Skip to Content

Chronology of developments at AWE

AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield

Key events: June 2002 - July 2009



  • June: the Observer and the Guardian reported that AWE was planning to produce "mini-nukes" (non-strategic or "battlefield" nuclear weapons); peace campers break into the site and damage security equipment.

  • July: AWE plc published their Site Development Strategy Plan, outlining proposed new developments including a supercomputer, hydrodynamics facility, new laboratories and a laser facility.



  • January: AWE ml's contract was extended from ten to 25 years; the new contract is worth £5.3 billion to the joint venture company which runs AWE;

  • March: Geoff Hoon stated - in the context of Iraq - that if threatened by biological or chemical weapons, the UK would be prepared to use nuclear weapons;

  • May: AWE Aldermaston started recruiting some 80 of an anticipated additional 1500 scientific and other staff -  this figure subsequently rises to 2,200;

  • October: the Ministry of Defence (MoD) submitted their first notice of proposed development - for the Orion laser facility - to the local planning authority;

  • December: the government defence white paper states that a decision about a replacement for Trident will made be in the next parliament. West Berkshire District Council (WBDC) pass outline planning permission for Orion laser.



  • February: MoD's planning application for Orion laser is withdrawn in the face of a threat of legal challenge;

  • April: hundreds of people take part in the first London to Aldermaston march for 20 years;

  • November: the resubmitted laser NOPD is approved;

  • December: the MoD submit two new planning applications for IT and office buildings.




  • February: IT and office building plans are approved by WBDC;

  • May: work starts on the site of the Orion laser. Block the Builders hold first public blockade: seven arrests;

  • July: MoD announce an additional £1bn for Trident maintenance programme at AWE;

  • August: two new planning notices for development of three buildings are received by WBDC;

  • November: WBDC hesitate on passing full planning notice for Orion as an Environmental Impact Assessment has not been provided.




  • January: WBDC agree permission for Orion. As promised, campaign group Block the Builders begin regular blockades at AWE Aldermaston. The first, on 30 January sees around 70 people, there are eight arrests;

  • March: Block the Builders (BtB) return to AWE. Despite a massive police presence, a short blockade is held. Six people are arrested. Defence Select Committee inquiry takes evidence from academics, campaigners and strategists on the issue of Trident replacement;

  • April 2006: BtB hold another blockade; new byelaws to stop protest at Aldermaston put out to consultation; trespass on the Nuclear Licensed site criminalised under s.128 of Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA), as amended by s.12 Terrorism Act 2006;

  • May: BtB blockade the Lafarge factory which supplies concrete to AWE; one arrest and one woman chains herself to the concrete hoppers for two hours;

  • June: Scottish MSPs, church leaders and others demonstrate at Aldermaston; BtB protest in Chippenham outside offices of Zanders, a company with a £20m contract for the Orion laser;

  • July: Tadotoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima vists Aldermaston;

  • August: "Remember and Resist": 50 attend blockade with 10 arrests;

  • November: 400 Greenpeace activists surround Aldermaston;

  • December: government publish White Paper on the renewal of Trident; the promised public debate never happens; BtB block traffic for more than two hours, with seven arrests; 20 arrests at Faslane in similar protest.



  • January: surprise blockade by eight activists from Faslane Peace Camp;

  • February: large presence at BtB blockade, eight arrests;

  • March: first arrest under Serious Organised Crime and Police Act at Aldermaston; BtB and AWPC block traffic in Parliament Square for four hours on day of parliamentary vote on Trident replacement;

  • June: 10 members of AWPC arrested under the new byelaws and on the following day hold the "Cocktail party of the Century" at Burghfield

  • July: flooding at Burgfield results in suspension of all live nuclear work, including on warheads;

  • August: proceedings against AWPC under byelaws dropped;

  • November: between 70-80 at BtB protest at both Aldermaston and Burghfield; 13 arrests; WBDC approve new small scale components manufacturing facility at Burghfield despite safety concerns.



  • February: judicial review of Aldermaston byelaws; AWPC wins against prohibition of hanging banners of fences; WBDC agree planning application for High Explosive Fabrication Facility at Aldermaston;

  • March: 5000 protesters at Aldermaston to celebrate CND's 50th birthday and to say "the bomb stops here";

  • July: MoD provides details to parliament of further planning applications expected in 2009, including Uranium Enrichment Facility; Scottish CND obtains evidence through Freedom of Information application that the decision to build new warheads has already been taken;

  • August: WBDC approve planning permission for a Conventional Manufacturing Rationalisation Facility at Burghfield; AWPC woman wins SOCPA case at Newbury magistrates court.

  • October: Hundreds of activists descended on AWE to join the blockade called by Trident Ploughshares. 33 people arrested, but few charged.

  • December: US company Jacob's Engineering buys into AWE-ml (previously BNFL's one-third share)



  • February: Appeal court decides that "rights worth having are unruly things" and quashes Aldermaston Byelaw 7(2)(f) prohibiting camping. The peace camp celebrate in style...

  • March: WBDC planning committee approved planning permission for the new Warhead Assembly Facility at Burghfield; responding to a parliamentary question on developments at Aldermaston and Burghfield, armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth states that “The latest forecast date for the submission of the planning application for the proposed replacement Uranium Handling Facility is the fourth quarter of 2009. The date for the proposed Hydrodynamics Facility is mid-2010.

  • April: following a FoIA request by the the local Nuclear Awareness Group, the MoD reveal that in 2002 they abandoned plans to move warhead assembly from AWE Burghfield to Aldermaston in order to avoid a public inquiry.

  • July: AWE, MoD and WBDC investigate wasy to short-cut the planning process and avoid public consulation on planning applications at aldermaston and Burghfield.