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Pandemic causes Britain’s Trident nuclear submarine replacement to be delayed by another year

Trident nuclear submarine replacement delayed by another year
Announcement raises new questions as to whether UK’s current ageing fleet can be relied on, 
Guardian, Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editor. Fri 5 Feb 2021 

Britain’s £31bn replacement for its ageing Trident nuclear submarines has been delayed by another year owing the pandemic, raising fresh questions about whether the UK can rely on the existing fleet.

Official documents released at the end of last year quietly confirmed that the current phase of the Dreadnought programme had been put back to March 2022, although the update was not highlighted and it was only spotted by a pressure group.

An SNP member of the defence select committee has now called for it to hold an inquiry into the Trident replacement programme, complaining about a lack of transparency.

An annual update on nuclear replacement, released to MPs before Christmas, said that “recognising the high levels of uncertainty caused by the pandemic” and its impact on supply chains, “delivery phase 2 will continue until March 2022”.

It did not say that this amounted to a one-year delay to the sprawling programme. This was spotted by David Cullen, of the Nuclear Information Service, who recalled a promise made a year earlier to conclude the work in March 2021.

“Covid is going to be with us for a while, and nobody will be surprised if there are other delays to Dreadnought,” Cullen said, arguing that the relative secrecy suggested “this isn’t the behaviour of a department that is confident it can deliver on its promises”.

The Dreadnought programme, first approved by Labour in 2007, has been repeatedly delayed by governments since. The first submarine was initially due to come into service in 2024, then 2028, and now the “early 2030s”, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) says……….

Britain prefers to shroud its nuclear programme in secrecy, but there have been accidents in the past. In 1998 HMS Vanguard, carrying 96 nuclear warheads and 135 crew, plunged into a deep dive following a power failure between Cornwall and the south of Ireland. The crew only managed to regain control through a backup power system.

In February 2009, Vanguard collided with a French nuclear submarine, Le Triomphant, in a freak accident in the Atlantic. Details were initially hushed up, before it was leaked to a newspaper. Fortunately the accident happened at a relatively low speed. Ministers were told that at the time that nuclear safety had not been compromised.

Martin Docherty-Hughes, an SNP member of the defence select committee, said: “It is simply unacceptable that we need to parse UK government statements for half phrases and words which the MoD could be using to cover its own backside.” He said he would be writing to the chair of the committee to demand an inquiry…… https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/feb/04/trident-nuclear-submarine-replacement-delayed-by-year

February 5, 2021 - Posted by | health, UK, weapons and war

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