Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
'Bloody' Infighting Precedes Release of U.K. Trident Alternatives Study
The British government is toiling to resolve internal objections at its Defense Ministry on the findings of a comprehensive official study into alternatives for maintaining the country's nuclear forces, the London Guardian reported.
Whitehall is understood to have protested the report's publication on Tuesday as it might bolster the argument for abandoning or reducing the current plan to fully replace the United Kingdom's aging fleet of four Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines equipped with nuclear-tipped Trident SLBMs.
Prime Minister David Cameron is reported to have told Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood to do whatever was needed to determine quickly what information in the report would be kept classified and what could be released. The outcome could affect the extent of public debate over the matter just two days before the House of Commons commences a lengthy summer recess.
Opponents of the Trident renewal plan argue it is too expensive and not needed in today's post-Cold War security environment.
An informed anonymous source said the fight inside the government over whether to publish the report was "pretty bloody."
The report is the work of the coalition government's junior partner, the Liberal Democrats, who oppose the "like-for-like" replacement plan. The Conservative Party, the senior governing partner, supports carrying on with the plan to build four new SSBNs but has agreed to postpone a final decision on building the vessels until after the next general election in 2015.
There are a number of alternatives for the country's nuclear forces, including reducing the fleet of SSBNs from four to two submarines, moving to "reduced readiness," dismantling the nuclear weapons but retaining the technical knowledge to rebuild them, or completely denuclearizing.
Chief Secretary of the Treasury Danny Alexander, who managed the drafting of the report, said the study did not find any options that would produce "appreciable savings" to government coffers prior to the end of the decade, the British Press Association reported.
Meanwhile, London sought to push down on an idea recently floated by anonymous government sources that it could declare nuclear weapon bases in Scotland sovereign British possessions in the event a scheduled 2014 vote on succession is successful, the Press Association separately reported.
Declaring the nuclear installations at Faslane British territory is not a "credible or sensible" plan, a spokesman for Cameron said. The rumored proposal has not been presented to the British leader or his Defense secretary, Philip Hammond, the aide said.
"This government has not commissioned contingency plans over Faslane," the spokesman said. "No such ideas have come to the secretary of State or the prime minister. They would not support them if they did."
The locally governing Scottish National Party has vowed to order the removal from Scotland of the SSBN fleet and their Trident missiles if the territory becomes independent.
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