether this can be rectified, the report warns:
“There seems little prospect of the MOD taking control of its equipment budget under the current Secretary of State for Defence, and it remains an open question whether it is an organisation that is institutionally capable of doing so”.
The report also warns that the gap between building the Vanguard and Astute class submarines has lead to a “precipitous shrinkage of the UK’s nuclear workforce”. In January 2018 it emerged that the MoD lacked 337 “skilled nuclear staff”. The report states:
“An additional 7,000 full-time staff are thought to be needed up to 2021, which will require a doubling of new recruits.”
“The historical thinning out and ageing of the workforce remains a significant risk to the nuclear weapons programme”
Nuclear Information Service
The report concludes that the UK’s nuclear program is likely to cost £3.4bn per year until 2070, although it warns that this is “almost certainly a low estimate”. It adds that the “MoD’s tactic of managing in-year funding gaps by delaying work” will likely drive up costs.
It therefore recommends that “the MOD should develop a plan to reduce its equipment plan spending in order to bring it within the available budget from the next financial year onwards, using real reductions in spending rather than deferring plans”.
In a statement responding to the report, the MoD rejected calls for disarmament, saying: “Our nuclear deterrent protects us from the most extreme threats to our security and the Government is committed to delivering it as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible”.