The 2021 integrated review: frequently asked questions about nuclear power


The 2021 Integrated Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy Review confirmed the UK’s commitment to maintain a minimum of credible independent nuclear deterrence. But by taking important and essential steps to ensure the continued credibility of our nuclear deterrent in response to the current security environment, the Integrated Review has generated a number of misconceptions about the UK’s approach to it. of nuclear deterrence and our commitment to a long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

1: Is it true that the UK stock cap increase is illegal?

No. The UK’s actions are fully consistent with our international legal obligations, including those under Article VI of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

2: Is it true that the UK would now consider using nuclear weapons in response to cyber attacks and that is why you have increased the cap on your stocks?

No, we are not planning to use our nuclear deterrent to deter cyber attacks. We have the policies and capacities to deal with the wide range of threats we currently face or may face in the future. Our nuclear deterrent is there to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and our way of life, which cannot be done by other means.

3: Is it true that the increase in the cap on warhead stocks in the UK is due to the requirement to purchase a certain number of nuclear warheads (W93) from the US?

No. This sovereign decision was taken to ensure that our deterrent remains credible in light of the international security environment and the actions of potential adversaries.

We do not buy nuclear warheads from the United States. The UK Replacement Warhead program is a British sovereign program and the warhead will be designed, developed and manufactured in the UK. It will be housed in the same aeroshell (the Mk7) as the American W93 warhead, but the requirements, design and manufacture of the warheads are sovereign for each nation.

4: Is it true that the cuts in the army / the cuts in the aid budget / etc. are due to the financing of increased nuclear capacities?

No. There are no direct additional costs associated with changing the cap on our nuclear stocks. It is consolidated in the current costs of the program. All costs will continue to be subject to the government’s financial and program oversight arrangements.

The reform and renewal of our armed forces will support a stronger, more secure, more prosperous and more resilient Union. Future armed forces will be modernized, threat-focused and financially sustainable, ready to tackle the threats of the 21st century and seize the opportunities for global Britain. We are investing over £ 24 billion to reform and renew our armed forces in this era of global and systemic competition, modernizing and integrating our forces across sea, land, air, space and cyberspace like never before before.

5: Is it true that the Integrated Review lowers the UK threshold for nuclear use?

No. We have always stated that we would consider using our nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances of self-defense, including in defense of our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies. We will remain deliberately ambiguous about when, how and on what scale we would consider the use of nuclear weapons. It hasn’t changed from previous reviews.

6: Is it true that the UK has increased its inventory cap by over 40%?

No. The old cap on UK stocks was 225, with a reduction target to 180 by the mid-2020s. Such a reduction would probably only have been possible if the security environment had continued to improve, as we saw when the target was introduced in 2010. The new inventory cap is 260, an increase of 35 or about 15%. This is a cap, not a target and does not constitute the current UK stock.

7: Is it true that the UK is no longer engaged in disarmament / NPT?

No. We remain firmly committed to the full implementation of the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in all its aspects, including nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; there is no credible alternative to nuclear disarmament.

8: Is it true that the increase is due to a new requirement for possession of tactical nuclear weapons?

No. None of our nuclear weapons are designed for tactical use in conflict. Nuclear deterrence exists to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and our way of life, which cannot be deterred by other means.

Since 1992, the UK has relinquished: the Lance nuclear missile and artillery roles we previously performed with US nuclear weapons held under double-key arrangements; our maritime tactical nuclear capability, so that Royal Navy surface ships no longer have the capability to transport or deploy nuclear weapons; and all of our airborne nuclear weapons. Trident is now Britain’s only nuclear weapons system. We are the only nuclear power so far to be ready to take such an important step on the road to nuclear disarmament.

9: Is this change the result of Russian developments in ballistic missile defense?

Ballistic missile defense is just one of the factors we are considering. We conduct an in-depth assessment of the decision-making processes of potential future aggressors as well as their defensive capabilities. We will not comment on the exact elements of our calculations, but it is true that to remain credible, our deterrence must be able to overcome defensive systems that potential adversaries may deploy. We are convinced that this will remain the case.

10: Is it true that increasing the cap on warhead stocks in the UK will lead to a new arms race and / or encourage other states to increase their nuclear arsenals?

Even at the highest possible end of the new cap on warhead stocks (260), we would retain the smallest nuclear arsenal of the five nuclear weapon states recognized by the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (NPT) and have only one delivery system. Changing the stock cap will mean the UK’s deterrent force remains credible. But that will not increase the threat from another state or change the nature of our deterrence. There is nothing in our increase that should cause others to feel the need to react.

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