The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament reacted with outrage to the confirmation of the sale of the Government’s remaining one-third share in the company that runs the Atomic Weapons Establishment to Jacobs Engineering, a US company. The sales, completed today, gives American corporations a controlling 2/3rds share of the organisation that builds and maintains Britain’s so-called ‘independent’ nuclear weapons system.

The news, released to the US business press and not announced in Parliament means AWE Management Limited (AWE ML) will be owned by US arms company Lockheed Martin, British services group Serco and Jacobs Engineering Group. The Government share was previously held via BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels Ltd), the former operator of Sellafield.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “It is outrageous that control of Britain’s so-called ‘independent’ nuclear weapons is being handed over to American corporations. Not only does this increase the slice of the £76bn to be spent replacing Trident that will go to the US, more significantly it cedes even greater control over British nuclear weapons policy to the US Government.”

She continued, “It is shocking that this announcement is sneaked out in the US and not put before Parliament. This is a major long-term decision – why has there been no announcement in the Commons where MPs could scrutinise the defence and foreign policy implications of putting British nuclear bombs in the hands of US companies? It is vital that this is redressed immediately.”

The conclusion of the sale raises serious questions about the claimed independence of Britain’s nuclear weapons programme from the US. Governments have for decades justified the vast expense of maintaining their own nuclear labs at Aldermaston near Reading – and the associated nuclear submarine programme – on the basis of the freedom of political action that it affords the UK. With AWE ML under majority-US control and with those companies massively tied-in to the US nuclear weapons labs, the reliance on the US for information and expertise is only going to grow.

AWE is currently undergoing the biggest investment programme in recent decades with operators boasting it to be ‘on the scale of Heathrow Terminal 5’. Spending on capital programmes, over and above routine running-costs has mushroomed from £24m in 2000 to £420m last year .

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.