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Council approves new storage facility at Aldermaston
By Emma Midgley
BBC Berkshire

Protestors at AWE
A dozen protesters came to protest at plans to expand AWE.

A large development called Project Pegasus is to be built at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, to replace existing post-war buildings.

On Wednesday, 10 February, West Berkshire councillors approved the plan for new buildings on the site - which is Britain's nuclear weapons "factory".

The new buildings will be used to handle and store enriched uranium.

The council received more than 1,400 objection letters, but many were from people who do not live near the site.

AWE Aldermaston is the biggest employer in West Berkshire.

The headquarters of AWE is based at Aldermaston - it is also the centre of design, research and development for Trident, Britain's submarine-launched missiles.

About a dozen protesters gathered at the West Berkshire council meeting.

The Nuclear Information Service (NIS) said there had not been not enough consultation over the planning application.

Nearby Aldermaston, Padworth and Mortimer parish councils were all consulted and did not object to the proposal.

History of campaigns at AWE

Since 1958, when 10,000 people marched from London to Aldermaston in protest at Britain's first hydrogen bomb tests, AWE Aldermaston has been the site of campaigns against nuclear weapons.

Nearby, RAF Station Greenham Common was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army until the Cold War ended and it closed in 1993.

Women at the Greenham Common's Peace Camp
The Greenham Common Woman's Peace Camp was formed in 1981

In protest at the Cruise missiles stored there, the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp was formed in 1981.

The camp became well know when on 1 April 1983, tens of thousands of protesters formed a 14-mile human chain from Greenham to Aldermaston and the ordnance factory at Burghfield.

In 2008, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was among protesters who demonstrated at the atomic weapons centre in Aldermaston to mark the 50th anniversary of the first anti-nuclear march to the base in 1958.

However, the AWE site is a major employer for people living in West Berkshire, and thousands of people living nearby are employed at Aldermaston.

Present day

Aldermaston councillor Irene Neill said: "This is not a new operation, it is just a continuation of what's already there. All they are doing is demolishing the old building, which is a post-war building, and building a new properly fit-for-purpose building.

"It's all part of a 10-year refurbishment project for the whole site. The new building will be moved into the centre of the site, which will be further away from roads and houses and as a new building, with new technology, it will be safer.

"There will be no increase in the amount of uranium on site or in the number of staff."

A protest march from Aldermaston
In 1962 Hiroshima survivors led an anti-nuclear march from Aldermaston

However, the planning decision on Wednesday evening was objected to by campaigners such as Sian Jones from the Aldermaston Women's Group.

She said: "It's just a complete sham. What's the difference between the Iranians having enriched uranium, and us having enriched uranium? None, we're just all making nuclear bombs."

Nuclear Information Service director, Peter Burt, criticised what he saw as a lack of consultation.

"The planning application was submitted just before the Christmas holiday period and no attempt was made to engage with members of the public to explain the need for the development," he said.

"West Berkshire Council likes to pretend that planning applications submitted by AWE are treated the same as those submitted by anyone else, but no-one else would be allowed to submit a planning application for a factory handling radioactive substances and hazardous chemicals without giving a copper-bottomed explanation of how they intend to manage the risks and guarantee safety."

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Mad Scientist, Tadley

Councillor Irene O'Neill rather gives the game away here with a quote that looks like it's been prepared for her by AWE's public relations department. Do members of West Berkshire Council get free membership of the AWE Fan Club when they join the council?

Dr Strangelove

These people must be living in cloud cuckoo land if they think the world is all of a sudden going to walk away from thier nuclear arsenals and capability. if the UK government does not invest in uptodate facilities to safely control and store these materials the same people would then be banging on about how irresponsible AWE/ MOD have been. pandoras box has been opened on this and it cannot be closed, it is down to this generation and future ones to make sure these things are never used in anger and that thier legacy is managed safely.

Sane Scientist, Berkshire

I'd prefer nuclear research to be done in new buildings with modern safety features.

James, Leicester

Love the quote...

'Sian Jones from the Aldermaston Women's Group.

She said: "It's just a complete sham. What's the difference between the Iranians having enriched uranium, and us having enriched uranium? None, we're just all making nuclear bombs."'

Hmm..I beg to differ, I know who I would rather trust with the nuclear weapons...

Prof.M.A.Nettleton, Horley Sy. RH68W

We need to discriminate between the subject of 'Nuclear Research' and 'Nuclear Weapon Replacement and Development'. Our huge debt means we cannot afford to continue with the latter.

Clive Gibson, Manchester

UK nuclear weapons production is not a matter of local concern decided by Aldermaston Parish Council! Local councillors and people working at the plant are obviously biased in any case. This is a matter of national, in fact global importance, why does the BBC mainly ignore it and relegate it to 'local news'(BBC Berkshire)!?

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