Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nuclear costs explode

Britain’s Trident nuclear submarine fleet used to point its missiles at the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Who they’re pointed out now is anyone’s guess. Probably Iran and North Korea, amongst others. We’re not allowed to know. Nor are we being told the real cost of replacing the existing Trident missile system.

It now appears that the true replacement cost is somewhere near £76,000 million – three times the figures given in most estimates. Liberal Democrats, backed by House of Commons researchers, have made the calculations based on existing information. These new figures take into account the cost of buying the missiles from the United States and maintaining the system over a 30-year period. New Labour has declined to put a figure on the cost.

Both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both back the replacement of the existing system in about 2020. The decision will have to be taken soon, however, and New Labour has signalled that parliament will not get a chance to vote on Trident II. So much for the democratic process then.

Obviously, £76 billion would finance many schools, hospitals, houses and fund urgently-needed infrastructure all over Britain. That’s clearly not going to happen because all the major parties and the military back Britain’s "independent nuclear deterrent", which in fact is utterly dependent on the United States.

New Labour can’t evade accusations of hypocrisy either. While they merrily go about spending taxpayers’ money on weapons of mass destruction, no time is lost in denouncing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. No wonder the Iranian president can hurl accusations of double-standards at Washington and London.

When the Cold War ended, the major Western powers declared that there would be a "peace dividend" and the world was now safer. The only dividends in sight are those that will be paid to missile contractors who will build Trident II, while as for living in a safer world…

Paul Feldman, communications editor

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