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AWE Burghfield: Object now to plans for warhead assembly facility on flood risk grounds

Closing date for objections: 8 January 2009


On 18 December 2008, the Ministry of Defence submitted a planning application for a "Nuclear Warhead Assembly Facility" at AWE Burghfield. This “main process facility” will be known as Mensa (after a star constellation) and will be used to assemble and disassemble nuclear warheads. It will replace the existing facility (known as "Gravel Gerties"), where the warheads for the current Trident system are assembled and disassembled during the refurbishment process.


The current "Gravel Gerties" fail to meet Health and Safety standards, and suffered severe flooding in July 2007, when up to three feet of water filled the warhead assembly plant, requiring the electricity supply, including alarm and safety mechanisms, to be shut off for 10 days.


AWPC doesn't want the government to build any new warheads, but don't believe that we can object outright to this development. We think that they do need new and safe facilities to disassemble and decommission the current generation of nuclear warheads used in the Trident missiles deployed on the Vanguard submarines at Faslane. We are therefore asking the planning committee to require the MoD to submit a new application for a disassembly facility on another site out of the Burghfield flood plain.


Objections need to be submitted before: 08/01/2009.


*Ways to object*

1. Just add your name and e-mail: see CND's website for a standard letter produced by the Nuclear Information Service. Just go to and add your name and email and click

2. "Submit comments" at Write your own letter and send to

PLEASE NOTE: All objections are placed on the West Berkshire committee website in pdf form. You should be aware that your name and address will be publicly displayed.


Application Details*
Construction of main process facility (MPF) and support building with 16 lightning protector towers, associated plant building, gate houses, vehicles inspection bays, sub-station buildings, security fence, access roads, hardstanding and sustainable drainage system (SuDS) infrastructure.

Points you can make:
* This application is for a facility to assemble nuclear warheads.
* While acknowledging the safety reasons for replacing the current warhead assembly facility, which has been plagued with health and safety problems, note that in addition to its use for the assembly and disassembly of the current warheads, it is being designed for use for the next generation of warheads.
* These warheads which will be tested and built at the new facilities already approved by the committee at AWE Aldermaston, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
* This is a serious matter of public interest, with impact far beyond Burghfield, and its environment - both nationally and internationally - and should thus be called in for a public inquiry.
* The application proposes to build the warhead assembly facility on a flood plain. Recalling the severe effects of the July 2007 floods at Burghfield, the planning committee would be reckless to approve the construction of this facility in a similar location.
* This facility is designed to last 50 years; there is no way that the committee can predict the effects of climate change and
guarantee that this facility will not be subject to similar or worse flooding.
* The committee should ask the MoD to withdraw this application and submit a new application for a* warhead disassembly facility only *on another site out of the Burghfield flood plain.

Other points you could make

* There is a serious radiation risk associated with this facility which must be legally justified; reasons of "national security"
are insufficient justification.
* The application should be accompanied by an independent Environmental Impact Assessment;, rather than an assessment by the MoD.

For further details of the application, see
For further background information, see
For the NIS report on the 2007 floods,