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Dropping British Nukes Would Cut $132B in Costs, Analysis Says

The United Kingdom could eliminate $131.9 billion in expenses in coming decades by dismantling its submarine-based nuclear deterrent, a London-based think tank said in an assessment issued on Wednesday (see GSN, March 6).

The Conservative Party, which leads the current British coalition government, has backed a Labor Party-era initiative to build four new ballistic missile submarines to replace Vanguard-class vessels slated for retirement starting in the 2020s. The government has said it would reach a final decision in 2016 on whether to construct the new submarines, the London Guardian reported (Richard Norton-Taylor, London Guardian, March 22).

Elimination of the Trident nuclear deterrent would result in a mean annual cost reduction of $2.9 billion from 2016 to 2062, and the move could cut close to 31,000 employment positions over the same period, analyst Keith Hartley wrote in the British American Security Information Council paper. Plans to assemble additional Astute-class submarines would defer many of the layoffs and enable government action to minimize their eventual impact, according to the document (British American Security Information Council release, March 21).

The analysis assumes the Astute-class submarines would not carry nuclear armaments, according to the Guardian. Deploying nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on the vessels -- a proposal now under Defense Ministry consideration -- could require as much as $89.2 billion within 46 years, the assessment's author wrote.

Expenses related to ending the nuclear weapons program would preclude short-term expense reductions, according to the paper. Economic considerations should not play a primary role in the government's determination on whether to build the new ballistic missile submarines, it adds (Norton-Taylor, London Guardian).

The assessment is the second of several planned analyses for the Trident Commission, a panel of prominent former high-level British officials (see GSN, Oct. 31, 2011). Former Labor Party Defense Secretary Des Browne, former Conservative Defense Secretary Malcolm Rifkind and former Liberal Democrats defense spokesman Menzies Campbell are among the commission's leaders (British American Security Information Council release).

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GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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