New Building Progress
Following FULL planning approval by West Berks. Council for the Modular Office Accommodation and IT Service Stations at AWE in June, it appears that preparation site work is now under way. Progress is regularly being monitored and publicised by the Block the Builders (BtB) campaign.
AWE Annual Report 2004/5
The recent 35-page AWE Annual Report 2004/5 brochure contains 11 pages of photographs and 10 pages of Personnel, Safety and Community news. The Orion Laser plan is mentioned briefly, although Managing Director Bill Haight does not include it in his Overview of the Year. The note about Orion comes at the end of a paragraph reporting the 25th anniversary of the HELEN laser still in use as ‘a vital tool in the post-test ban treaty era’:
“During 2004 we worked with the MoD on plans for a new, revolutionary, long and short pulse laser facility called Orion. Its laser will be able to heat targets in 1000th the length of time it takes HELEN while only using four kilojoules of energy. While primarily supporting the nuclear weapons programme, Orion could also be used by the wider academic community”. 1
Technical difficulties in building Orion
A clue to the delay in progress on Orion may lie in the difficulties in building the accurate laser components and configuration within the facility. In July 2003, Barrie Lewis, Manager of the Laser Target Fabrication Section, wrote in AWE’s science journal, Discovery, “ The extreme delicacy of some laser components already rule out any conventional machining operations, even with the most precise of tools, and therefore some considerable efforts are to invest in ‘non-contact’ machine methods using femtosecond pulse laser machine tools. 2
Nuclear Weapons Effects User’s Group
In the Annual Report, Dr. David Glue, Stockpile, Manager at AWE, reports that 2004 was the first year in which AWE hosted the Nuclear Weapons Effects User’s Group. A 70- strong delegation of experts from US weapons laboratories and government departments joined UK personnel for a meeting on modelling and analysis of nuclear weapons effects. The group meets under the 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement covering every aspect of weapon design, development and maintenance. 3
1. Talking Today’s Technology. AWE Annual Report 2004/5 page10. Not on AWE website
2. Discovery. July 2003. http://www.awe.co.uk/Images/Iss7.fabrication_tcm6-2521.pdf
3. Our Core Business. AWE Annual Report 2004/5 page 4. Not on AWE website.