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U.K. Is Modernizing for the Second Nuclear Age

In the 1940s the United Kingdom initially started out alone developing a nuclear weapon. However, the scale and cost of the effort made it necessary to partner with the United States during its Manhattan Project. That partnership remains just as necessary today as the U.K. modernizes its nuclear deterrent.
July 1, 2013
U.K. Is Modernizing for the Second Nuclear Age

The Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class nuclear submarines provide the U.K.'s only nuclear deterrent. The Vanguard-class submarines are nuclear powered and armed with Trident nuclear ballistic missiles. (Photo: United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)

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The U.K.’s collaborations with Los Alamos touch the very core of the U.K.'s nuclear technical capability.

As the U.K.’s stockpile ages, and materials and processes change, the U.K. must examine weapons for signs of degradation, predict the effects of these changes, and be ready to refurbish or remanufacture its stockpile of weapons. Once built, refurbished, or remanufactured—or perhaps, depending on political decisions, eventually redesigned—U.K. warheads must be certified in the absence of under­ground tests.

In addition, the U.K. is in a period of major investment in terms of workforce, facilities, and programs. The workforce has grown from a low of 3,000 to the current 4,500. At the same time, there are major investments in rebuilding facilities to replace much of the U.K.’s 1950s infrastructure.

Whether the U.K. is certifying its nuclear weapons or is growing and modernizing its weapons complex, the U.K. knows that its partnership with the U.S. and with Los Alamos has been and remains pivotal in shaping the U.K.’s deterrent program.

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