House of Commons Library

Defence nuclear convoys

Published Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Nuclear convoys transport defence nuclear material, including nuclear warheads and nuclear fuel, around the United Kingdom. This briefing explains what the convoys are and why some MPs are calling for them to be stopped. It is part of a wider Library briefing series on nuclear weapons.

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Nuclear convoys transport defence nuclear material, including nuclear warheads and nuclear fuel, by road, rail and air.

A number of MPs have raised concerns with the Government about the movement of nuclear convoys through their constituencies.

Of particular concern to Members and members of the public is the transportation of nuclear warheads between Scotland and England. These warheads form part of Trident, the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

Members have questioned the Ministry of Defence about the safety of these convoys, risks to the public and the responses to any incidents involving these convoys.

The Ministry of Defence says:

The safety of the general public and the security of nuclear weapons convoys are our first priority at all times. Safety is paramount during the transportation of defence material, and all appropriate measures are taken to ensure that such weapon convoys can operate safely.

The Ministry of Defence is reluctant to give too much information about the transportation of nuclear material, citing national security concerns. However some information is in the public domain and some of the regulations governing their transportation are publicly available. An organisation called Nukewatch tracks and compiles data on convoys for the purposes of raising public awareness about this practice.

MPs debated this topic in Westminster Hall in July 2015 and an Early Day Motion (987) tabled in January 2016 called on the Government to stop nuclear weapon convoys.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7542

Author: Louisa Brooke-Holland

Topics: Arms control, Defence equipment and procurement, Defence policy, Roads

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