In what must be one of the busiest news weeks ever, an important development is taking place at AWE Aldermaston. The MoD is effectively renationalising management of the Atomic Weapons Establishment which runs the Aldermaston bomb factory and related facilities.
AWE management was put out into the private sector in 1993, first run by Hunting-Brae. Then in 1999, a new 25 year contract was awarded to AWE Management Ltd, a joint venture comprising Lockheed Martin, Serco and Jacobs Engineering. Lockheed has a 51% stake and the other two have 24.5% each.
Sky News, which describes that contract as having been a lucrative long-term deal for the private companies, reports that: ‘Last year, AWE Management paid £82m in dividends to its shareholders, despite ongoing controversy over cost overruns associated with facilities upgrade projects.’
AWE Management’s record in running the facilities has been appalling. There have been endless problems including cost overruns, and health and safety failures including fire and injury. Indeed the National Audit Office has been scathing in its criticisms.
The MoD’s statement says that:
‘The change in model will remove the current commercial arrangements, enhancing the MOD’s agility in the future management of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, whilst also delivering on core MOD objectives and value for money to the taxpayer.’
Cutting out commercial profit-making has to be a good step – the idea of making money out of nuclear weapons production is particularly abhorrent. But the reality is that whoever is in charge, these weapons should not be produced, not be deployed and not be used to threaten others. In January they will be outlawed across much of the globe. Let’s bring this law home to Britain too.