£109.8bn budget for procuring nuclear weapons

IssueFebruary - March 2024
News by PN staff

Last year, there was a 62 percent jump in planned spending by the defence nuclear organisation (DNO) over the next 10 years on equipment related to British nuclear weapons. That’s according a government national audit office (NAO) report published in December, comparing 10-year spending plans published in 2022 and 2023.

The DNO is responsible for most British nuclear weapons equipment acquisition, including the development of new ‘Dreadnought’ submarines to replace Trident.

Planned DNO spending over the next 10 years is now estimated at £99.5bn, with another £10.3bn in nuclear weapons-related equipment spending planned by other parts of the ministry of defence (MoD).

‘The DNO appear to have been given approval to spend whatever is deemed necessary to avoid delays in the production of the Dreadnought submarine class, as the NAO says it has prioritised delivery to schedule “over immediate cost constraints”,’ commented David Cullen, of the Nuclear Information Service (NIS).

The ministry of defence (MoD) plans its equipment spending around a 10-year budget set by the treasury; the 10-year plan is updated every year.

According to the MoD itself, there is a £16.9bn shortfall in the 10-year plan, compared to the £2.6bn surplus in the previous year’s plan.

If you strip out the MoD’s overoptimistic assumptions about ‘cost savings’ it will achieve and other windfalls, NIS points out that the budget shortfall over 10 years rises to £52.8bn.

According to NIS, ‘huge increases in the forecast cost of the MOD’s nuclear weapon upgrades is the most significant driver of these deficits.’

NIS comments: ‘The gulf in the MOD’s equipment plan finances in general, and nuclear project finances in particular, is emerging despite substantial increases in funding from the Treasury.... The most likely outcome of those choices is that once again conventional military spending will be cut to fund the government’s nuclear ambitions.’