The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today described the reported collision of the British Trident nuclear-armed submarine HMS Vanguard and her French equivalent Le Triomphant as “a nuclear nightmare of the highest order”.

The crash, on the night of 3rd/4th February is said to have all but destroyed the sonar dome of the French boat and left visible scrapes and dents on the hull of HMS Vanguard, which carries 16 Trident missiles and up to 48 nuclear warheads – each eight times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. Le Triomphant, also the lead-boat in her class, carries the same number of missiles, though each warhead is even more devastatingly powerful.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “This is a nuclear nightmare of the highest order. The collision of two submarines, both with nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons onboard could have released vast amounts of radiation and scattered scores of nuclear warheads across the seabed. The dents reportedly visible on the British sub show the boats were no more than a couple of seconds away from total catastrophe.”

She continued, “This is the most severe incident involving a nuclear submarine since the sinking of the Kursk in 2000 and the first time since the Cold War that two nuclear-armed subs are known to have collided. These dangers are inherent whilst the British government maintains its 1960s’ policy of having at least one nuclear-weapons submarine sailing round the Atlantic 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. HMS Vanguard is likely to be confined to port for months with a multimillion pound repair bill. Gordon Brown should seize this opportunity to end continuous patrols, building on Barack Obama’s recent moves to downgrade the alert status of US nukes.”