UK: Secret plan for N-bomb factory

2002-10-28

Richard Moore

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Delivered-To: •••@••.•••
Date: Sun, 27 Oct 2002 15:46:20 -0800
From: "Butler Crittenden, Ph.D." <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Fw: Secret plan for N-bomb factory
To: Adam Heilbrun <•••@••.•••>

Another example of how "terrorism" is being used
for all sorts of nefarious purposes. Butler
 
http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,738352,00.html
 
Secret plan for N-bomb factory

Berkshire plant will build weapons for use on
terrorists, say experts

Mark Townsend
Sunday June 16, 2002
The Observer

A massive nuclear bomb-making factory is being planned
for Aldermaston, raising concern that Britain is
heading towards a new era of atomic weapon production.

The plant will be able to test, design and build a new
generation of nuclear bombs. Arms experts believe it
will focus on smaller atomic warheads for use against
terrorist groups and rogue states.

Details to be submitted to West Berkshire planning
authorities in the next 10 days reveal plans for one of
the most state-of-the-art nuclear weapons plants in
Europe.

Described by environmentalists as one of the most
momentous decisions of Tony Blair's leadership, the
plant will cost hundreds of millions of pounds, despite
being officially approved without parliamentary debate,
sparking fury among MPs.

Analysts warn that it appears to be a blatant breach of
Britain's obligations under the nuclear
non-proliferation treaty. William Peden, nuclear
disarmament expert at Greenpeace, said: 'We are talking
a massive nuclear bomb-making factory.'

The plans - the existence of which were confirmed by
the Atomic Weapons Establishment - will involve closure
of the 270-acre Burghfield site, where Britain's atomic
warheads have been produced for almost 50 years. It
will be replaced by a futuristic complex capable of
designing atomic weapons as well as storing existing
Trident warheads at AWE's 700-acre headquarters.

Details of the proposals were discovered in AWE's
annual report, which refers to plans to 'transfer all
operations' from Burghfield to the Aldermaston site.

It also reveals proposals for a hydrodynamics research
facility to help design and develop nuclear weapons, a
£15 million supercomputer to simulate the effects of
atomic devices and a factory producing tritium, a
substance used to maximise the effects of a nuclear
explosion.

An AWE spokesman said they had to 'maintain the
capability to design a successor' to Trident, although
the Government had not asked it to start work on one.

Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford
University, said: 'But, at the very least, they want to
build the infrastructure to create a new generation of
weapons.

'It is clear that the Government is committing itself
to a long-term nuclear future after Trident. This
suggests a nuclear-free world more in theory than in
practice.'

Menzies Campbell , Liberal Democrat foreign affairs
spokesman, said Government policy remained unclear.

'There has never been a serious parliamentary debate
about a Trident replacement or what form it should
take,' he added. 'But before embarking on expenditure
of this size on an issue of such political controversy,
at the very least Parliament ought to be con sulted. I
even suspect that the Cabinet may not have been
involved in the decision. There are also legitimate
concerns about facilities like this after 11
September.'

The planning application will be submitted by the
Ministry of Defence on behalf of AWE, which is
responsible for running Britain's nuclear weapons'
sites.

The proposals must abide by normal planning procedures
because crown immunity was removed after AWE - in
effect, private contractors - took control of the
running of Aldermaston in 1993. Planning officers do
not have the power to reject the plans but, in the
event of strong objection, can demand that Environment
Minister Michael Meacher examines them.

Labour MP Martin Salter - who claims that his Reading
West constituency lies downwind of Aldermaston - said:
'I am appalled that plans have been drawn up to extend
the nuclear weapons plant at Aldermaston without
reference to local communities, or indeed Parliament.'

Tomorrow he will table a series of parliamentary
questions about the Government's long-term nuclear
policies.

The revelation arrives amid allegations that the UK is
keen to pursue the Bush administration's lead in
wanting to develop a range of tactical nuclear devices
that can be used pre-emptively against terrorist groups
or rogue states.

America's recent Nuclear Posture Review Report details
the need for an 'offensive' nuclear deterrent and a
revitalised nuclear weapons complex with massive
investment in facilities in order to modernise its
weapons production capability.

Experts point to a series of statements from Defence
Secretary Geoff Hoon in which he insists Britain has a
right to use nuclear devices - pre-emptively if
necessary - against states that are not nuclear powers.

Rebecca Johnson, exceutive editor of Disarmament
Diplomacy, a leading independent journal in arms
control, warned that US and UK policy was becoming
increasingly 'hand in glove'.

Ian Davis, director of the British American Security
Information Council, an indpendent think-tank, said
there was mounting evidence of increased co-operation
between Britain and the US on nuclear policy. Inquiries
had found Labour becoming increasingly secretive over
nuclear policy and demanded 'greater parliamentary
scrutiny' over future decisions.

Investigations by The Observer confirm increased
activity between US and UK weapons officials.
Parliamentary answers from defence ministers reveal the
number of UK defence personnel visiting the US has
grown substantially.

Visits to the Nevada nuclear test site have risen from
nine in 1999 to 40 last year with a further 182
meetings between both countries. There are now 16 joint
working groups on weaponry issues, including nuclear
warhead physics, nuclear counter-terrorism technology
and nuclear weapon code development.

Peden said that the planned development mirrored the
secrecy surrounding the replacement of Polaris with
Trident in the late 1970s.New facilities were then also
sited at Aldermaston, but construction was hampered by
delays and escalating costs, which eventually soared to
£1.5 billion. There has still been no official
acknowledgment on the type of warhead Trident carries.

An AWE spokesman said the current proposals depend on a
number of factors such as the results of a feasibility
study. They also have to be approved by regulators
including the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate. If
approved, construction of the new plant would be
included within the current £2.3bn 10-year contract.

He added that leaflets detailing the proposals would be
released to the public in two weeks' time.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002
-- 

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