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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Aldermaston: Britain's bomb factory
submarine
HMS Victorious is armed with trident missiles
What happens at Aldermaston?
Aldermaston is the headquarters of the UK's Atomic Weapons Establishment. The AWE is responsible for the design and manufacture of the of the Trident submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile system.

Aldermaston in Berkshire is the only place in the UK where nuclear bombs are manufactured.

The AWE employs 4,000 people and is also involved in dismantling decommissioned and redundant nuclear weapons.

Scientists at Aldermaston also monitor earth movements all over the world to detect any underground explosions in an effort to police nuclear testing under the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.


Trident
Trident missiles are manufactured at Aldermaston
Who runs Aldermaston?
The AWE is currently managed by Hunting-BRAE Ltd, on behalf of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). British Nuclear Fuels and the US company Lockheed Martin are part of AWE Management consortium which is set to take over the running of Aldermaston and its Burghfield research site from 1 April.

Recent criticisms of BNFL and Lockheed's safety record led to demands that the government delay its decision to award the 10-year, £2.2bn management contract to AWE Management.

But the MoD has given the go-ahead to the consortium in the belief that the safety of Aldermaston will not be compromised.

Historic name:
During World War II Aldermaston was the site of an airfield where Spitfire fighters were assembled. It was also used by the United States Army Air Force for glider operations on D-Day.

After the war, UK Prime Minister Clement Attlee decided to develop Britain's own nuclear weapons. Nuclear scientist Dr William Penney, who had been involved in developing the nuclear weapons at Los Alamos in New Mexico during World War II, started work and in 1950 Aldermaston became his headquarters.

The first British nuclear tests took place in the South Pacific in 1952 and atmospheric tests were conducted in the deserts of Australia a few years later. Numerous army personnel who were exposed to radiation during these tests have subsequently sought compensation.


Aldermaston fence
Protesters say Aldermaston pollutes the environment
Protests
In the UK the name Aldermaston is synonymous with nuclear weapons and the emergence of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

It was the site of numerous protests in the 1950s and 1960s. CND, launched by the philosopher Bertrand Russell and Canon John Collins, grew out of a demonstration held outside Aldermaston during Easter 1956.

The newly formed CND held a protest march from London to Aldermaston in 1958. Subsequently it held annual marches from Aldermaston to London from 1959-63.

Although no longer in the headlines, protesters continue to be a presence at the site. They say Aldermaston is responsible for worrying environmental contamination, including the radioactive pollution of the Thames.

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10 Nov 99 | Greenham Common
The fight goes on at Aldermaston
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