07 Mar 2014

MOD to re-invest in submarine fleet

trident_image1-1024x617Summary: The Ministry of Defence is to invest around £270m in Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet.

An initial £120m will be used to refuel the reactor of UK’s oldest nuclear submarine, HMS Vanguard, while a further £150m will be used to implement contingency work to refuel other submarines if necessary.

Defence maintenance

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told the House of Commons that HMS Vanguard will be refuelled in Devonport during its planned deep maintenance refit in 2015.

A decision on refuelling the next oldest submarine, HMS Victorious, will not be taken until 2018.

The decision to refuel the vessel has been described by Mr Hammond as the ‘responsible option’ after an internal radiation leak was discovered at the Dounreay nuclear facility in Caithness, Scotland.

Although the leak was classed as a ‘zero risk incident’, the decision to not inform Scottish ministers of any potential threat to environmental safety for two years has been met with sharp criticism from politicians north and south of the border.

The SNP and Yes Scotland have long advocated the decommissioning of the Trident nuclear deterrent and have made the issue a central tenant of their campaign for Scottish independence in the upcoming referendum.

New defence industry opportunities

In place of Trident, campaigners envision a nuclear-free Scotland, with the money spent on renewing the deterrent instead invested in equipment, personnel, the modernisation of military headquarters and training programmes to establish a new Scottish Defence Force, with a potential of £2.5bn worth of opportunities to defence contractors as a result.

Mr Hammond, however, reiterated the UK’s commitment to the established Trident system: The government is committed to maintaining our nuclear deterrent as the ultimate guarantee of the UK’s sovereignty and freedom of action against threats of nuclear aggression, wherever they may come from. Our submarine based, Continuous at sea deterrent, remains the most capable and cost-effective way of doing that.”

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