New research on climate change impacts on nuclear security

British Pugwash is pleased to release newly commissioned research about the potential impacts of climate change on the UK’s nuclear weapons infrastructure.

The report, by Dr Sally Brown from Bournemouth University, is titled ‘Risks of sea-level rise to ports and associated facilities aligning with the Trident programme: A focus on Coulport, Faslane, Barrow-in-Furness and Devonport’.

It considers how these four coastal sites, essential to the replacement and delivery of the Trident nuclear-armed submarine system, might be challenged by sea-level rise and flooding. It also looks at opportunities to reduce flood risk through adaption, such as the raising of docks.

Read the report

Commenting on the report, Dr Brown said:

Rising sea-levels are a growing concern around the UK. Ensuring protection of high-risk sites is very important with sea-level rise, with the highest standards of safety recommended. These standards need to evolve with time, as conditions change, especially as many of the Trident sites will be present beyond 2100.”

“What needs to be clearer from the Trident sites is the standards of protection afforded at each site and how these could change over time as sea-levels rise. Where risk levels significantly change, clearer adaptation plans need to be communicated so there is greater trust that the appropriate actions are being undertaken for climate and environmental change.

Responding to the report, British Pugwash Secretary Andrew Gibson said:

“Dr Brown’s paper demonstrates that a combination of natural and man-made defences mean flood risk is currently manageable at the Trident sites. However, we have every reason to believe sea levels will rise over the coming decades, increasing the risks. This has implications for long-term nuclear defence planning, in terms of adaption, regulation and cost.”

“This report is a unique contribution to the literature around the future of the UK’s nuclear weapons system – Trident. It has the potential to stimulate new research initiatives looking at other sites associated with Trident, as well as other types of climate change impacts, such as storm surge and extreme heat.”


About the author:

Dr Sally Brown is a geomorphologist and climate change adaptation scientist working at Bournemouth University. She has over ten years of experience working in the field of climate change and has authored over 70 publications on coastal change and the effects of sea-level rise. In 2018, Dr Brown was lead author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Her staff profile is at:

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