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US takes over Aldermaston

and plans a new bomb assembly factory and plans a new bomb assembly factory

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On Friday 19 December, the day after the House of Commons closed for Christmas, it was announced that US companies now control two thirds of AWE Management Ltd, the company that runs the Atomic Weapons Establishment. One third of the company had been in the hands of Government-controlled BNFL. However this share has just been sold to the US company Jacobs Engineering.

On Friday 19 December, the day after the House of Commons closed for Christmas, it was announced that US companies now control two thirds of AWE Management Ltd, the company that runs the Atomic Weapons Establishment. One third of the company had been in the hands of Government-controlled BNFL. However this share has just been sold to the US company Jacobs Engineering.  The second share is already held by the US military giant Lockheed Martin. Only the remaining third, owned by Serco, is still in British hands. This change of ownership highlights the absurdity of the claim that Britain has an “independent nuclear deterrent”. A recent visitor to Aldermaston was welcomed by Don Cook, the manager of AWE. He was shocked to find that the man running Britain’s bomb factory has an American accent. Don Cook is a US citizen. His previous job was at Sandia Laboratory, a US nuclear weapons facility which is also run by Lockheed Martin. Much of the design work for the current upgrade of the UK Trident warhead is being carried out at Sandia. Nuclear scientists in Britain and America have been working closely together for decades. The British Trident warhead includes several components which are bought of the shelf from the States. There are transatlantic exchanges that cover not only these components but also design information, nuclear targeting and nuclear policy. The other development that emerged just before Christmas was the proposal for a new factory to assembly nuclear weapons at Burghfi eld, near Aldermaston. The planning application was submitted to West Berkshire Council on 17 December with an initial deadline for public submissions of 8 January. This shows the MoD’s blatant contempt for the process of public consultation. Fortunately the Planning Department, having already received over 200 objections, has extended the deadline to 30 January.

 

The new bomb factory goes by the name Project MENSA. It will take over 6 years to build and commission and is scheduled to enter service in 2016. The assembly of nuclear weapons is the most hazardous process carried out at any industrial site in the UK.  he new bomb factory goes by the name Project MENSA. It will take over 6 years to build and commission and is scheduled to enter service in 2016. The assembly of nuclear weapons is the most hazardous process carried out at any industrial site in the UK.  It involves surrounding a hollow sphere of plutonium with high explosive to form the primary (fission) stage. The primary is then joined to the secondary (fusion) stage and the two combined inside a metal case. Each warhead contains thousands of components. Many of these are radioactive, explosive and/or toxic. The Main Process Building of Project MENSA would measure 110 m by 130 m and will be 12.5 m high. The facility would be surrounded by a series of high masts and cables, to try to counter the effects of a lighting strike which could trigger a nuclear explosion. It is unlikely that the facility can provide any real protection against the greatest risk – that of a terrorist deliberately flying a large aircraft into the building. Project MENSA will have an indoor loading-bay where the new warheads would be loaded onto trucks for their long journey up to Scotland. Project MENSA is designed to have
the same production capability as the current assembly plant, also in Burghfield. This old facility has in the past produced nuclear warheads at a rate of 30-40 per year. Project MENSA is a key part of the Government’s plan to build many more new nuclear weapons, all of which they would like to put on the Clyde.

 

Objections to Project MENSA can be sent by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by post to Planning Department, West Berkshire Council, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD. Refer to Application 08/12287/ COMIND and ask for a full public inquiry into the proposal. The formal deadline is 30 January but the department should accept late
submissions. The planning hearing is likely to be in April. Please also raise both Project MENSA and the US ownership of AWE with yourMP. There is further information on:


www.banthebomb.org.Objections

 

John Ainslie