The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has accused the UK and French governments of “rearranging the deckchairs on the nuclear sub” after they agreed to co-operate over nuclear weapons testing.
CND also said that the UK government's commitment to nuclear co-operation with France is further evidence that nuclear weapons do not address Britain's top security risks.
A new nuclear treaty between the two governments focuses on hydrodynamic testing facilities, which allow the performance and safety of nuclear warheads to be tested without a nuclear explosion taking place.
It appears that nuclear weapons testing technology will be now developed in Britain, and the testing will be carried out in France.
A planning application was recently agreed to build the “Project Hydrus” hydrodynamic testing facility at the Aldermaston nuclear weapons site in Berkshire, England. It remains unclear whether this facility will now be cancelled to make the financial savings that the government has announced.
“Such cooperation on Britain's supposed 'independent' nuclear weapons system would previously have been unthinkable,” said CND's General Secretary, Kate Hudson, “But this comes at a time when the recently released National Security Strategy has clearly shown that the salience of nuclear weapons in addressing our top security risks is questioned at the highest levels of government”.
She suggested that it was the latest of several government decisions to undermine the previously “unchangeable” status quo on nuclear weapons. Ministers announced last month that the final decision on replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system - which has been heavily criticised by churches, faith groups, trades unions and campaigners - would be delayed.
“The decision on the replacement of Trident has been delayed,” said Hudson, “The previous 'minimum deterrent' number of nuclear warheads has been reduced; the supposed 'minimum' number of subs is being questioned; 'continuous-at-sea deterrence' is being questioned. Now the façade of 'independence' is further undermined.”
She concluded that, “None of this is surprising as it is now widely recognised that nuclear weapons are irrelevant to our security needs and, at a time of economic crisis and cuts, the majority of the UK population thinks that Trident should be scrapped”.
Kate Hudson also cautioned the government on its compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. She pointed out that Article 1 expressly forbids transfers in relation to nuclear explosive devices.