United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is a nuclear-armed state, estimated by the SIPRI Yearbook 2013, and in accordance with the Coalition Government’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), to possess no more than 225 nuclear weapons, of which some 160 are operationally available.  After British scientists participated in the US Manhattan Project, the UK clandestinely pursued a nuclear weapons programme of its own before going public with its first nuclear test on 3 October 1952 at Montebello, Australia.  The UK conducted 45 nuclear tests at various Pacific sites and then the US Nevada Test Site before the 1992 US moratorium forced Britain’s...

The United Kingdom is a nuclear-armed state, estimated by the SIPRI Yearbook 2013, and in accordance with the Coalition Government’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), to possess no more than 225 nuclear weapons, of which some 160 are operationally available.  After British scientists participated in the US Manhattan Project, the UK clandestinely pursued a nuclear weapons programme of its own before going public with its first nuclear test on 3 October 1952 at Montebello, Australia.  The UK conducted 45 nuclear tests at various Pacific sites and then the US Nevada Test Site before the 1992 US moratorium forced Britain’s nuclear testing programme to an end.

Though it developed a range of different nuclear forces during the Cold War, the UK now deploys only one system, using UK warheads on US Trident missiles carried on four Vanguard-class nuclear submarines.  After an in-principle decision by Parliament in 2007 to procure 4 new submarines and renew the Trident-based nuclear weapons to 2050 at an estimated cost of £76-100 billion, public opposition to the replacement of Trident has been increasing.  The ‘main gate’ procurement decision has been delayed until 2016, amid growing questions about the purpose and affordability of replacing Trident.  Debates in Scotland over independence are also calling the feasibility of Trident replacement into question, as the UK’s nuclear warheads are stored in Scotland at Coulport, close to the Faslane naval base where the submarines are home-ported.   UK nuclear warheads are designed and manufactured at the Atomic Weapons Establishments (AWE) at Aldermaston and Burghfield, near London.

The UK is a depositary state for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and one of the treaty’s five defined Nuclear Weapon States (NWS).  The UK signed and ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1998.  The UK is a state party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) and a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).  As at January 2012, the UK is a state party to the Mine Ban Treaty and a state party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). The UK signed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in June 2013, and ratified it in April 2014. It is a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It is a member of the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD).   It is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

25 October 2014

The UK is poised to quietly ratify a defence treaty that critics say will see it become more dependent on US expertise for its multi-billion pound Trident nuclear weapons programme, without the agreement being scrutinised by MPs.

Nuclear proliferation experts have expressed concern that...

20 October 2014

The British government has just published amendments updating a treaty that goes to the heart of the UK's special relationship with the US.

They relate to the Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) first signed in 1958, which, according to the government, enables the UK and the US "...

2 October 2014

Britain’s nuclear bomb factories have been reprimanded by two government watchdogs for breaking safety rules on radioactive waste.

AWE, the private consortium that operates Trident nuclear weapons facilities at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire for the Ministry of Defence...

22 April 2013

The Spring 2013 edition of Proliferation in Parliament offers a review of news, debates and developments in the UK Parliament and Government on issues relating to nuclear weapons, disarmament and proliferation.  It is published in mid-April 2013 as parliamentarians return...

15 January 2013

The Winter 2012-2013 edition of Proliferation in Parliament offers a review of news, debates and developments in the UK Parliament and Government on issues relating to nuclear weapons, disarmament and proliferation.  It is published in January 2013 following the Christmas...

11 September 2012

This is the Summer 2012 edition of the Acronym Institute newsletter Proliferation in Parliament.  It offers a review of news, debates and developments in the UK Parliament and Government on issues relating to nuclear weapons, disarmament and...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
16 July 2013

The government's Trident Alternatives Review" (TAR), an edited version of which was made public Tuesday 16 July failed to resolve the fundamental differences between the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition partners over nuclear policy.  Undertaken in...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
24 May 2010

Oh dear oh dear oh dear! Today in Main Committee I we were treated to what looked like a semi-coordinated Push Back by the P-5 Nuclear Weapons Addicts.  One by one they took the floor to complain about a number of places where the nuclear weapons possessors were, to quote Russia, being “put...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
20 May 2010

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference President Libran Cabactulan (Philippines) held his 14th plenary late on Wednesday 19th May to “take stock”. The three Committee chairs all reported that negotiations were proceeding on the basis of the draft reports...

20 October 2014

On 16th October, the British government finally published the amendments made to the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) prior to its updating and renewal in the summer of 2014.

The MDA was first adopted by the governments of the UK and the USA to enable...

Dr Rebecca Johnson, Rupert Read
16 September 2014

On Thursday, Scotland will vote. Suddenly Nigel Farage is all over the news saying the English are getting a raw deal and should get a ‘constitutional settlement of their own’.  As former and current Co-Convenors of Compass Greens, it’s unsurprising that we’ve been...

Dr Rebecca Johnson, Jaine Rose
8 August 2014

Rolling out a seven mile knitted pink peace scarf between the Atomic Weapons Establishment complexes at Aldermaston and Burghfield on Nagasaki Day may sound crazy. It isn't as insane as letting the UK government spend another £100 billion on building a new nuclear...

28 October 2014
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps he has taken to ensure compiance with Article 6 of the 1968 Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Mr Tobias Ellwood...

27 October 2014
Mr Philip Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what his policy in the P5+1 talks is on Iran's capability to build a nuclear weapon.


Mr Tobias Ellwood: The UK is committed to ensuring that Iran...

22 October 2014
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the Answer of 22 January 2014, Official Report, column 222W, on the Atomic Weapons Establishment, what the conclusions and recommendations are of the investigation into shortfalls in policing standards and...
Author(s): House of Commons Defence Select Committee
27 March 2014

Read below the Conclusions and Recommendations of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee Enquiry into Deterrence in the twenty-first century, published in March 2014.  The full report is available to view on the House of Commons website.

Introduction...

Author(s): Negotiators for P5+1 & Iran
24 November 2013

Preamble

The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that
would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no
circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any...

Author(s): UK Govt Cabinet Office
16 July 2013

In 2011,the UK Prime Minister & Deputy Prime Minister jointly commissioned the Cabinet Office to conduct a focused review into alternative (nuclear) systems and postures to the UK's current Trident nuclear weapons system. The attached document is the resulting, unclassified version of...

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