Faslane: Both the submarines and the bases that maintain them have suffered from a series of glaring safety mishaps. There are four Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines currently in service with the Royal Navy. These 149.5-meter long, nuclear-powered vessels are relatively new—all of them having launched in the 1990s—but are aging fast. Each Vanguard-class submarine can carry up to sixteen Trident II missiles, each one packing twelve independently-targetable nuclear warheads, meaning the nukes split off from the missile and explode in multiple locations. The actual number of deployed missiles and warheads, however, is a closely guarded secret. Her Majesty’s Naval Base, Clyde in Scotland—otherwise known as Faslane—is the main base for the Royal Navy’s Trident subs, and has been exceedingly prone to accidents.
The government has fired a warning shot across the bows of Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, lead industrial partners in the programme to renew Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, amid concerns over their readiness for the £31bn project. The Trident replacement, known as Successor, is the single biggest UK defence programme in the next two decades. It will maintain Britain’s permanent sea-based
strategic nuclear strike capability after the existing submarine fleet carrying the missiles reaches the end of its working life.
The United Nations General Assembly voted in December to set up a working group that will develop “legal measures, legal provisions and norms” for achieving a nuclear weapon-free world. The working group will meet in Geneva in 2016 for up to 15 days. All UN member states are encouraged to participate. In the interests of achieving real progress, the working group will not be bound by strict consensus rules. It will submit a report to the General Assembly next October on its substantive work and agreed recommendations.