A planning committee meeting on Wednesday is set to approve plans for a new nuclear warhead facility on a flood plain at Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield, near Reading, Berkshire. The proposal has received a record number of objections from the public, drawing the attention of mainstream media.
West Berkshire planning applications online public access states that it will be down for maintenance all weekend, and for part of Monday [see note 1], raising suspicions of foul play. The controversial application for a new nuclear warhead assembly / disassembly facility at a site heavily flooded in July 2007 is due to be approved at the planning committee meeting in Newbury next Wednesday [see note 2 for details.]
Around a thousand objections have been lodged to the application, a record for the council [see note 3 for recent articles]. Objectors have been granted a TOTAL of FIVE MINUTES to voice their concerns before the planning committee.
Despite massive opposition to the plan, the local council looks set to once again roll over in the face of pressure from the Ministry of Defence and corporate nuclear weapons profiteers Serco (UK), Jacobs Engineering (US) and Lockheed Martin (US), who jointly manage AWE on behalf of the British Government and, as recently revealed in The Guardian, the US Government [see note 4], all at UK taxpayers’ expense.
Anti-nuclear campaigners acknowledge the need for a new facility, considering the grave safety concerns regarding the current facility, but say that it should be solely for the purpose of safely disassembling existing warheads and be built at a location not prone to flooding or other serious hazards.
The campaigners are also calling for a full and independent public inquiry into both the current application and the multi-billion pound developments currently underway and planned at the AWE sites at both Burghfield and nearby Aldermaston, which include the Orion laser, Core Punch facility, hydronamics and materials science laboratories, a new supercomputer and the Gemini office complex, designed to house the many hundreds of new staff, including warhead designers, that have been recruited over the past few years, as well as a uranium enrichment plant planned for 2009. The new facilities are designed to allow the development of a new generation of nuclear warheads, already considered to be underway in spite of repeated official denials, in collaboration with the United States and in contravention of the UK and US’s obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Police are said to be fearful that thousands, perhaps even millions of rabid, bloodthirsty rioting hordes of peace and environmental campaigners wielding machetes and rocket propelled grenades will descend upon the council offices and/or the Atomic Weapons Establishment on Wednesday. While the police were not prepared to disclose details of their operations, they are thought to be putting in place an ‘appropriate and proportionate’ response. This will reportedly include the deployment of helicopters, mounted officers and tanks, strip searches and cavity searches of passers-by (especially anyone looking slightly unkempt or aloof), taking DNA samples from anyone coming within ten miles of Newbury, Burghfield or Aldermaston (one can never be too careful), and a fleet of armoured vans packed with officers from the Territorial Support Group sporting black balaclavas and helmets, wearing no shoulder numbers and carrying no warrant badge, ready to baton charge anything that moves, including grandmothers and photographers. The whole operation is expected to cost the taxpayer in the region of eight hundred thousand pounds. [See note 5]
1. On Friday 27 February, the following text appeared on the West Berkshire Council website: http://www.westberks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=15199
“ *** PLEASE NOTE: Public Access for Planning Applications: Due to the need for essential maintenance Public Access will be unavailable over the weekend of 28 February and 1 March and part of Monday 2 March 2009. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. *** ”
2. Details of meeting: Eastern Area Planning Committee, Wednesday, 4th March, 6.30pm.
Council Chamber, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, Berkshire. RG14 5LD
(10 minutes walk from Newbury train station)
3. Recent articles on AWE Burghfield planning application:
Newbury Today - Record objections against nuclear warhead facility – 25 Feb
Get Reading - Flood risk fear over AWE warhead plant – 27 Feb
BBC - Safety concerns over nuclear plan – 25 Feb
BBC - Nuclear plan sees 1,000 responses – 20 Feb
4. US using British atomic weapons factory for its nuclear programme
Matthew Taylor and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 9 Feb 2009
5. No responsibility can be taken for any inaccuracies in this paragraph.
Jacobs Engineering, Lockheed Martin, Serco