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UK’s nuclear weapons programmes $1.67 billion over budget 

Three British nuclear programs are $1.67 billion over budget By: Andrew Chuter LONDON — Critical programs aimed at updating Britain’s nuclear weapons infrastructure have been hit by long delays and huge cost increases, according to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.

Poor management on three nuclear projects involving warhead assembly, core reactor production and submarine building have resulted in combined cost increases of £1.35 billion (U.S. $1.67 billion) as well as delays of between 1.7 and 6.3 years, the committee revealed in a report scheduled for release May 12.

The cost overruns were caused in large part by avoidable mistakes, such as beginning construction work without mature designs, said the committee.

The cost increases and delays cited in the report could be the tip of the iceberg in the nuclear sector. The three programs investigated by the committee represent about a quarter, by initial value, of the 52 nuclear infrastructure programs that the Ministry of Defence is pursuing. A report on nuclear infrastructure late last year by the government’s financial watchdog, the National Audit Office, said the initial value of all the projects was almost £5 billion.

The parliamentary committee said the MoD admitted that costs on the three projects “could keep rising, as its poor contract design has left the taxpayer to assume financial risk, while doing little to incentivize contractors to improve their performance.

The report said the MoD has poorly managed the three programs, failed to learn from past mistakes and agreed to poorly designed contracts with the major companies that have a stranglehold on Britain’s defense nuclear sector. The contracts did not allow the ministry to share the financial risk with contractors, which meant the government bore the full impact of cost increases, including those of subcontractors.

“To utterly fail to learn from mistakes over decades, to spectacularly repeat the same mistakes at huge cost to the taxpayer — and at huge cost to confidence in our defense capabilities — is completely unacceptable,” said Member of Parliament Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee.

“We see too often these same mistakes repeated,” she added. “The department [MoD] knows it can’t go on like this. It knows it must change and operate differently. The test now is to see how it will do that, and soon.”

May 14, 2020 - Posted by | UK, weapons and war

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