March 07 Update

BNFL’s  AWE & DML Devonport shares boosted by Trident renewal vote

On March 19, 2007 The Express On Sunday reported that the Parliamentary Trident renewal vote boosted the value of BNFL’s 33% holding in AWEML. The report states that BNFL withdrew the sale until after MPs approved Trident renewal in order to boost its value. DML expects a similar increase in the price it can get from BAE Systems, the current bidder for the Plymouth dockyard. The article is reprinted in full below:

BNFL is to seek "significantly" more for its GBP100million stake in the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in the wake of last week's controversial decision by the Government to replace the Trident nuclear deterrent. Britain's Trident nuclear warheads are designed, manufactured and decommissioned at the AWE in Aldermaston, Berkshire. The vote in favour of a new GBP20billion Trident deterrent, despite a rebellion of backbench MPs, will extend the life of the AWE for many years, boosting its value. The weapons facility is run on behalf of the Ministry of Defence by a management company that is a consortium divided equally between BNFL, quoted support services firm Serco and America's Lockheed Martin. BNFL's 33 per cent stake was put up for sale late last year as part of the Government's drive to sell its energy assets. But the sale process, being run by NM Rothschild, had been put on hold pending the outcome of the MPs' vote on Trident. It is difficult to value the stake but the AWE contract makes a big contribution to BNFL's business, currently worth about GBP500million. The latest estimates available priced the stake at about GBP100million. Industry sources now expect BNFL, which is gradually being broken up, to hold an industry day in April where the Aldermaston contract will be showcased to potential bidders. Under the terms of the contract, if one owner sells, the other two have first refusal to buy. But Amec, the UK project management and engineering firm, is also interested in buying the stake. Other potential buyers are US firms Bechtel and Fluor, and design firm Jacobs, industry sources say. Only British or US firms are likely to be allowed to bid on security grounds. The work at Aldermaston was once considered so sensitive that the site was omitted from Ordnance Survey maps. The weapons establishment has been designing a new nuclear warhead at the facility in anticipation that the current Trident weapons system – ballistic missiles fitted with warheads and carried by the Vanguard submarines – would be replaced. The Trident decision is likely to boost. the value of Devonport submarine yard near Plymouth, which has been put up for sale by owner DML. The GBP500million yard refits and refuels the UK's nuclear submarine fleet. BAE Systems, Britain's biggest defence company, is preparing to bid for Devonport with or without private equity firm Carlyle Group. It would then combine the base with its submarine-building facility at Barrow, Cumbria.

(Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)

 No Current AWE Planning ApplicationsThere are no outstanding Planning Applications lodged with
West Berkshire Council from AWE since the office blocks were
approved in January this year.



White Tower Re-Application

Application Reference 06/02879/OUTD

This application for Almshouses inside the AWE Counter Measure Zone is expected to go to Committee on 18th April 2007.



Monthly blockades and protests by ‘Block the Builders’ continue at AWE Aldermaston with an Easter protest planned for Tuesday 10th April.

Each month a groups of grannies for peace sit knitting at AWE West Gate surrounded by police under the banner, “We are a Witness to your War Crimes”. A spokeswoman said, “Women knitting while witnessing macabre and sinister happenings were made famous by ‘Les Tricoteuses’, the women who sat by the guillotine knitting while they watched the victims of the French Revolution being beheaded.  The victims of nuclear warfare have been seen in Japan, and any use of nuclear weapons by any state or group anywhere in the world would leave a trail of sickness and death from plutonium poisoning which would particularly target children and babies, not just from the parties in conflict but from anywhere downwind.”


Taking the Government to Court

On March 7th NIS lawyers wrote a ‘letter before action’ to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Treasury Solicitor to alert them that court action would proceed unless they agreed that the government had failed to carry out a promised Consultation on Trident Replacement either before or after the presentation of the Defence White Paper on 4th December 2006. The Treasury Solicitor replied that the government denies any wrong doing, and admits nothing. Papers will now be lodged at the high court asking for a hearing when a judge will decide the merits of the case. In addition, the fact that the proposed replacement is contrary to international law is denied and the government remains confident that its plans comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and international law. In 200 years time, nuclear weapons will be viewed with the abhorrence felt about slavery. As in 1807, the law is the means to redress unacceptable social practices, and this is an opportunity for Britain to take the international lead again – before it is too late”.

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