Britain orders reactors for nuclear submarines

18/06/2012

British Defence Secretary, Phillip Hammond, announced today a £1bn contract for the construction of reactors to power the next generation of Britain’s nuclear submarines, replacing the Vanguard fleet, which currently carries the Trident nuclear deterrent.

The money will be invested in two reactor cores, to be used in an Astute-class attack submarine and a prototype of the next generation of submarines.

The announcement follows the Ministry of Defence’s recent awarding of contracts worth £350mn for the design of the next generation of submarines. Hammond also confirmed on Monday that the final decision on the replacement of the current generation of submarines will not take place before 2016.

"We're committed to maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent, and we are placing orders now... for the long lead items that will be necessary to deliver a successor to the Vanguard class submarines in the late 2020s," he noted.

"But the actual decision to go ahead and build them won't have to be taken until 2016, and what we're doing at the moment is ordering the things that have to be ordered now to give us that option."

Replacing Britain's nuclear deterrent has proved a point of political controversy, particularly as it is seen as intersecting with two security debates taking place within the coalition. The first of these is the exact nature of the doctrine of ‘Smart Defence’ that William Hague announced as a guiding principle of British foreign policy in 2011. While the Conservatives have labelled Britain’s Vanguard-class submarines as the “best value option” in ensuring British security, the Liberal Democrats have proposed cheaper alternatives.

The second of these debates concerns Britain’s post-Cold War strategic concept. While David Cameron favours the maintenance of a powerful nuclear arsenal, the Liberal Democrats want to abandon the so-called "Moscow criterion", which says Britain should have an arsenal capable of destroying the Russian capital.





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