Misconceptions can often take root and spread quickly, one claim I’ve encountered a lot recently is that the UK stores all of its nukes in Scotland because they’re too dangerous to keep in England.
We’ve all read a variation of this claim “There are 220 nukes in Scotland, none in England as it’s too dangerous to have them there but Scotland is stuck with them!”.
The lifecycle of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system unfolds across various locations throughout the country, far beyond the confines of Scotland. This intricate network of facilities each serves distinct, crucial roles in the creation, maintenance, and storage of these weapons.
Aldermaston: The Birthplace of Warheads
Located in proximity to London, Aldermaston, home to the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), plays a pivotal role in Trident’s operations. This is where Trident’s warheads are designed, produced, and maintained. The warheads often split their time between here and Coulport.
Burghfield: The Assembly and Maintenance Facility
Just seven miles from Aldermaston, and similarly close to London, is the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Burghfield. This facility is responsible for the assembly of the UK’s nuclear warheads, their in-service maintenance, and eventually, their decommissioning. Nuclear components are transported from Aldermaston to Burghfield for assembly and are then transported by road to Coulport, Scotland for deployment on Trident submarines.
Faslane: Submarine Base
Scotland does indeed play a significant role in the UK’s nuclear operations, specifically at the Faslane naval base at HMNB Clyde, near Glasgow. Faslane is home to the Vanguard-class submarines, which are armed with the UK’s nuclear weapons.
Coulport: Warhead Storage and Deployment
The Royal Naval Arms Depot Coulport, located in Scotland, is where Trident warheads are stored prior to deployment. The warheads are housed in reinforced concrete bunkers built into the hillside, and are loaded onto the Vanguard-class submarines at a dock beneath the bunker.
It’s important to note that these warheads frequently traverse the route between Burghfield and Coulport, as they return to Burghfield for refurbishment. This cyclical pattern illustrates the interconnectedness of the UK’s nuclear operations and the critical role played by facilities outside of Scotland.
In conclusion, while Scotland is home to key sites in the UK’s Trident nuclear system, it’s incorrect to claim that the UK exclusively stores its nuclear weapons in Scotland. The development, storage, and maintenance of these weapons involve a wide-reaching, nationwide network, extending far beyond Scotland’s borders.