The AWE Site Development Strategy Plan describes the aims to "improve the appearance of AWE" and make it "a more attractive place to work". By page five, we read of the proposed hydrodynamics plant, high powered laser (Nuclear Ignition Facility) and materials laboratories for research and development. New-build at Aldermaston has been in the pipeline since 1999, when the MoD was considering a tender from the BNFL, Lockheed Martin & Serco consortium, for a ten-year contract to run the nuclear weapons production plant. Part of the deal was to agree a further 25 year contract, although this extension has still to be signed. Between July and December 2002, the Ministry of Defence was expected to start lodging planning notices with West Berkshire District Council in Newbury, but no notice has yet appeared.

Testing new weapons
The new facilities at AWE will enable research on nuclear weapons to continue without underground testing, banned under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It isn't a question of building new production facilities. The A90 warhead production complex can be used to build and service nuclear warheads for many years ahead, with appropriate re-tooling. The skills and equipment to build small nuclear weapons also exist. But what is not available is the means to test them – hence the long term alternative plans to offer methods of testing a new warhead design.

AWE Management
In June 2002, AWE predicted "a potential gap between Company expenditure and available income" and consequently "devised a new model for running the business".
Speculation about the competence of AWE Management Ltd and its relationship with MoD revolves around finance and delay: Delay in agreeing the 25 year new-build contract, delay in submitting planning notices promised monthly since July and delay in publication of the AWE 2001 Annual Report and Accounts until December 2002. And now we have the following gobbledegook from December's in-house magazine, AWE Today: "Company-level plans will be finalised in January with the Directorate Business Area Accountability Plans up-dated in February. This will allow time for more detailed departmental, team, and individual work plans to be agreed before April 1st 2003 so that we can 'hit the ground running', knowing exactly what the plan is."

The Minister can decide
This is not the first time that a nuclear weapons have become the concern of West Berks. Council in Newbury. In the 1980s, it was the deployment of nuclear cruise missiles at USAF Greenham Common. Local councillors have two options now: either to accept the planning notices from MoD and risk being the focus for national nuclear disarmament protest again, or, to refer the matter up to the Environment Minister who has the power to establish a Public Inquiry.

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