Pugwash calls for new roles for Aldermaston
May 21, 1999
A new report by the Pugwash, the international peace movement of scientists, has called for Aldermaston - the UK's nuclear weapons laboratory - to become more like weapons labs in the US and to carry out research on nuclear arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament. At present the only such activity performed at Aldermaston is forensic seismology - the detection of nuclear explosions. The report, Verifying Nuclear Disarmament: A Role for AWE Aldermaston, is published today by the UK branch of the Pugwash conferences on science & world affairs.
Aldermaston has over 4000 employees and a budget of £300m. Over half of this (£168m) is spent on the manufacture, maintenance and testing of nuclear weapons, and on related research. Another £91m is spent on the Trident nuclear weapons programme and £11m goes on dismantling nuclear weapons.
According to the report, a shift in emphasis towards disarmament and verification programmes at Aldermaston would help the UK to carry out its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). The treaty states that nuclear weapon countries should pursue a policy of eliminating nuclear weapons. By involving Aldermaston with similar programmes in Russia and the US, the report argues, AWE could help build new trust mechanisms between the nuclear states. These new roles would also help Russia safeguard its nuclear materials and prevent them from falling into the hands of 'rogue states' or terrorist groups. Another benefit, according to the Pugwash report, would be to attract more high-calibre scientists to Aldermaston.
Last year the UK government set up a pilot study to investigate the possibility of establishing an arms control and disarmament group at Aldermaston as part of the strategic defence review. The report is due out next spring.
Pugwash received the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for its work towards nuclear disarmament along with Joseph Rotblat, its ex-president.