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).

15 December 2014

Britain’s minority parties today signalled they would prop up a minority Labour government if it agreed to scrap Trident.

The leaders of the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party said axing the nuclear deterrent would be a dealbreaker in any Coalition talks...

8 December 2014

(Reuters) - The United States and Britain took part for the first time on Monday in an international conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and were expected to face pressure to do more to eliminate their atomic arsenals.

The three other officially recognized nuclear...

30 November 2014

The Ministry of Defence has ordered a review into the costs and construction timetable of a highly sensitive manufacturing plant that will enrich uranium for Trident nuclear missiles, amid fears the budget had spiralled out of control.

Project Pegasus, a £634m...

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...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
17 December 2014

Driven by “the imperative of human security for all", Austria pledged at the HINW conference to work to "stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
27 November 2014

Preventable Threats: The humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons: UK risks and challenges

Something new and challenging is shaking up the world of nuclear weapons and proliferation. In March 2013, 128 governments met in Oslo to discuss the humanitarian impacts of these weapons of mass...

19 November 2014

Read about the parliamentary petition ('Early Day Motion') urging the UK to attend the Vienna conference in December, and a debate about the Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) in this summary of parliamentary activity around nuclear weapons.

To use the content links, first click '...

18 December 2014
House of Commons: Written Statement (HCWS162)
Ministry of Defence
Written Statement made by:
Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon)
on
18 Dec 2014.
The United Kingdom’s Future Nuclear Deterrent...
18 December 2014

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he has commissioned research to determine what the UK's obligations in international law are in the event of economic or environmental damage being caused to other countries by...

16 December 2014

Nick Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what potential suppliers to the VANGUARD replacement programme his Department has identified.

Julian Brazier: The key suppliers for the Successor submarine programme are BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce,...

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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