Never mind Brexit. UK must fling more £billions at nuke subs, say MPs

New boats, decommissioning old ones, skills shortage...


The Ministry of Defence has too many bigshots and not enough grunts – or cash – to reliably keep Britain’s nuclear deterrent hiding beneath the ocean waves, according to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

“At a time when, across the Enterprise, major organisational and governance changes have still to take full effect, the Department needs to bridge a £2.9bn affordability gap, ensure it fills identified skills gaps, sustain its supply chain, and make important decisions on significant, high–profile projects,” warned the PAC, which scrutinises government spending.

While the Dreadnought nuclear missile submarine project is under way, the idea being to build four new boats to replace the ageing Vanguard class submarines currently in service, the PAC warned that “the [MoD] has not met many previous promises and past [submarine] programmes have slipped,” citing the other big British submarine project, the Astute programme, to build seven new attack boats. This is running slightly more than two years late and several million pounds over budget.

Skills shortages, including problems with “attracting and retaining the range of skills they need” has also continued to dog the MoD’s submarine doings, with the PAC saying this is a wider national problem that also affects the civilian nuclear industry.

Also lurking in the background is the small problem of every single previous British nuclear submarine still needing to be safely scrapped. All of them are moored in British naval dockyards, with the MoD having constantly kicked the issue into the long grass in the hope nobody would tell it to foot the hideously expensive bill for dismantling the boats and their nuclear reactors.

This is now a problem because the MoD “does not have enough berthing space at HM Naval Base Devonport to maintain and defuel submarines”, the PAC said.

Over the next ten years some £51bn will be spent on Britain’s nuclear deterrent, according to the PAC, of which £13bn will go on the actual missiles and warheads. £23bn of the sum is being spent on the submarines to carry the deterrent.

While the committee was grudgingly positive about the state of the “nuclear enterprise” (the term for the whole project, from submarines at sea through to companies such as Rolls-Royce, who build the nuclear reactors), it did not identify any safety problems, these being outside its scope.

Lest readers think they can sleep peacefully in their beds, however, it is important to note that the Atomic Weapons Establishment stores at least some of its data on the public cloud. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Graviton 3: AWS attempts to gain silicon advantage with latest custom hardware

    Key to faster, more predictable cloud

    RE:INVENT AWS had a conviction that "modern processors were not well optimized for modern workloads," the cloud corp's senior veep of Infrastructure, Peter DeSantis, claimed at its latest annual Re:invent gathering in Las Vegas.

    DeSantis was speaking last week about AWS's Graviton 3 Arm-based processor, providing a bit more meat around the bones, so to speak – and in his comment the word "modern" is doing a lot of work.

    The computing landscape looks different from the perspective of a hyperscale cloud provider; what counts is not flexibility but intensive optimization and predictable performance.

    Continue reading
  • The Omicron dilemma: Google goes first on delaying office work

    Hurrah, employees can continue to work from home and take calls in pyjamas

    Googlers can continue working from home and will no longer be required to return to campuses on 10 January 2022 as previously expected.

    The decision marks another delay in getting more employees back to their desks. For Big Tech companies, setting a firm return date during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a nightmare. All attempts were pushed back so far due to rising numbers of cases or new variants of the respiratory disease spreading around the world, such as the new Omicron strain.

    Google's VP of global security, Chris Rackow, broke the news to staff in a company-wide email, first reported by CNBC. He said Google would wait until the New Year to figure out when campuses in the US can safely reopen for a mandatory return.

    Continue reading
  • This House believes: A unified, agnostic software environment can be achieved

    How long will we keep reinventing software wheels?

    Register Debate Welcome to the latest Register Debate in which writers discuss technology topics, and you the reader choose the winning argument. The format is simple: we propose a motion, the arguments for the motion will run this Monday and Wednesday, and the arguments against on Tuesday and Thursday. During the week you can cast your vote on which side you support using the poll embedded below, choosing whether you're in favour or against the motion. The final score will be announced on Friday, revealing whether the for or against argument was most popular.

    This week's motion is: A unified, agnostic software environment can be achieved. We debate the question: can the industry ever have a truly open, unified, agnostic software environment in HPC and AI that can span multiple kinds of compute engines?

    Our first contributor arguing FOR the motion is Nicole Hemsoth, co-editor of The Next Platform.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021