New 25 year Contract
The new 25 year contract was signed between MoD and AWEML on Monday 3rd March 2003. This extension, from 10 to 25 years attracted unwelcome media attention for AWE when local MPs questioned the MoD decision to award a further contract to the BNFL, Lockheed Martin and Serco consortium. AWE rebutted the criticism by stating that, " AWE wanted to make it clear that what happened in parent companies was the responsibility of that company and had no bearing on safety at AWE. Performance at AWE was totally the responsibility of AWE plc".

AWEML Managing Director, Bill Haight said, "This [is] excellent news for the future of AWE as it allow[s] the Company to take proper and strategic time frames to develop AWE for the 21st century".

The contract is intended to open up access to private finance. "Government finance [is] always year to year and therefore did not always match requirements. This would mean that the Site Development Strategy Plan could bring earlier cost savings on infrastructure.

MoD comments on AWE's openness
At the signing of the contract, the Chief of Defence Procurement, Sir Robert Walmsley is reported to have commented on AWE's communications strategy and openness.

Super- Computer
The new supercomputer suite, Blue Oak is now officially open.

High Energy Laser
AWE has now been awarded a contract for the assessment phase for a new high-energy laser facility to support the UK nuclear programme. The laser will use the latest technology to study plasma physics. It may yet be built at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at Harwell, but AWE wants the facility not only for its own use, but to hire out to academic researchers.

Conference Centre
The area intended for the new conference centre at the west end of the site is now being cleared.

AWE Burghfield
MoD has had a rethink about transferring the weapons assembly and disassembly plant at Burghfield to the Aldermaston site, and it is now to remain where it is for the lifetime of Trident, according to Bill Haight. The current position is that Burghfield is to remain open for the lifetime of the AWEML contract, as a minimum. However, this problem seems to return every few years.
Clarification is being sought from AWE as to whether means 10 or 25 years.

AWE Emergency Telephone System
The emergency telephone system is now said to be "technically" operational. AWE report that the delay was due to the need to design, and agree with the vendor, enhancements to the system to make it sufficiently robust and proof against accidental or malicious initiation. It remains for protocols to be agreed with Thames Valley Police before they system can go "live".

Source: Local Liaison Committee Minutes 6th March 2003

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