Five interesting stories about Trident

There have been some interesting stories about Trident in the press of late. Here are just a few of them.

The fate of the UK’s nuclear weapon system will be decided in the next few years. Whether to renew Trident and what defensive posture to take will be the subjects of internal party debates when manifesto writing, when preparing for the NPT Review Conference in 2015 and when Parliament votes on the ‘Main Gate’ decision on Trident replacement in 2016.

But there have been some interesting stories about Trident in the press of late. Here are just a few:

1. Strikes at Faslane

In March, hundreds of workers at the Faslane naval base staged their first walkout in 42 years, following negotiations over pay. Faslane is home to the UK’s Vanguard-class nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarines. The Scotsman reported that employees responsible for fitting out boats and loading weapons were involved in the action. The Unite union said that further stoppages were planned, as well as a work to rule and ban on overtime.

2. Top Tory says No

James Arbuthnot, veteran chairman of the Defence Select Committee, has publicly questioned the logic of replacing Trident. In a recent interview with the Guardian he stated, “Nuclear deterrence does not provide the certainty that it seemed to in the past. It’s not an insurance policy, it is a potential booby trap.”

Despite voting for replacement in 2007, Arbuthnot referred to Trident at the time as ‘of doubtful usefulness’.

3. Resignations at AWE Burghfield

In January, junior defence minister Anna Soubry confirmed that 44 Ministry of Defence Police officers based at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Burghfield were subject to a major misconduct investigation. AWE Burghfield hosts facilities in which the UK’s nuclear weapons are built and maintained. Seven officers resigned during the course of the investigation, with some media reporting that a number had missed patrols due to being ‘asleep’.

4. UK’s youth disapprove

A recent ComRes survey suggests that younger people are opposed to like-for-like Trident replacement. Of the respondents, only 19 per cent of those aged 18-35 supported renewing Trident at its current size and capacity (this compared to 33 per cent of over 35s). The poll was commissioned by WMD Awareness, who launched this campaign last week to get the UK’s youth debating nuclear weapons.

5. Radioactive leaks in Caithness

In March, Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond demanded an apology for failing to be informed for over two years about problems with a submarine test reactor. This was in response to defence secretary Philip Hammond’s confirmation that “low levels of radioactivity were detected in a prototype core” at the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay, Caithness, in 2012. These kinds of spats suggest nuclear defence will continue to be an issue in the Scottish independence campaign.

The above stories touch on some major problems with Trident: it’s unpopular, politically contentious, and the system relies on shaky security arrangements. Anyone for abandoning it?

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