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The future of United Kingdom nuclear weapons: shaping the debate

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Britain has been a nuclear-weapon state since the 1950s, mostly in extensive cooperation with the United States in equipment procurement, though (contrary to the aims of anti-nuclear campaigners) full freedom of operational action has been kept. The current force of four nuclear-powered submarines armed with Trident D.5 missiles is not expected to be dependably sustainable beyond the early or middle 2020s in key respects, and lead times mean that initial decisions on whether and if so how to maintain capability thereafter need to be taken by about 2010. The open debate for which the government has called will have to consider international obligations and likely repercussions, strategic and ethical arguments, options for renewal (including at reduced scale), the amount and incidence of costs, and opportunity costs. The government has not yet published enough information to underpin firm conclusions about continuance other than for ‘true believers’ either pro or con.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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