As dawn begins to break on a Monday morning in February, hundreds of dedicated individuals from all around Britain and beyond will descend upon the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston, determined to block the base and halt work on facilities for a new generation of nuclear warheads.
The Aldermaston Blockade on 15 February 2010 will highlight the illegality, immorality and criminal waste of resources involved in the multi-billion pound expansion of the nuclear warhead factory in Berkshire and the wider Trident replacement programme, aiming to put a stop to the developments and begin the process of disarmament.
Initiated by Trident Ploughshares and supported by CND, the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign) and others, the action comes on the back of the Faslane 365 year-long blockade of the Trident submarine base in Scotland (2006-7) and major blockades at Aldermaston in October 2008 and June 2009.
Making the bomb
The AWE sites at Aldermaston and nearby Burghfield are where Britain’s nuclear warheads are developed, maintained and decommissioned. In 2005, work began on a multi-billion pound expansion of AWE on the scale of Heathrow Terminal 5, accompanied by a massive recruitment drive.
The government and AWE claim all this expenditure is necessary to maintain a “capability” to design a new warhead, should one be needed, but have denied that the decision to proceed with a new warhead has been taken.
Even if we take such denials at face value, this hardly signals a meaningful commitment on the part of the government to negotiate “in good faith” to achieve nuclear disarmament “in all its aspects”, an obligation imposed by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and affirmed unanimously by the International Court of Justice in 1996.
On 9 September, during the parliamentary recess, Quentin Davies MP, parliamentary under-secretary at the Ministry of Defence, slipped out a brief written statement which went unreported in the press and, to date, remains undebated in parliament, announcing that AWE is to receive, on average, £1bn of taxpayer’s money every year until March 2013.
This appalling waste of public funds, announced just as drastic cuts to public spending are being proposed to pay for the banking crisis, comes on the back of a report by Greenpeace calculating that the lifetime cost of replacing Trident would be £97bn (In the Firing Line, September 2009). Surely this colossal sum of money would be better spent on tackling climate change, healthcare, education, social care, and public transport.
There is also hardly any discussion of the fact that much of the work carried out at AWE Aldermaston is for the US warhead programme, under the auspices of the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement; and that the company that runs AWE is now two-thirds owned by US corporations.
And so to the blockade: mobilisation is already well under way; it is expected that numbers will easily surpass the 300-400 that came in October 2008.
Groups are expected from Scotland, Wales and the north and south of England, as well as from overseas. Specific gates will be covered by women, faith groups, cyclists and environmentalists, students, academics, parliamentarians, choirs and even Nobel Peace Prize laureates (though president Obama and Henry Kissinger are yet to confirm).
Affinity groups will be as autonomous as possible, organising their own transport directly to Aldermaston, nonviolent direct action training and, if necessary, pre-blockade accommodation to enable them to arrive by 7am.
Assistance with training, where needed, is offered in advance, as well as support on the day, including vegan food, legal and gate support, police station pick-ups, a general debrief and post-blockade accommodation.
If you are unwilling or unable to risk arrest, many important “non-arrestable” roles also need filling.
The earlier that groups can get themselves organised and start formulating their plans, the better. Get in touch if you need help finding contacts in your area or to find out how you can get involved.