Significant progress has been made in delivering the major projects programme at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), with three key new facilities on schedule for handover to operational managers next year.
A new high explosives fabrication facility at AWE Aldermaston, a small components precision manufacturing facility at Burghfield, and a hydrodynamics Technology Development Centre at Aldermaston – part of the Anglo-French 'Teutates' project – are all scheduled to complete construction during 2014 and begin commissioning. 'Project Mensa', the new warhead assembly / disassembly facility currently under construction at AWE Burghfield, is also on target for handover to AWE in 2015.
Around one billion pounds each year is being spent on the building programme for new infrastructure at AWE – competing with Crossrail to be the biggest construction programme currently underway in the UK. The building programme, part of the Nuclear Weapons Capability Sustainment Programme, has been under way since 2005 and will continue into the 2020s with the aim of ensuring that the UK retains the capability to develop and manufacture nuclear weapons.
At a recent meeting of AWE's Local Liaison Committee, local council representatives were given an update on progress with the major projects programme underway at Aldermaston and Burghfield.
Project Circinus, the replacement high explosive fabrication facility currently under construction at Aldermaston is 76% complete, according to information given to the Committee, and will be handed over to AWE next year.
The Technology Development Centre which is being built in the northern part of the Aldermaston site as part of the UK's contribution to the UK – France 'Teutates' hydrodynamics research programme is 38% complete and should also be ready for handover next year. Work on the Technology Development Centre is being managed by a joint AWE, Ministry of Defence, and French delivery team, with structural concrete pours for the base slab and shield walls complete and a contract for structural steelwork awarded to Harry Peers Steelwork Ltd.
Elsewhere at Aldermaston work has commenced on Project Pegasus – the £600 million enriched uranium processing facility which will eventually replace the ageing A45 facility. The project is 17% of the way towards handover in 2018, with main civil engineering construction works due to commence in February 2013.
AWE's largest and most expensive building project is currently underway at the Burghfield site, where Project Mensa is under construction – a new warhead assembly and disassembly facility which will cost over £700 million to build. Four plenum frames – frames for warhead assembly chambers which will operate under positive air pressure – have been delivered and installed on construction the site and steelwork and concrete comprising the building structure is currently being built. The project is currently 50% complete and is expected to be handed over to AWE in 2015.
Elsewhere at Burghfield Project Phoenix – a replacement precision manufacturing facility – is taking shape in the north-east corner of the site. Carillion have been appointed as the principal contractor for the project and work on the main building foundations has been completed, with erection of structural steelwork underway. The building is 18% complete and handover is intended to take place next year.
The 'Gemini' project for construction of new office accommodation for staff at Aldermaston has already been completed, along with computer system upgrades, and the 'Orion' nuclear test laser is currently completing commissioning and is scheduled to formally open in the spring of this year.
Over the next 12-15 months AWE intends to undertake decommissioning work at some significant older facilities at the Aldermaston site. This should reduce the hazard posed by the site and lead to lower site operating costs.
Refurbishment work is also underway at the Aldermaston boiler house, which will see external changes and the removal of large chimneys from the building.
Away from AWE's operational sites a cycle path linking Aldermaston Village and Aldermaston Wharf, funded as part of AWE's section 106 developer contribution for the 'Gemini' office accommodation project, was recently opened.