Britain’s nuclear weapons

Britain’s nuclear weapons system is called Trident. It is made up of three parts: the warheads – which are the explosive ‘bombs’, the missiles which carry them, and the submarines which carry the missiles. The submarines are made at Barrow-in-Furness, refitted at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, and maintained at Faslane in Scotland. The missiles are leased from the US. The warheads are made at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston, near Reading in Berkshire.

One of the submarines remains on patrol 24/7 and each submarine carries an estimated eight missiles, each of which can carry up to five warheads – 40 in total. Each warhead has an explosive power of up to 100 kilotons of conventional high explosive. This is 8 times the power of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

Research from Scientist for Global Responsibility (SGR) shows that if fired at cities, as threatened under current ‘deterrence’ doctrines, the nuclear weapons on just one of Britain’s four Trident submarines could cause the direct deaths of more than ten million people with a combination of blast, fire and fallout. With more firepower than all the weapons used in WWII, the resulting soot in the atmosphere would disrupt the global climate and agricultural production, causing widespread famine.

Even if we never use them, having nuclear weapons puts us at risk of accident and self-inflicted disaster.  Since 1979, there have been 16 submarine collisions, 266 submarine fires and numerous safety problems and accidents at nuclear weapons facilities. Nuclear warheads are still regularly transported for hundreds of miles along British roads; 70 individual safety incidents involving these convoys were recorded by the Ministry of Defence between 2007 and 2012.

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