By Rob Edwards
November 27, 2011
The Ministry of Defence is spending £2bn on new nuclear weapons plants before a formal decision has been taken over whether to replace Trident warheads, according to ministers.
The revelation has prompted fierce attacks on the MoD for making “a complete mockery” of the democratic process by pre-empting a decision and so attempting to force the hands of future governments.
The ministry says the investment helps to ensure the safety of the existing Trident warheads, but accepts that the money also maintains the capability to design a new warhead “should that be required”.
Details of the MoD’s investments have been unveiled for the first time. They include a £734m facility called Mensa for dismantling and assembling of warheads, a risky but essential maintenance process; a £634m highly enriched uranium plant called Pegasus; and a £231m high explosives factory called Circinus.
The plants are being built at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire. Other facilities with similarly stellar names but smaller bills – Orion, Gemini, and Leo – are also being built as part of the AWE development plan covering 2005 to 2015. The costs of two more – Octans and Orchard – are being kept secret for commercial reasons. …