2002 STRATEGY PLAN
FOR THE ATOMIC WEAPONS ESTABLISHMENT (AWE) ALDERMASTON
THE NEXT 50 YEARS
Under a heading "The next 50 years", the February issue of AWE Today * explains that "The apprentices school will continue to develop the training it offers to suit the needs of the business and to meet the expectations of a new generation of apprentices. Students on AWE apprenticeships can "finish their studies without debts ". The initiative aims to recruit local undergraduates who will stay at AWE longer than those from elsewhere.
25 Year Contract*
The 25 year contract "will enable AWE to develop its resources to meet the UK's need for nuclear warheads in the absence of nuclear testing." Strategic Imperative 2 of the plan, "Modernise the capability to deliver the UK's requirements for warheads," has earned a £2.4 million MoD contract for an assessment phase for the new high energy laser. This may be sited at AWE or at the Rutherford Appleton Lab. at Harwell. The new accommodation block and Conference Centre building are projected to be finished in 2005.
When referring to the production of explosive detonators for warheads, AWE euphemistically calls the warhead a "nuclear application". Researchers are working on a new generation of detonators using computer models of the way explosives behave in plausible accident scenarios such as impact, fire or nearby explosions.
The Burghfield Site*
Plans to move the warhead assembly plant to the Aldermaston site have been abandoned, although the explosives facility may move after a decision in March.
AWE Emergency Telephone System
For years AWE have been trying to set up an emergency telephone system for local people to be automatically phoned in the event of a nuclear accident at Aldermaston. But nothing happens. AWE say they may have more news in April, but there is no timetable for implementing this publicised facility. Confidence in the ability of AWE to deliver projects it has initiated will not be enhanced by this failure to follow through promises on off-site safety plans.
Future Nuclear Weapons
Given that the current British Defence Secretary, Geof. Hoon continues to refuse to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in Iraq, it follows that the kind of weapon that could be used may be revised. New developments at AWE will provide test research facilities for new weapons such as smaller yield bunker-buster warheads for sea launched cruise missiles. Even if we assume that the army will remain nuclear free, it is not inconceivable that the RAF could return to being a nuclear force in future.
"Mr Hoon has previously warned the Iraqi leader that Britain would use nuclear weapons in the right conditions. The international development secretary, Clare Short, said: "I can't see any scenarios where contemplating the use of nuclear weapons would be of any use whatever." However, Mr Hoon said: "We have always made it clear we would reserve the right to use our nuclear weapons in conditions of extreme national self defence. That remains our position and that is the position that has been set out consistently by government ministers." The Guardian, 3rd February 2003