By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
A report has claimed that secret work is underway to upgrade the current Trident weapons to be more accurate and devastating that ever, while an entirely new system is being developed.
According to the Nuclear Information Service upgrading work in happening at Britain’s nuclear bomb factory.
The report has revealed that at two sites, Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, they believe work has already begun to produce a “Mark 4A” warhead, which is much more powerful than its current capability.
The timetable and costs of the secretive programme has not be told to Parliament, the report says.
Today’s report, published by Nuclear Information Service (NIS), an independent research body, says £85m has already been spent by the AWE on new nuclear warhead design studies.
Peter Burt of the NIS said: “The Mark 4A warhead modification programme will allow Trident nuclear warheads to remain in service until the middle of this century, and plenty of money is being spent to pave the way for developing a new generation warhead which will remain in service for even longer.”
The report acknowledges that AWE is an important national resource in terms of its scientific expertise and equipment, and a big local employer that makes a significant contribution to the local economy. AWE employs around 4,900 people directly and a further 890 contractors.
If the Trident programme was cancelled, the chances of outright closure of the establishment would be “low,” says the report.
The MoD has not discussed the costs of the new overall Trident programme on the as it is classified information. However, CND (Campaign for Nuclear disarmament) has estimated it could cost £205bn. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has always been against the nuclear arms programme, and would probably try and scrap it, if he became the next PM. However, his party is split on the issue with many Labour MPs publically expressing their wishes to continue the programme.
An MoD spokesperson said: “The government is committed to maintaining minimum continuous at-sea deterrence to deter the most extreme threats to the UK and to protect our vital interests; a decision on replacing the warhead will be taken when necessary.”