An update on my post from last week, Universities Superannuation Scheme and the Nuclear Weapons Industry.  From the Huffington Post today:

A £350 million contract to upgrade one of the Royal Navy’s nuclear missile submarines, safeguarding up to 2,000 jobs over the next three years, will be announced by the Defence Secretary today. 

Philip Hammond will unveil the deal with defence firm Babcock to refit and refuel HMS Vengeance during a visit to Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, where the work will be carried out. 

The MoD said the work on the Vanguard Class submarine will secure more than 1,000 jobs at Babcock, a further 300 at other firms in Plymouth and another 700 jobs in the industrial supply chain across the UK. 

Nuclear Submarine HMS Vengeance To Receive £350m Upgrade

Of course the positive news of the stabilised job prospects for employees at Babcock and further up the supply chain take precedence in Huffington’s reporting of the story.   However, this story also highlights how Babcock International is directly at the heart of the nuclear weapons industry and, as result, how problematic and morally-questionable USS investments with the company are.

As well as the unfortunate investment by USS within this company and the wider industry, this story has some significance for wider British FP concerns.  Take into account the recent accusation from the Argentinian government that the  UK has positioned a nuclear sub near the Falklands, of the Vanguard Class that Babcock is refitting.  Although this was not confirmed by the UK, the fact that the accusation was raised in a diplomatic row illuminates how nuclear weapons and their delivery systems are frowned upon by the majority of the international community who do not hold these weapons and are seen as a weapon to bully non-nuclear powers into compliance with ‘Great Power’ strategy and policy. 

The UK, through its signing to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) back in 1970agreed to Article VI of the treaty which states:

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Non-Proliferation Treaty

The NPT is not an optional or symbolic treaty.  It is , in theroy, legally binding meaning that the UK along with the 4 other ‘offical’ nuclear power signees, USA, China, Russia and France are leagally bound to fulfill all articles of the treaty. However the interpretation of Article VI, apparently, is up for debate.  

At a UN debate on disarmament and non-proliferation back in April 2010 Deputy Permanent Representative Mona Juul for Norway put it best,

Among the three pillars of the treaty – pillars of equal importance: i) non-proliferation, ii) disarmament and iii), the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy- , I think it is fair to say that for too long, the disarmament pillar of the Treaty was neglected.

To succeed we must respect the comprehensiveness of the NPT agenda. We must accept the fact that the three pillars have equal weight that respect for one depends on respect for the other. Or to put it this way – the failure of the nuclear states to disarm directly impedes our collective ability to win respect for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

The sooner the UK fulfils this international commitment, in the whole, the better, for both our image as a partner for peace and pragmatism within the world community, and in encouraging other nuclear weapons powers to follow the same route to full disarmament.

By Jonathan Woodrow Martin 





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