Britain's future generation independent nuclear deterrent is to be the American Trident II missile carried by a brand new fleet of British-built nuclear submarines.
Months of internal government wrangling were brought to an end in a Cabinet meeting at which Defense Secretary John Nott got full backing for the switch to the Trident system.
But the announcement immediately provoked the main opposition parties to condemn the idea of spending between (STR)7 billion and (STR)9 billion ($12 billion and $16 billion) on a nuclear deterrent for the 1990s and beyond.
The trouble-wracked Labour Party has come to agree that when the present Polaris fleet ends its useful life, Britain should abandon nuclear deterrence.
The smaller Liberal and Social Democratic parties are also opposed to the choice of Trident II, largely on grounds of cost.
But Mr. Nott is convinced that the country needs a deterrent force and that the Trident missile, with a range of 6,000 miles, is the government's best option.
Political analysts point out that the start-up time for the project is after the latest possible date for Britain's next general election. In other words, a future government would have the theoretical option of cancelling the entire project before serious work on it begins.