Defense contractor Lockheed Martin is heading a group of companies that appears set to take over management of the facility that holds the United Kingdom's arsenal of nuclear-tipped Trident missiles, the Scotland Sunday Herald reported (see GSN, Nov. 1, 2010).
The Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport, Scotland, houses, maintains and dispatches for deployment in excess of 200 Trident nuclear missiles. The Vanguard-class submarines that carry the missiles are based eight miles away at Faslane. Coulport and Faslane are part of Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde.
The recently established ABL umbrella group is expected to receive a 15-year management contract for the depot, according to a British Defense Ministry document obtained by the newspaper. The deal should be completed in August, and the management switch is due to occur next February, the document states.
Defense officials determined that they would gain greater value by ending government management of the facility.
"The decision to outsource this work has been taken to ensure that these high standards and critical skills are maintained and sustained into the future," said Conservative Party lawmaker Peter Luff.
The looming move faces opposition from the Scottish National Party, along with labor groups and nonproliferation advocates. Scottish National Party defense spokesman Angus Robertson argued against allowing a private entity to have any level of control over nuclear weapons.
“Weapons of mass destruction are the most sensitive areas of military technology and should not be put in private hands,” he said. “The SNP opposition to the nuclear fleet is absolute, but as long as Trident and nuclear missiles remain on the Clyde, their security must be absolute and U.K. ministers should reconsider their decision to give responsibility to companies outwith the country.”
The Defense Ministry document says the consortium will head up “processing, handling, and storage” of nuclear warheads and Trident missiles, as well as “dockside handling,” “explosive handling,” “radiological safety” and “nuclear emergency response."
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry "will remain in overall charge, with naval base commander (Clyde) retaining overall responsibility for nuclear activities, explosive safety policy, security and emergency management planning, including retention of the incident commander role in response to all contingency scenarios," according to the document.
Countered Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Coordinator John Ainslie: “Nuclear safety will be compromised as the [Defense Ministry tries] to cut corners at Coulport. The ministry may continue to be responsible for safety but they won’t have enough people to carry out this role" (Rob Edwards, Sunday Herald, May 29).