Current MoD position on the AWE new Laser
The MoD withdrawn its Notice of Proposed Development in respect of the proposed Laser Research Facility at AWE Aldermaston and has informed West Berkshire District Council (WBDC) that it intends to re-submit it, enclosing additional environmental information. When this is received, WBDC will treat it as a new Notification and the application will be considered in full, in accordance with the procedures detailed in the Department of the Environment Circular 18/84. There will be further opportunity to raise objections at that stage.1 The project name, Orion, coined back in summer 2003 is, now in use.


WBDC Area Planning Committee Full Recommendation

"Impact of the proposed development on the character and appearance of the area

It is acknowledged that given the size of the proposed building, it will have a visual impact, particularly from views into the site from the A340 at Paices Hill. However, when taken in context with the site surroundings and the fact it will be read against the backdrop of the many existing buildings at the AWE site, your Officers consider the visual impact will not be unduly harmful.2


Whilst it may have been preferable to site the building further back into the site on a similar location as the area identified for future additional buildings for the conference centre and office accommodation, it is considered that on balance, the siting proposed under this Notification is considered acceptable. The Head of Planning and Transport Strategy [was] authorised to raise no objections to the Notice of Proposed Development. 2"


WBDC CouncillorsDecision
At the December 17th hearing, Councillors asked questions of the three AWE Applicants after their presentation, members being particularly concerned about the proposed 26m height of the building. AWE replied that this height was needed to enable lasers to reach the sample from all angles and that they did not want to sink the building further below ground. Implicate, was the fact that the building was already sunk as much as possible to enable the10 lasers beams to surround the sample. [There is a high water-table at the site and an existing legacy waste problem with tritium contaminated ground-water.]


Rutherford Appleton Site
Currently AWE is MoDs preferred site and the project that will deliver the construction of the new facility is underway and has been named project Orion. Assuming MoD approval is ultimately given, we all look forward to the commissioning of this new laser which is currently planned for the end of 2007. However, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) is an alternative site. RAL will use their expertise and act as the portal for managing academic access.3


Conference Centre and Accommodation Block
AWE has decided to put a hold on plans to build the new conference centre and accommodation block at Aldermaston. The reason given is a financial one: an unexpected increase in the contribution the Company makes to the pension scheme was a major factor behind the decision. Operations Services Director, David Maitland said, The Company has a small amount of discretionary money in its budget to spend on things that are important to the business, such as site development. It has chosen to use this to finance the increased contribution and that is why the development plans have been put on hold.4


AWE Burghfield
AWE Burghfield is the final assembly area, where the components for Trident warheads are quality and safely checked before being dispatched ready for service. It takes just a few days to process a warhead once it has arrived in the building [in an escorted Special Nuclear Materials Vehicle from Aldermaston], during which time it is subjected to nine separate inspections. When a warhead is returned from service it is disassembled using the same safety inspection procedures to ensure that it has not been affected by being moved or stored.4


The decision not to close the Burghfield site has and a major impact on the development of both sites. The Local Planning Authority is to be briefed prior to notices of intended development being submitted.5


AWE Website
The new AWE website at www.awe.co.uk has had a serious make-over and is now far more technical and therefore less accessible to the lay person. The Strategy Plan that has featured so prominently since July 2002 has disappeared completely, with referenced buried in Local Liaison Committee(LLC) Meeting Minutes. However, the LLC minutes are now up-to date on the web, although not in any understandable order, with the current 35th Meeting report of the last meeting on 4th December 2003 available at http://www.awe.co.uk/Images/35th%20meeting_tcm6-2155.doc




1. Letter from WBDC, 11th Feb 2004

2. Report to Committee by WBDC officers, 17th December 2003

3. AWE Discovery, July 20003

4. AWE Today, December 2003

5. AWE Local Liaison Committee Minutes for 4th September 2003

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