As opposition grows to spending billions of pounds to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, Siân Ruddick looks at the plan’s cost
The government wants to replace the Trident nuclear missiles system before the current one expires, sometime in the five years after 2025.
It wants new submarines, new warheads and new missiles. Many of the current weapons are stationed in Scotland.
The Scottish National Party’s official policy is to get Trident out of Scotland. But it is being pulled by arguments that the removal of nukes from Scotland would cost millions in loss of jobs and investment.
The costs of renewing Trident are astonishing. While the government has demanded enormous cuts to hospitals and benefits, it has still managed to find £25 billion just to build replacement submarines. The new warheads will be £2.6 billion each.
On top of that, running it will cost at least £2 billion every year. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) says that on this basis costs could run into £100 billion.
Even the smallest nuclear exchange would kill hundreds of thousands of people.
In Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986 a nuclear reactor exploded and most of the rescue workers died of radiation poisening. Since then there has been a marked increase in diseases in Ukraine such as thyroid cancer in children. In areas across Europe contaminated by the radiation there was an increase in stillbirths and miscarriages.
There are some 20,000 nuclear warheads currently in the world. Most of them are individually more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb which killed 140,000 people in 1945.
Nuclear weapons are not only deadly they are also enormously wasteful. Some people, including some trade unionists, argue that the building and maintenance of nuclear weapons creates jobs in Britain.
But the skills of people working in the nuclear industry could be used to develop sustainable energy sources.
The huge sums of money could also be spent creating jobs that are actually useful such as building houses, schools and more public transport.
CND point out that the £3.1 billion currently spent on Trident every year would pay for approximately 31,000 houses.
This could create employment directly in the construction sector and through its supply chain for 62,000 people in a single year.
There is a debate inside the coalition about whether “like for like” Trident replacement is financially realistic in austerity Britain.
Lib Dem Danny Alexander said last month, “I anticipate the review will set out a clear, credible, compelling, set of arguments for alternatives”. But this is far from likely.
Big business is already rubbing its hands together for the subcontracting of very luctrative sections of the project.
The ruling class wants to see its deadly weapons system renewed—whatever the potential cost.