Hundreds of campaigners will this Monday join a non-violent blockade of the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, Berkshire.  Anti-nuclear campaigners will risk arrest as they attempt to prevent work on the site, blocking every gate with Ghandi-style sit-down protests from 7am. Alongside bishops and parliamentarians, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates will join the blockade – Jody Williams, who led the successful campaign to ban land mines, and Mairead Maguire who was recognised for her campaign to end violence in Northern Ireland.

The blockade, organised by Trident Ploughshares and supported by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign), aims to halt the construction of multi-billion pound facilities designed to allow for the development of a new generation of nuclear warheads. Spending on new facilities at AWE has increased seventeen-fold over the past decade, from £24m in 2000 to £420m last year. This is in spite of government denials that any decision has been made to go ahead with new warheads, with Ministers stating decisions will not be made until the next Parliament.

Previous blockades of both the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and the Faslane submarine base near Glasgow have seen dozens or hundreds of arrests as campaigners peacefully refuse to move from in front of the gates. Many will use greatly reinforced chains and handcuffs to link themselves together, whilst police are expected to deploy specialist cutting teams to remove them.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “At a time of economic crisis it is scandalous that billions of pounds are being squandered on new facilities at Aldermaston. Trident is a Cold War weapons system which does nothing to protect Britain from the threats we face today, yet it is the one item that has been excluded from reconsideration in the government’s Defence Review. Prioritising spending on nuclear weapons when most other areas face cuts is a real vote loser – polls now consistently show a majority against spending £76bn or more on Trident Replacement – the sooner politicians wake up to this the better.

She continued, “This May, world leaders will meet at the UN for the five-yearly review of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We need Britain to be living up to its 40 year old treaty commitment to disarm, not setting the worst example possible by pushing ahead with a new generation of weapons. Presidents Obama and Medvedev are committed to the goal of a nuclear weapons-free world, whilst China, India and Pakistan are amongst the 125 countries who support the immediate negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention – banning nukes in the way that chemical and biological weapons are outlawed. Over 120 MPs have called on the government to back a Convention – for the sake of all our safety we need Gordon Brown to heed their call.”

Operational details:
Date: Monday 15th February
Time: From 7am until the blockade is removed by police a number of hours later
Location: Atomic Weapons Establishment, Tadley, Berkshire, RG7 4PR – see note 4 for a map. CND will be based at the Main Gate.
Media contact on site: Ben Soffa, 07968 420 859
Images: See note 9

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For further information and interviews please contact  Ben Soffa, CND’s Press Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.

Different groups of campaigners will gather at each of the seven gates to the site: England, Scotland, Wales, cyclists and environmentalists, faith groups, students and women.

Individuals taking part include: Jody Williams, who was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize alongside the organisation she was the chief spokesperson of – the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Mairead Maguire who won the 1976 prize as the co-founder of the ‘Community of Peace People’ in Northern Ireland. Jill Evans MEP (Plaid Cymru), the Anglican Bishops of Reading (The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell) and Bath and Wells (The Rt Revd Peter Price); and the Catholic Bishop of Brentwood (The Rt Revd Thomas McMahon) will also take part.

Spending at AWE on capital programmes has risen from £24m in 2000/1 –  The latest structure proposed for construction is the Enriched Uranium Handling Facility was given planning permission by West Berkshire Council last Wednesday (10th February) despite over 1400 objection.