- Atomic Weapons Establishment
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World War IIuse of this facility, see RAF Aldermaston"The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) is responsible for the design, manufacture and support of warheads for the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent. AWE plc is responsible for the day-to-day operations of AWE. AWE plc is owned by BNFL, Lockheed Martin UK and Sercothrough AWE Management Ltd. The company is based close to Aldermaston(although the nearest town is Tadleyin Hampshire), with major facilities at Burghfield.
The Atomic Weapons Establishment is the successor of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE), which was built on the site of a former airfield,
RAF Aldermaston. The airfield was constructed in World War IIand had been used by the Royal Air Forceand the United States Army's Eighth and Ninth Air Forceas a troop carrier (C-47) group base, and was assigned USAAF station No 467.
Other Atomic Weapons Establishment sites could be found at
ROF Burghfield, Burghfieldand ROF Cardiff, Llanishen, Cardiff, the former Royal Ordnance Factories; Orford Nessand Foulness Island. The ROF Cardiff, Orford Ness and Foulness Island sites are now closed.
The establishment is the final destination for the
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's annual march from Trafalgar Square, London. The first Aldermaston March was conceived by the Direct Action Committeeand took place in 1958. There is currently a monthly women's peace campheld outside the Establishment to protestagainst its existence.
Atomic Weapons Research Establishment
The Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) was established on
1 April 1950, by the Ministry of Supply, at the former RAF Aldermastonairfield. Its first Director was William Penney.
Nuclear and atomic weapons
Changes in "ownership"
In 1954 AWRE was transferred to the newly created
United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority(UKAEA). In 1971, the production activities of UKAEA were transferred to the newly-created British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.(BNFL).
In 1973 AWRE was transferred to the Procurement Executive of the Ministry of Defence. Parts of AWRE's weapons production processes were carried out at two
Royal Ordnance Factories(ROFs): ROF Burghfield and ROF Cardiff. In 1984 these two ROFs were separated from the other ROFs; which were then formed into a government-owned defence company, Royal Ordnance plc and was privatised in 1987. ROF Burghfield and ROF Cardiff remained within the Procurement Executive and came under the control of AWRE.
The formation of AWE
In 1987, AWRE was combined with
ROF Burghfieldand ROF Cardiffto form the AWE. The latter sites being renamed AWE Burghfield and AWE Cardiff.
It remained with the Ministry of Defence, Procurement Executive. However, in 1989, the UK government announced its intention to find a suitable private company to run AWE under a Government Owned/Contractor Operated (GO-CO) arrangement.
AWE is tasked to help the United Kingdom maintain a credible and effective minimum nuclear deterrent:
* To maintain the warheads for the Trident nuclear deterrent safely and reliably in service.
* To maintain a capability to design a new weapon, should it ever be required.
* To complete the dismantling and disposal of redundant warheads replaced by Trident.
* To develop the skills, technologies and techniques that could underpin future arms limitation treaties
1993the government awarded a contract to Hunting-BRAE, a consortium of Hunting Engineering, Brown and Rootand AEA Technology. During Hunting BRAE's management AWE decommissioned the RAFs WE177freefall nuclear bomb. In 1998 the company suffered two prosecutions for safety breaches, one for discharge of tritiuminto a nearby stream [http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/news/articles/awe2.htm] and another for an incident where two workers inhaled plutoniumFact|date=November 2007.
In 1999 Hunting-BRAE lost the contract to AWE Management Ltd, (AWE ML) a consortium of
BNFL, Lockheed Martinand Sercowhich assumed responsibility on 1 April 2000. This does not represent privatisation, the Ministry of Defence still owns all the AWE sites and a Golden Sharein AWE plc. Critics have pointed out that BNFL and Lockheed Martin do not have perfect safety records either. BNFL has suffered embarrassing revelations of falsified quality checks in nuclear fuels and Lockheed has been the subject of scathing reports on the operation of U.S. nuclear facilities. Lockheed's failings include safety concerns at the Y-12 facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, an American weapons plant similar in certain ways to Aldermaston.
A significant programme of investment is taking place over the three year period from 2005 to 2008, of about £350 million per year, to provide assurance that the existing
Trident missilewarhead is reliable and safe throughout its intended in-service life. The new facilities and extra supporting infrastructure are required in the absence of live nuclear testing no longer allowed under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/cm050719/wmstext/50719m03.htm#50719m03.html_sbhd0]
2007 United Kingdom floodsaffected the Burghfield site, resulting in a suspension of live work on nuclear warheads for almost a year. In the previous year, 2006, 1,000 safety shortfalls had already been identified at Burghfield. The Nuclear Installations Inspectoraterequired AWE to improve safety, stating that it was concerned the risk of an accident at Burghfield was not " as low as reasonably practicable". [cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/25/nuclear.defence?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront|title=Trident plant shut down in safety alert|author=Jamie Doward|publisher= The Observer|date=25 May 2008|accessdate-2008-05-25]
AWE cooperates with the U.S.
Los Alamos National Laboratoryin carrying out subcriticalnuclear tests at the Nevada underground test site to obtain scientific data to maintain the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons. Subcriticaltests are not banned by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treatyon nuclear weapons. The most recent test took place in February 2006. [http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200602/s1577409.htm]
The cost of decommissioning AWE facilities when they become redundant, including
nuclear wastedisposal, was estimated at £3.4 billion in 2005. [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/cm060724/text/60724w1879.htm#06072426000088]
1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement
Atomic Energy Research Establishment
The Leaky Establishment
* Arnold, Lorna (2001). "Britain and the H-bomb". Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-94742-8.
* Freeman, Roger A. (1994). "UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now". Old Harlow: After the Battle. ISBN 0-900913-80-0.
* Gowing, Margaret and Arnold, Lorna (1974). "Independence and Deterrence: Britain and Atomic Energy, 1945-1952". Volume 1: "Policy Making". London: The Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-333-15781-8.
* Gowing, Margaret and Arnold, Lorna (1974). "Independence and Deterrence: Britain and Atomic Energy, 1945-1952". Volume 2: "Policy Execution". London: The Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-333-16695-7.
* [http://www.awe.co.uk Official AWE site]
** [http://www.awe.co.uk/aboutus/Our_History_f77a4.aspx History of AWE]
* [http://www.fas.org/news/uk/000414-uk2.htm Plutonium and Aldermaston - An Historical Account] ,
Federation of American Scientists(FAS), 4 September 2001
*AWE Management Ltd. partners
** [http://www.bnfl.com/ BNFL]
** [http://www.lockheedmartin.co.uk Lockheed Martin UK]
** [http://www.serco.com/ Serco]
* [http://www.aldermaston.net/ Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp]
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2081800,00.html Revealed: UK develops secret nuclear warhead] , The Sunday Times, March 12, 2006
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