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.

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”.

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Steve Taylor

Still cheapest bang for buck there is. One of the few systems that does what is says on the tin. The biggest waste of money really is the standing army. Now so small it has no utility; render useless as all standing armies have been by nuclear weapons. It’s truth worth is generating a few hundred special forces.


Hi Steve , the British army has 118,000 soldiers so it’s not exactly tiny and with the 35,000 reservists now being better equipped and trained than ever before. And the Millitarys currently deployed all over the world in over 80 nations!. We need a standing army but a bigger one not smaller, and we should expand our Special Forces numbers, I read somewhere the SF did get extra funding for equipment ect.


Where did you get 118,000 from ? I thought the uk army size is 82,000.

Daniele Mandelli

Less than 82,000 if you exclude those in Phase 1 and 2 training.

The 100,000 plus figure includes the Reserve.


I have to disagree, a good sized standing army is a pretty basic requirement for any real world scenarios. Peacekeeping, urban or jungle warfare, counter insurgency, and more besides. Nukes deter WW3, but they’re not stopping most conflict below that. The biggest wastes of money come from “efficiencies” and delaying programmes to ostensibly save money. Instead of having a long term strategy and making cheaper bulk purchases, you end up depriving the supporting industry of work and paying smaller short term payments that add up to far more in the long term. The blame sits mostly with the MoD, but… Read more »

Steve Taylor

How big an army do we need Callum?

It’s all very well listing functions but exactly, beyond generating SF, does the Army actually keep us safe? Not also I said standing army I didn’t say land forces, not the use of the phrase ‘standing army’. Peacekeeping? Afghanistan etc. worked out well didn’t they?

The trouble with sites like this unless somebody says we need 1000 tanks, a 500k standing army, 500 fj, and all other kit they just get dismissed. There is a little more to this subject than what can be gleaned from WW2 films on Sunday afternoon.


I’m obviously not an expert, but based off of major modern conflicts like the Falklands and Gulf, we should have at least one division ready to deploy at short notice. That suggests 2-3 operational divisions, while the British Army currently has two and change. My personal opinion is that two divisions and current troop levels are iffy but acceptable, but only if they were heavily equipped with modern weapons and vehicles. Regular troops can be supplemented by reserves, and new soldiers trained relatively quickly, but the equipment they rely on takes significantly longer to procure and thus numbers need to… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Funny enough you can’t just go around dropping nukes to resolve every issue. In fact since ww2 nuclear weapons have never been used but armies have continually been used.


Spot on. ‘increase the overall defence budget’ sounds like solution. £172bn is a huge amount of money, and of course it won’t be spent at an average rate but between now and 2070 is 50 years does average out at less than £4bn per year.


It’s less than 2 years NHS budget…


Actually the NHS budget for the UK this year including social care is £170 billion.
Total NHS budget for the 4 parts of the UK is £158 billion plus 12 billion for social care.

So it is 1 years budget.

The problem is that health inflation is running at 6% per year and to just standstill means either huge tax rises or huge cuts to other department budgets or a mixture of both we are seeing a mixture of both and defence spending is low on the list of spending.


That is sort of the point… Nukes are there as a deterrent to other large military nations. No one want to ever use them and if they are working correctly then no one will ever use them.


Look at Chinese and Russian posture and the general theory of deterrence (both nuclear and conventional.) Nuclear Weapons would be exceedingly worse value for money if we were using them because the world as we know it would cease to exist.

However if we disarm and other powers do not we’ve not ‘gained’ anything except a guarantee to be coerced by revisionist Nuclear states.

Colin Brooks

So an organisation that has as its fundamental goal, a nuclear free world (includes Greenpeace) is relied on by?

Daniele Mandelli

Groundhog day.

Why do things never change at the MoD?

Is it time for financial experts from outside to be brought in to manage the MoDs budget?

Or, when will the Chancellor remove CASD costs from core back to where they came?

7000 additional staff? Not all MoD staff surely? These must be mostly contractor staff.


I think you’re right, the MOD gets away with a lot. When you compare it with the relative transparency of US equipment programmes and budget oversight, you’d think that everything the MOD was operating was covert operations… I think increased oversight would do the country a service, and make sure the military is better equipped for the future. About CASD, where was it originally? I had a look some time ago, and as far as I can see it was always part of the defence budget- even when we first got it… I think that renewing the deterrent is an… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

It was placed in core in 2010. Cost of operations of course has always been borne by the MoD.


I did some digging after I asked, because I was interested in finding out why they’d move it like that.
I don’t understand all the ins and outs of things, but it looks like it has always been part of the defence budget according to this briefing report. I think the difference being that, in the past, Treasury boosted the budget a bit to contribute.

Daniele Mandelli

This is confusing as it has been stated many times by various sources the cost was placed in mod core budget by George Osborne.


Is it that it was always part of the defence budget, but that portion was paid for by the Treasury. Osborne, then transferred it into the “Core Equipment Budget” which is part of overall MOD spending.


This could well be what it is; I would always expect a bit of extra money to be provided for such a large, strategic national security project into whatever budget is going to be assigned it. Maybe he just said “not this time”.


I know, by various newspapers from various sides; senior military officials; and a number of UK defence sites. But I find it difficult to believe they would / could publish literal lies on a Commons briefing document…
Maybe AndyB has the truth of it below?

Adrian Cockerill

The MOD won’t change until it gets sufficient money upfront, its continuously try to delay to save costs in one year but in the end costs more in later years so then tries to delay newer projects to pay for the previously delayed projects that are over budget because of the delay


Please be aware that the Nuclear Information Service has a very specific agenda to push. They want full nuclear disarmament so it is in their interests to inflate figures etc. They are not neutral source.


Spot on.

The NIS has the following mission statement:

“Nuclear Information Service seeks to inform, influence and encourage moves whoch lead speedily towards the verifiable disarmament of British nuclear weapons”

They share their address in Reading with the following orgs:

Reading International Solidarity Centre
Reading Refugee Support Group
Global Cafe

If there is anyone who works their who isn’t a card carrying member of CND and Vegan I’d be amazed…

Have look at the people involved…


They’re just the usual left wing/CAAT/CND front….not credible in the slightest.


We need to see the defence budget rise to 2.5% and soon, but with so many other government departments literally falling apart and crying out for more too, I just can’t see It happening. Prisons, education, police, social care are all reaching crisis point.
And while this is happening, the government is in paralysis over Brexit which takes all the attention. We need to focus on building industry and commerce to boost the economy as well as collecting fair taxes from multinational dodgers so we can fund everything adequately.

Colin Brooks

Many areas of government spending are wallowing in tax payers cash:
Action to prevent climate change (there is no problem except with our scientific ‘experts’)

Barry Larking

The problems you cite are real. In most cases increasing spending will not resolve all of them or not entirely. Poor choices, worse management and lack of elementary controls have played a larger role than finance. Brexit is something of s distraction but one that demonstrates the utterly poor quality of our governing classes. That also costs money.


Well, a real surprise from N I S, a disarmament group of Green and C N D orientation.


“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.”

Who are these guys funded by?
And who are they in hock too?
The mind boggles

Daniele Mandelli

That crossed my mind too.


From their website:
Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust
Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust
Polden Puckham Charitable Trust
Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust
Greenpeace Environmental Trust




Yes. How objective is this web site and article? How much is it add-ons up 2 plus 2 to get 5.


I was also wondering this. I see on their website (thanks farouk) that the Joseph rowntree trust is Quaker, and the Greenpeace environmental trust and lush are obviously going to be pro disarmament. So that explains the heavy bias in the article. With these people as friends who needs enemies. Wish they would set up shop in countries like China and Russia.

Steve Taylor

Need you ask…….

David Cullen – NIS Staff

David Cullen has a background in environmental, social justice and disarmament campaigning. He worked for six years as the main researcher for the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, and before joining Nuclear Information Service he worked on a community energy project in Salford.


There is just a glimmer of light under the door that could lead to Trident system redundancy? The growing confidence in anti-ballistic defence systems. If there is a serious intent to develop such systems with comprehensive capabilities, there could be a case to totally reconsider the true effectiveness of Trident. Sadly, most of these ideas are either in early development or are planned for sometime in the future. That leaves the status quo, and so it’s business as usual folks.


Hypersonics will render any current BMD systems irrelevant long before they achieve the kind of ‘kill’ ratios to realistically secure any strategic targets or population centres from a retaliatory Nuclear strike…


Ok did anybody bother to look up NIS:
NIS is a not-for-profit, independent information service, which works to promote public awareness and foster debate on nuclear disarmament

What next, JC on how we should leave NATO and sign up with Russia and iran.


Whilst I have not read this report nor verified the amounts, this article suggests scrapping the nuclear armament would be a saving of GBP172b over 50 years. Yeti that occurred there would need to be an alternate deterrent (in probably many forms) either purchased or developed that would require funding, so the net effect will be quite a bit lower and could even be more expensive.


Hardly ‘spiralling’. £3.4billion a year is a drop in the ocean to guarantee UK sovereignty and security. The FIRST DUTY of government is the security and protection of its people. We are an island nation that has a rather hostile near neighbour called Russia, so it makes complete sense to have this deterrent. Yes i know we could have more subs for the money, more ships etc. But the biggest threat to the UK is not a tug boat pulled Russian heavy cruiser but a ballistic strike. We are trillion + pound economy, this is a tiny fraction of money… Read more »


Its a disarmament group. You don’t really think they would ever advocate nuclear modernization. That would be like Greenpeace being ok with nuclear weapons.

Adrian Cleall

funny we moan about spending this on nuclear weapons…but we waste billions on welfare and nhs each year ..nothing said..we need that to defence our country ..


To be honest I’d rather money was spent on conventional forces that we actually use. Arm our warships for war, increase the army we actually use.
If someone ever was stupid enough to start lobbing nukes around en mass they’d be wiped out by the resulting nuclear winter /radiation cloud anyway no need for us to fire back.
We continually use our coventional forces so spend the money where we get the use.
Spend some money on those that have left the forces to the numbers on the street or killing themselves are a national disgrace.


Is it a wonder the US worries about how serious their allies are with this attitude? Leave France as the sole European ally not relying on the US Nuclear Umbrella to secure us from Russian revisionist aggression? Chinese expansion across the Pacific (including multiple strategic choke points that world-wide trade rely on.)

Harry Bulpit

Personally id like to see an end of trident. However, I think there’s still a need for small tactical nukes that can actually be used. With the saved money being spent on creating more conventional forces especially those with an expeditionary nature so Britain can have more direct influence on the world.


The UK keeping its nuclear force or not is an internal discussion, but I disagree with your comment “small tactical nukes that can be used”. There is no such thing as limited nuclear war and to me having small nukes you are tempted to use is a more dangerous mentality than having big ones you never want to use

Harry Bulpit

Obviously it is not something you want to use. However, what I meant was a situation such as a Russian land invasion had occurred. And a nuclear weapon slightly smaller then the one dropped on Hiroshima could be used to destroy a field army. Without completely destroying Europe and making it uninhabitable for centuries. Like the way are current nuclear bombs would do.


I understand your meaning Harry, but using small nuke on a field army would be replied with Sarmat on UK, as Daniele says below, a nuke is a nuke, using them in any size would escalate beyond control very quickly, they are a deterrent weapon to make sure the other side never uses theirs, and if they do it must be replied to in an overwhelming way to discourage more use. To me small nukes are the most dangerous class, more and more countries are getting cruise missiles and small ballistic missiles, in any future war they will be used… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Agree. A nuke is a nuke. If using small yield weapons becomes the norm how long before it escalates? Or the other side then uses CBR weapons?

David E Flandry

Just how many small-yield nukes does the UK have? Can’t Have very many.

Daniele Mandelli

I’ve lost track they keep getting culled.

Less than 200 I guess?

I believe the MIRV aboard a Trident missile can have variable yields.

Daniele Mandelli

Like Lance?

Problem with WE177, cruise missiles, and other systems is that they or their delivery aircraft can be intercepted and shot down, or negated by a first strike or surprise attack on their bases.

Trident on an SSBN patrolling in silence at 5 knots or slower somewhere does not have the same vulnerabilities.


On balance i like the CASD in its current form… but the concept of say a fleet of 12 – 16 asutes with 3 or 4 at sea at any one time each with several N cruise missiles of whatever yield can be engineered is intreging.

Quantum leap in conventional maritime strength and redundancy with greater concurrent geographical coverage including places like APAC etc while retaining abilty to hit back especially with all current focus on developing ABM Technology going on globally at moment.

Steady build rate and true economies of scale flow through



Pete a nuclear variant of any conventional weapon is the WORST possible way to have a nuclear arsenal, distinction becomes a huge issue hence the treaties limiting their existence. Il use TLAM as an example Think from the viewpoint of the targeted nation as we are on this day, Cruise missile sighting would raise alarm, officers in the chain of command knowing the UK only had conventional types would know immediately that they are not about to be annihilated by a nuclear warhead and respond in a similar manner. Now with us having Nuclear versions too, we launch a conventional… Read more »


The aims of the NIS are the same as those of CND, so its unsurprising its report seeks to undermine the British nuclear deterrent. Unfortunately the creation of plausibly respectable sounding organisations/ think-tanks/ institutes/ etc in order to spread politically biased disinformation as ‘fact’ is increasingly being used as a tactic by those on the hard-core fringe of British politics.

Tim uk

The problem is that other methods of nation crippling attack are on the horizon such as cyber and hypersonics that could win a war within the hour by crippling infrastructure and the economy with out the need to commit mass murder. If we were attacked in such a way would we be willing to wipe out millions in retaliation? Is there any western nation that would resort to nuclear strikes in such a case? The nuclear bluff at that point is potentially called. I mean take Germany as an example, if Putin crippled them via cyber and hypersonics do you… Read more »


I would love to see full worldwide nuclear disarmament. However it is never going to happen. You can not un-invent the Nuke and so as long as there is a chance that enemies could have them then they are here to stay.


You might be surprised to know that one Ronald Reagan wanted the same thing.


In fairness they raise some good points, albeit their solutions to the issues are unsound. Yes, there’s a funding gap, so let’s take CASD out of core, and also increase the MoD budget to the proper 2% commitment (ideally 4% but that’s wishful thinking). Yes, a skills shortage did emerge between the Vanguard class completion and the Astute build. So let’s not allow that to happen again and ensure we plan our procurement properly with strategic vision. “It adds that the “MoD’s tactic of managing in-year funding gaps by delaying work” will likely drive up costs.” Again, they are right… Read more »


Who or what is the NIS?

Daniele Mandelli

A group of organisations and individuals with an agenda. See farouk’s comments above.


Sorry, I was so annoyed by the article, that I posted before I looked at the comments.

Chris J

The NIS??? One has to seriously question their impartiality considering their makeup and who they are funded by…


Yes, as the article on StRN says we don’t analyse other government budgets over 50 years. What’s the predict NHS expenditure going to be, trillions… by 2070 we’ll probably be spending well over 172bn on the NHS in 1 year.

David Flandry

I would like to know just how the UK can work For a nuclear free world. Has Russia, or China reduced their nuclear weapons program along with the UK?

David Flandry

Every so often on of these groups published a report just like the last one, Expensive, risky, too much—-, unneeded, wasteful, same old words.