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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

AWE Aldermaston

Atomic Weapons Establishment [AWE] Aldermaston, Berkshire, is the facility which designs, produces and maintains components for all British nuclear warheads. This main center for warhead research and manufacture is located 10 miles from the town of Newbury, 8 miles from Basingstoke, and 12 miles from the town of Reading. AWE's main site at Aldermaston has been operating since 1952, originally as part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, more recently as government-owned, contractor-operated facility. Aldermaston employs some 5000 people and the facility covers 880 acres.

AWE Aldermaston is one of the United Kingdom's premier research and development laboratories. It is equipped with an array of scientific and manufacturing facilities backed by computer power unrivalled elsewhere in British industry. This substantial facility has been developed over a period approaching fifty years and consists of a variety of buildings and operational services, some of which are of a highly specialised nature. AWE Aldermaston possesses a wide range of leading edge technologies and capabilities. Its capabilities encompass computational physics and modelling, analytical chemistry, health physics, materials research, and systems engineering and much more. These include design, construction and operation of nuclear facilities involving handling of both fissile and non-fissile toxic, specialised materials; waste management; health physics; and decommissioning. High energy systems (including explosives) and very high speed phenomena are modelled and analysed using powerful theoretical and experimental tools. Although AWE's prime purpose will continue to be the support of Britain's nuclear deterrent, its developing profile in non-nuclear activities continues to grow.

  • A45 The old nuclear warhead production.
  • A90 The new nuclear warhead production facility.
  • A91 The liquid waste treatment facility under construction at AWE Aldermaston is now expected to be operational in 1998.

The early stages of Trident production took place in AWE's existing A45 facilities. These could not, however, meet the total Trident requirement in the necessary time scale, and they are in any case nearing the end of their useful life. A major program of capital works taking place at AWE Aldermaston centers on the construction of a new facility for the processing of fissile material and manufacture of fissile components [the A90 building] with associated ancillary and support services. The purpose of these new facilities is to ensure a nuclear warhead production capability into the future, and to maintain the effectiveness of the UK deterrent.

Approximately 2100 cu of low and intermediate level radioactive waste, primarily resulting from the decommissioning of old plant and facilities and which cannot be disposed of at Drigg, will arise at AWE by the end of 2010. This will be stored at AWE in purpose built facilities until the deep waste repository to be developed by Nirex becomes available. Plans for the treatment and storage of intermediate level waste generated at AWE are kept under continuous review. Decisions as to the necessity for further ILW storage at AWE will depend on a number of factors, including the availability of facilities such as the deep waste repository to be developed by Nirex. A scheme to provide a size reduction facility at AWE Aldermaston is underway. Present plans are for it to be operational early in the next century. The cost is still subject to negotiation and is not therefore available. There are no plans to create a new store for treated waste from the sludge solidification system at AWE. Such material can continue to be stored in existing facilities. "Waste Stream 7A21" is a term used by Nirex Ltd. to designate waste contaminated by plutonium or uranium. Nirex Ltd.'s planning for future storage arrangements is proceedings. The sludge solidification system is planned to be completed prior to the radioactive waste effluent treatment plant, building A91, becoming operational in 1998.

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