Government reveals size of nuclear arsenal

By staff writers
May 27, 2010

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) welcomed the announcement yesterday concerning the size of Britain's nuclear arsenal but pointed out the government's continued failure to review Trident.

The size of Britain’s nuclear arsenal was laid bare for the first time yesterday as William Hague revealed that the UK has 225 warheads.

The Foreign Secretary also pledged not to increase the stockpile and said limits may be imposed on the circumstances in which the missiles would be launched, potentially killing millions.

The announcement was made in an attempt by the Government to boost global non-proliferation talks.

CND welcomed Hague's announcement which put on record for the first time the upper limit of the UK's stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Enhanced transparency is seen as boosting the chances of any future stockpile reductions being reciprocated by other states as part of a mutually-reinforcing process.

CND also welcomed the review of the circumstances under which the UK might launch a nuclear attack - currently embracing 'first-use' - but strongly deplored the fact that Trident itself will not be reviewed in the forthcoming Strategic Security and Defence Review.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "Publishing this number is a welcome step that can help build trust between states and open the way for disarmament, but Britain's commitment under the NPT is not to be transparent, but to disarm. This figure gives a baseline against which further disarmament can be measured, but it is the reduction and then elimination of the UK and other countries' nuclear weapons that will deliver real security, not simply counting them.

"The figures reveal that Britain has almost half as many warheads again as the previously published number of 'operationally available' - higher than many had estimated. This very large number of 'spares' kept by Britain is similar to the supposed size of the entire nuclear arsenals of India or Pakistan.

"The review of the circumstances in which Britain might launch a nuclear strike is also a necessary step. At a very minimum, Britain must be categorical that it will never again threaten a nuclear attack on a state that doesn't possess nuclear weapons, as happened in the run-up to the Iraq war. Regardless of NATO policies, the UK should also rule out ever being the first to use nuclear weapons, however extreme the circumstances.

"It is however, deplorable that the new Government will not be including Trident in the Strategic Security and Defence Review. Specifically excluding the biggest and most expensive defence project from the review is hardly representative of the 'new politics'. It looks as though Cold War dogma is being allowed to over-rule common sense. Alternative non-nuclear security and defence possibilities need to be considered, but despite Liberal Democrat opposition to a 'like for like' replacement, it looks as though no major rethink will occur. With billions being taken out of almost all government departments, one savage cut that would be most welcome would be saving billions by scrapping Trident."


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