AWE Laser Could take on US Warhead Design and Testing

Was a USA Aldermaston planned in 1993? Tri Valley Cares, the anti-nuclear NGO local to Lawrence Livermore Laboratories site in California has been opposing the National Ignition Facility since 1994. Given the lead time for such projects, we can assume that the original design and plans have now been overtaken by new science. Originally priced at million, the 192-beam NIF mega-laser will cost in the region of billion to build. With operating costs factored in over its projected lifetime, it could cost over billion.

The Mutual Defence Agreement between the US and UK governments would be the perfect vehicle to enable the US to carry out its tests in the new 'Orion' facility at Aldermaston. If this turns out to be the case, then any amount of Parliamentary debate on the issue of building a replacement to Trident is pointless. It is hardly likely that US but not UK warheads would be developed at AWE Aldermaston.

The NIF's completion date has slipped from 2002 to 2009, according to the Site Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) for Livermore Lab. Fusion (i.e. thermonuclear) ignition experiments are supposed to begin in 2010, but will likely be further delayed by technical problems. TriValley Cares USA July 2005

Safety Concerns

If the current takeovers of AWEML parent companies goes through, NIS is alarmed that AWE safety will be in the hands of owners thousands of miles away. We need to know what power the Ministry of Defence and regulators will have over company decision-makers, based in the USA.

The Ministry of Defence may say that it has control, but how can Whitehall civil servants or the British government control decisions made in the USA? There is a safety issue as well as a political and financial one. 

Burden sharing is a familiar concept in relation to US-UK nuclear weapons and the close link between the weapons labs has long enabled both governments to reduce their costs of weapons development and maintenance. Was the plan for the US weapons industry to take over AWE management hatched back in 1993 when AWE was first privatised? A new sign will be needed at the gate: USA Aldermaston.


Nuclear disarmament may take longer than hoped by those of us who see no future in nuclear weapons. But prospects for dismarmament could go either way: the more centralized, the more susceptible to chaos and failure on a grand scale. The fact that US and UK opportunity costs will be wasted together is no worse than being wasted separately. But if a British government really wanted to move to a non-nuclear defence policy, it could take the US with it – in the short term at any rate.


BNFL privatisation / AWE contract

Times 4th September 2006,,13129-2341729,00.html

Fluor, the US engineering group that wants to buy Britain’s main nuclear decommissioning business, says it will walk away from the privatisation process if ministers do not restore faith in it. Alan Boeckmann, chairman and chief executive of the Texas-based Fluor Corporation, will visit Britain in the next two weeks to make this point to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL).

Interactive Investor 4th Sept 2006

British Nuclear Fuels Ltd is expected to rebuff a bid of up to 400 mln stg for its nuclear waste clean-up arm British Nuclear Group, according to a report. Yesterday, the Financial Mail on Sunday claimed that support services firm Serco Group PLC is teaming up with Fluor's US rival Bechtel to bid for BNG.

Independent on Sunday 27/08/06

"There is speculation that Serco is close to agreeing a deal to sell seven PFI ventures for around £70m, giving it the cash to bid for a slice of the UK's £70bn nuclear decommissioning programme. It has entered into a joint venture with US construction group Bechtel to explore sector opportunities."

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