£1bn contract for UK nuclear submarines to be announced


Philip Hammond on the BBC's Sunday Politics

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A £1bn contract for reactors for the next generation of the UK's nuclear-armed submarines is to be announced.

The deal is part of plans to replace the Vanguard fleet, which carries the Trident nuclear deterrent.

The work will be carried out at the Rolls-Royce factory at Raynesway, Derby, securing 300 jobs.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the government was "committed to maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent".

But he said the final decision on replacing Trident would not be made until 2016.

Cause strains

The Ministry of Defence has already set aside £3bn to begin work on the new submarines to replace the Royal Navy's four Vanguard class boats.

The additional money will go towards refurbishing the Rolls-Royce facility and developing the reactors.

It will fund two reactors, one for the seventh Astute Class attack submarine and one for the first of the new nuclear deterrent submarines.

The Conservatives want to replace the UK's existing Trident submarines by 2028 but the Lib Dems are against a direct swap.

Nick Harvey, a Lib Dem defence minister in the coalition, has been looking at the possibility of cheaper alternatives.

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said the decision to push ahead with the project was likely to cause strains in the coalition.

Start Quote

The decision on whether to build them won't be taken until 2016 - what we're doing now is ordering the things we have to order now to give us that option”

End Quote Philip Hammond Defence Secretary

The final decision on replacing Trident will not be taken until after the next general election, although billions of pounds will already have been spent on its successor by then.

Last month, the MoD awarded £350m of contracts for the next generation of submarines to BAE Systems, Babcock and Rolls-Royce.

'Sovereign capability'

Mr Hammond will make the latest announcement on Monday.

In an interview on the BBC's Sunday Politics show, he said: "What we're going to be announcing is a commitment to the major refurbishment of the plant at Rolls Royce in Derby which builds these core reactors, not just for the nuclear deterrent submarines but also for our attack submarines, the Astute Class submarines.

"This is sustaining a sovereign capability in the UK and some very high-end technical skills in the UK for the next 40 or 50 years.

"The government's policy is very clear - we're committed to maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent and we're placing orders now... for the long-lead items that will be necessary to deliver a successor to the Vanguard Class submarines in the late 2020s.

"But the decision on whether to build them won't be taken until 2016 - what we're doing now is ordering the things we have to order now to give us that option."

Sir Menzies Campbell, former Lib Dem leader, described the plans as "sensible".

'An obscenity'

He told the BBC: "The position of the Liberal Democrats before the last general election was that the cost of a like-for-like replacement of Trident was so great that it was necessary to examine alternatives...

"That [review] is not affected by this announcement and even if there was no Trident submarine programme we would still have had to upgrade these facilities [at Derby] in order to ensure that the reactor cores for the Astute Class... were being properly constructed and in a safe environment."

Britain's nuclear weapons system is made up of four submarines, based at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, which can deploy Trident ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads.

In March, Scottish National Party conference delegates passed a motion committing the party to the removal of the nuclear weapons system under an independent Scotland.

When asked about potential job losses if a Trident replacement project did not go ahead, Bruce Crawford, the Scottish government's strategy secretary, told the BBC: "This isn't about jobs it's about the obscenity of spending £100bn on a weapons system that's no longer required, that's not an economic proposition and is morally unjustified."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    The existence of nuclear weapons is an utter tragedy and, as long as the UK is maintaining & renewing them, we are in no position to lecture anyone else. Also, given the current financial crisis, spending this money on this is obscene. £1bn for 300 jobs works out at £3.3 million per job. That money could be more effectively spent on infrastructure projects than for a system we will never use!

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Great, quality engineering jobs for the British worker. This work will support a lot of families for several years.
    Paying for families on the dole, the costs associated with social care and repossessions is wasted money
    What we need now is power stations, trains,ships and infrastructure projects to be built by British workers. Hope and apprentiships for the young of this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Maintaining a centre of excellence in reactor manufacture makes sense... even if we are lucky enough not to need nuclear-powered submarines, the skills will come in handy when the powers-that-be wake up and realise that we need nuclear power generation capability!

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    However much we might despise the existence of nuclear weapons, we have to ensure our national security. The world is a very unstable place right now, history has taught us that economic collapse leads to war. The power of the US is transferring to China and Russia, both of whom support nations like Iran, Syria and N.Korea. When the real economic collapse hits, we need defence, just in case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Good the contract goes to a UK company. Hope all the work remains in the UK and is not contracted out abroad.


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