The Trident system has three parts: the missiles, which are American-owned, the 192 warheads, which are British-made and owned, and four British Vanguard-class submarines that carry and fire the missiles. Chris Huhne, if I understand him rightly, thinks there is no convincing case for replacing the Trident system with a system of equal capacity. So the preparatory work now being carried out on a new generation of submarines can be cancelled.
As I understand his views, Chris Huhne does not advocate scrapping Trident now because he is not a unilateralist. However, Trident has a finite life, and he thinks a replacement system of equivalent scale and performance to Trident is unnecessary in relation to the threat, its expense is unjustifiable and it would mean technical dependence on the United States which should be avoided. He thinks that we should decide in 2010 after the next round of disarmament talks between either having no renewed system, or having a minimum deterrent.
I gather it has been suggested that a minimum deterrent would be nearly as expensive as replacing Trident and would have to be land-based but from information I acquired as a member of the Trident Working Group I do not believe these criticisms are sustainable. In the event of failure of the 2010 disarmament talks, even if the UK’s current nuclear weapon stockpile were dismantled the UK could assemble small fission weapons quickly using plutonium from the stockpile of about 70 tonnes at Sellafield, much of which comes from reprocessing fuel from the Magnox reactors in operation since the 1950s. The UK would continue to operate nuclear powered submarines whether or not Trident was replaced so it would only need to purchase a delivery missile from the US or France or alternatively use aircraft.