The UK nuclear military complex is on the front-line of climate breakdown – and not in a good way.
Because all UK nuclear military installations began operation well before global heating was considered in design or construction, near-term climate change risk to nuclear is very great.
This is because climate change will impact nuclear earlier and harder than UK Government, Ministry Of Defence, or regulatory bodies expect, with anymitigation significantly increasing the expense of operation, decommissioning, and on-site radiation waste stockpiles.
So the key questions are: when will climate hit nuclear military infrastructure, and what will the damage be?
Well, the UK Institute of Mechanical Engineers say that UK nuclear coastal installations – together with their spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste stores – are vulnerable to sea-level rise, flooding, storm surge, and ‘nuclear islanding’. Perhaps alarmingly, they point out that these UK coastal nuclear sites could be relocated or even abandoned.
And it’s not just a UK problem. In the United States, the Pentagon reports that 79 military bases will be affected by rising sea-levels and frequent flooding, including 23 nuclear installations, strategic radar stations, nuclear command centres, missile test ranges, and ballistic missile defence sites – seven of which store nuclear weapons onsite.
And this has played out in real-time when the nerve centre of the US nuclear deterrent was submerged by flood water, with recovery of the base to cost over $1 billion.