Aldermaston bomb factory shut down!

IssueMarch 2010
Feature by Matthew Biddle

More than 500 activists shut down access to the Aldermaston nuclear bomb factory in Berkshire on 15 February to protest against the expansion of the Atomic Weapons Establishment’s research, design and testing of advanced nuclear warheads – without parliamentary approval.

Beginning at 6.30am, demonstrators, including Nobel Peace Prize winners Jody Williams and Mairead Maguire, prevented workers from entering all eight gates for nearly four hours.

Reading Gate was opened briefly, but was quickly blocked (see Maya Evans’ Diary on p13). Police broke the lock-on at the Home Office Gate and the entire blockade concluded at 1pm.

Each gate was themed: Scotland; Wales; North England; South England; environmentalists and cyclists; students; women; and faith groups, with a Catholic bishop and three Anglican bishops present. Activists came from Sweden, Holland, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Spain.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament declared the blockade a resounding success. “The atmosphere was electric. We were winning. Nothing was going in and nothing coming out,” said Ray Davies, vice-chair of CND Cymru.

There were 26 arrests. Five people have been charged under s128 of SOCPA (trespassing on a designated site); others were cautioned and released on police bail.

The blockade took place three months before the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference. “This program of modernisation of UK nuclear weapons violates the treaty and could lead to a disastrous failure of the review conference,” said Angie Zelter, one of the organizers. Trident Ploughshares planned the blockade along with CND, the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign) and other groups.

Greenpeace estimates the cost of replacing Trident over 40 years at £97bn. “At a time of economic crisis it is scandalous that billions of pounds are being squandered on new facilities at Aldermaston,” said Kate Hudson, chair of CND.

Hudson added: “The government wants to be a leading player in nuclear disarmament, but they can’t say that and press ahead with the Trident replacement.”