U.K. Trident Debate Energizes Opposition to Nuclear Weapons

U.K. Trident Debate Energizes Opposition to Nuclear Weapons

Submarine-launched Trident ballistic missiles are currently the United Kingdom's only nuclear delivery system, and the submarines that carry them are nearing the end of their operational lifetimes. A serious debate has arisen in Britain over whether new submarines should be developed -- and, by extension, whether the country should renew its independent nuclear deterrent.

The U.K. currently deploys its Trident nuclear missiles on four Vanguard-class submarines, which are due to be decommissioned in the 2020s. In December 2006, the British government found that designing and building new submarines to carry the Trident force would take 17 years -- in order to maintain an independent nuclear force, a decision needed to be made soon. This finding was released in a white paper entitled "The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent," in which the government, after exploring other options like silo basing or air-launched nuclear systems, concluded that it would move ahead to develop new submarines.

The government could have made this decision without Parliamentary involvement, but Prime Minister Tony Blair has committed himself to the results of a vote on March 14. While the vote appears almost certain to come out in favor of the government's proposal -- the Conservatives have joined most of Blair's Labour party in supporting the plan -- a fierce debate has ensued.

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