Page last updated at 17:55 GMT, Monday, 15 February 2010

Anti-nuclear protesters blockade AWE at Aldermaston

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Protesters chained themselves together to block the road

Twenty-six peace activists have been arrested during a protest at Britain's nuclear weapons "factory" in Berkshire.

About 400 anti-nuclear campaigners spent eight hours at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) from 0700 GMT.

Some blocked the seven entrances while others locked themselves together in protest against the Trident submarine missile system being replaced.

Of the 26, 19 were held on suspicion of obstructing the public highway. Police said the demonstration was "peaceful".

A spokesman said six people were arrested on suspicion of entering a protected site and one on suspicion of causing criminal damage.

Officers had to free people from the locks they had used to stay together in an attempt to clear access to the site.

'Biggest blockade'

Organisations including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Trident Ploughshares were staging the protest and the Bishop of Reading Stephen Cottrell also joined them.

Trident Ploughshares, which said up to 800 people from across the UK and other countries were expected, described the protest as "the biggest blockade of Aldermaston in years".

AWE provides the warheads for Trident, the submarine-launched missile system that constitutes the UK's nuclear deterrent.

Our response was proportionate to the threat
AWE spokeswoman

Kate Hudson, chairman of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "When all major parties are proposing huge spending cuts, this is the time for ministers to realise that scrapping the Trident replacement would be one very positive and popular cutback.

"Polls consistently show a clear majority against Trident while, at the same time, a growing number of senior military figures have described the system as 'militarily useless'."

Brian Larkin, from Trident Ploughshares, said: "The ongoing construction of facilities at the AWE for the design, development and manufacture of new nuclear warheads is illegal and immoral and will only lead to further proliferation of nuclear weapons."

Last week plans were approved by councillors for a new facility to store enriched uranium at AWE.

A spokeswoman for AWE said the organisation did not wish to comment on the protest.

Assistant Chief Constable Brian Langston, overall commander for the operation, said: "Disruption to the community was minimised and, most importantly, no-one was hurt.

"Our response was proportionate to the threat."



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