NIS Update 15th April 2009, UK Nuclear warhead production down to one a year
A greatly reduced warhead workload at AWE is reported in the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate's 2008 AWE Quarterly Reports1. Nukewatch, the Citizen's Verification group that observes warhead transport confirms that only one new or refurbished warhead was processed and delivered into service in 2008; four were taken apart, according to the evidence.
After two years of requiring AWE to apply for a nuclear license for each live warhead unit processed at their Burghfield warhead assembly plant, only one license for live warhead operations was issued in 2008. The 4th Quarterly report, published this month, shows that no warhead work took place between September and December 2008, leaving the only date in 2008 when a licence was issued for ‘live operations' as 4th April. Four other licenses for ‘specific operations,' thought to refer to warhead disassembly, were issued between April and September. These dates tally with warhead convoys entering and leaving the AWE site.
The NII now suggests that AWE could get back to normal working later this year. However, that does not necessarily mean there will be an increase in activity. In the current ‘disarmament climate' and having established a programme of minimum warhead activity, the MoD could instruct AWE to remain at this low level of operation. Currently, warhead work still remains under ‘flexible permissioning', requiring a license for each operation, as has been the case since 2007.
In 2008, six licenses were issued by the NII for Burghfield1. Per quarter:
1st 1 for live operations within a facility at Burghfield. 4/4/2008
2nd 2 for the agreement of specified operations at Burghfield
3rd 2 for the agreement of specified operations at Burghfield
4th 1 for decommissioning arrangements (buildings not warheads)
"If AWE can operate at two sites with around 5,000 people2 kept busy all day, and yet produce only one warhead and decommission only four in a year, then disarmament is possible without threatening huge changes at AWE.
AWE has a future in Disarmament Verification Techniques, Nuclear Waste Management, Diversification, Ceramic and Materials Research and Development and much more.
Nuclear weapons cannot be used and we can't afford to waste any more time, effort and money on them. AWE needs a new role, a new product and a new name: "Alternatives to Warheads Establishment. "
Di McDonald NIS
2. AWE employs 4,500 staff and over 2,000 contractors2,