Environment campaigners says that Britain's proposals to "rid the world of nuclear weapons" are "severely undermined" by the refusal of its government to ditch controversial plans to spend up to £100 billion on a replacement for Trident weapons.
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven, told The-Latest: "Until the government puts plans to replace Trident on hold, anything they say about ridding the world of nuclear weapons is severely undermined."
He added:"Over 100 military and defence experts, backed by the Obama (American) administration, are calling for a new global programme to eliminate nuclear weapons. But our government seems determined to scupper this major new initiative by replacing Trident and tying Britain into nuclear rearmament for the next forty years."
But foreign secretary David Mliband claims this is not the case. He says: "We need to put very detailed work into practice and I think that the UK can claim to be at the leading edge of this debate (about nuclear disarmament)."
Sauven hit back:"Blowing billions on replacing a cold war relic like Trident is insane. It undermines efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons and totally ignores the fact that the greatest long term security threat we face is climate change. This money could make the UK, and the world, a safer place by tackling these threats. But only if it is invested in real solutions, such as a transition to a low carbon economy as well as more investment in conflict resolution."
Key members of the military establishment are urging the government to review its decision to build a successor system to Trident.
Field Marshall Lord Bramall, a former Chief of Defence Staff, General Lord Ramsbotham, a former Adjutant-General, and General Sir Hugh Beach, former Master General of the Ordinance, said in a letter to The Times printed last month that Trident had become "virtually irrelevant" and "it must be asked in what way, and against whom, our nuclear weapons could be used".
This month General Jack Sheehan, a former Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic for Nato, backed their calls. In a BBC interview he said: "I think the UK is very close to saying we're the first permanent member of the Security Council to do away with nuclear weapons. I think it is entirely possible that the British government, for a lot of good reasons, could do it and it would lead the world."
The Government have stated that they will spend up to £20bn in coming years to build new submarines, nuclear warheads and weapons infrastructure.
However, according to Greenpeace, this £20bn figure does not include the systems' lifetime running costs. Nor does it include the major costs of redeveloping the Aldermaston and Burghfield nuclear weapons establishments or buying new American missiles. If you combine these total purchase and running costs the Trident replacement system will cost in total between £76bn and £100bn.