British Nuclear Weapons and the Test Ban : Squaring the Circle of Defence and Arms Control, 1974-82 book cover
1st Edition

British Nuclear Weapons and the Test Ban
Squaring the Circle of Defence and Arms Control, 1974-82

  • Available for pre-order on April 14, 2023. Item will ship after May 5, 2023
ISBN 9781032451633
May 5, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
216 Pages

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Book Description

This book provides an overview of how the UK tried to maintain and modernize its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons during 1974-82, whilst also pursuing a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

The core question addressed in the book is how a test ban treaty would impact on the reliability and safety of the UK’s nuclear weapons and how this would constrain and limit efforts to secure a comprehensive treaty that would prohibit nuclear testing indefinitely. An added complication lay in the fact that a ban treaty could also prevent or limit the UK’s ability to test new warhead designs to replace its existing tactical nuclear weapons and a new strategic successor system to Polaris. How all of this played out between 1974 and 1982, when the UK announced its decision to acquire Trident and the US decided that a test ban treaty was no longer in its security interests, is discussed. A detailed review, based on the available materials in the UK National Archives, also looks at the aims and objectives of UK nuclear tests in Nevada and on the decisions taken on the Chevaline warhead and its Trident replacement. The book also considers whether there was a far greater threat to the UK nuclear programme from shortages of skilled craftsmen and industrial action at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston than from a test ban treaty. It also looks at whether nuclear defence trumped arms control objectives during this period.

This book will be of much interest to students of British politics, nuclear proliferation and Cold War History.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction  2. The 1977-1982 Tripartite Test Ban Treaty Negotiations and Aftermath  3. British Nuclear Tests 1974-1982 and Test Ban Pressures  4. Stockpile Reliability and Safety and the Test Ban: UK concerns  5. Chevaline and Successor Systems – Strategic and Tactical  6. Conclusion: British Nuclear Weapons and the Test Ban 1974-1982  Postscript  Annex: UK Nuclear Tests Nevada Test Site May 1974-June 1986

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John R. Walker is a Senior Associate Fellow, Royal United Services Institute and at the European Leadership Network, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Science and Technology Studies, University College London. He worked in the Arms Control and Disarmament Research Unit, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, from 1985 to 2020, serving as its Head 2014-2020.