A new independent report contends there is a pressing need for well informed U.K. debate over plans for modernizing that nation's nuclear arsenal.
The Nuclear Education Trust report, released on Tuesday, raises several factors related to any decision on whether to procure four new Successor-class ballistic missile submarines, including the cost of modernizing the country's nuclear deterrent and its potential for being involved in a catastrophic mishap or contributing to proliferation, the London Guardian reports.
"Britain's nuclear weapons should be subject to the same cost-effectiveness test and public scrutiny that all public expenditure has to be subjected to," states the report.
Under existing Defense Ministry plans, today's four Vanguard-class submarines -- armed with Trident nuclear-tipped missiles -- are due to be retired in the 2020s. The so-called "like-for-like" plan to replace them with Successor vessels is projected to cost more than $30 billion in developmental, purchase and operating costs.
The Conservative Party -- the senior partner in the U.K. governing coalition -- has said Britain would not make a "final gate" decision on whether to proceed with the like-for-like plan until after the next general elections in 2015.
That has not stopped Conservatives from approving tens of millions of dollars in new submarine-related contracts. The Liberal Democrats -- the junior governing party -- want to see only three new ballistic-missile submarines built, which could result in about $3 billion in plan savings. There also have been signs that the opposition Labor Party could be wavering in its support for the like-for-like plan.
The Nuclear Education Trust -- a nonprofit that promotes education in arms-control matters -- called for including the U.K. nuclear deterrent in the country's next Strategic Defense and Security Review. In producing its own assessment, the trust interviewed a number of onetime armed services chiefs and former defense secretaries.
A separate report by Scientists for Global Responsibility on Monday concluded the British government spends approximately $530 million annually on nuclear arms-related research and development.