At the end of November the Ministry of Defence (MoD) submitted a planning application to West Berkshire Council for construction of a Technology Development Centre at AWE Aldermaston. The Centre is being built as part of the UK's contribution to a joint UK – France warhead research programme known as 'Project Teutates'.
The Technology Development Centre will develop radiographic instrumentation for monitoring and analysing the results of hydrodynamics research experiments which will be conducted at a new joint research facility at Valduc in France. The Aldermaston and Valduc facilities are both scheduled to commence operation in 2015.
As is usual for planning applications submitted for AWE sites, information necessary to judge the risks posed by the development will be withheld from the public. A direction issued by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government allows the MoD to submit a limited environmental appraisal document to the local planning authority instead of undertaking a full environmental impact assessment.
The Technology Development Centre will design giant high power flash X-Ray machines for taking high speed photos of changes in materials during experiments which mimic the behaviour warhead components and mock-ups during a nuclear explosion. AWE has developed considerable expertise in such technology, based on Inverted Voltage Adder equipment, over many years of hydrodynamic research using existing facilities at Aldermaston.
The planning application is expected to be determined by West Berkshire Council's Eastern Area Planning Committee in late January / early February 2012. You can have your say by visiting the West Berkshire planning applications website (warning – not easy to use!) or by writing to:
West Berkshire Council
You should quote application reference 11/02557/COMIND in your letter.
The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has submitted a new planning application to West Berkshire Council for a warhead components manufacturing facility at AWE Burghfield. The planned conventional manufacturing rationalisation facility (CMR facility) will play a key role in the future of the UK's nuclear weapons programme. Please write to West Berkshire Council with your views on this application.
NAG has submitted an objection to the 'Project Hydrus' planning application at the Atomic Weapons Establishment. The application is expected to be determined by West Berkshire Council on 29th September 2010.
Ministry of Defence proposals to build a new Enriched Uranium Facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston could pose potential hazards to the public from a radioactive fire or a critical release of radiation – but NAG considers that not enough information about the development has been provided to enable these risks to be properly evaluated.
The absence of an Environmental Impact Assessment still after all this time has to be a matter of great concern. The 1998 Strategic Defence Review, in its environmental appraisal, stated “Where a number of the SDR activities are not considered to have a significant environmental impact in their own right, but are proposed for the same site, there is the potential for cumulative effects to occur. This situation might arise at the following locations where more detailed studies are recommended”. Aldermaston is one of the locations listed.
This is not simply a local issue – it represents the establishment of a new facility designed to do much more than replace the existing laser, enabling further generations of nuclear warheads to be tested, before such an outcome has been debated in Parliament.