Page last updated at 22:01 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Nuclear facility plan is approved

Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment
AWE is the headquarters of Britain's nuclear development programme

Councillors have voted to give the go-ahead to plans for a nuclear warhead facility in Berkshire.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) wants to modernise the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE).

But local groups and residents had raised concerns that the proposed site at Burghfield was too close to Reading and on an area at risk of flooding.

The Nuclear Awareness Group said it was disappointed West Berkshire councillors approved the plan on Wednesday night.

A number of protesters from the Nuclear Awareness Group (NAG) and Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp (AWPC) protested outside the council offices as the meeting went on.

AWE is responsible for the production of warheads for the Trident nuclear deterrent programme and its planned replacement.

'Regular inspections'

Under the plan a new main facility, a support building with 16 lighting protector towers, gatehouses, access roads and security fences would be constructed at the site.

NAG and AWPC had both called for a public inquiry into the proposals.

Peter Burt, spokesperson for NAG, said: "It is very disappointing, but campaign work will continue.

"We will be looking at whether there are grounds for referring it to the secretary of state to be dealt with at a public inquiry where all the evidence can be carefully considered.

"It is a daft place to put the development."

The council had previously said the planning committee would look carefully at the impact on surrounding areas and take into account the flood assessment.

The MoD said the safety of operations at AWE was "top priority".

A spokesperson added: "The site undergoes and passes regular safety inspections by an independent body, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate."

Construction of the new facility could begin early this year, the BBC has learned.

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