Activists plan peaceful blockade of Atomic Weapons Establishment

By agency reporter
October 16, 2008

A broad range of nonviolence activists are calling for a major peaceful blockade of the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston, near Reading on Monday 27 October 2008.

The Trident Ploughshares event, which is supported by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Block the Builders and the Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp, is aimed at disrupting work on existing Trident warheads and their successors.

Hundreds of peace campaigners from around the country and beyond are expected to converge on Aldermaston in what is likely to be the biggest day of direct action against Trident nuclear weapons since the Faslane Big Blockade on 1 October 2007.

On that occasion, 171 arrests were made as campaigners celebrated the end of a year-long peaceful blockade of the naval base in Scotland , which resulted in 1150 arrests of concerned citizens from all walks of life resisting nuclear weapons.

On Easter Monday 2008, an estimated 5,000 people surrounded AWE Aldermaston as CND marked the 50th anniversary of the historic first London to Aldermaston march. It was the biggest demonstration seen at the site for two decades. Trident Ploughshares are keen to build on these recent successes.

In March 2007, Westminster voted in principle to retain nuclear weapons and to build new submarines from which to launch them. To date, there has been no vote in parliament on the future of warheads. However, Ministry of Defence (MoD) documents obtained by CND in July 2008 confirmed that contrary to repeated ministerial denials, the government has already made the decision to replace the warheads.

The Ministry of Defence has already committed billions of pounds to a massive ongoing construction and recruitment programme at AWE, where Britain 's nuclear warheads are researched, developed and maintained. AWE first outlined its expansion proposals, which it claimed would be on the scale of Heathrow Terminal 5, in its 2002 Site Development Strategy Plan. Building work commenced - on the Orion laser - in 2005 and continues to this day.

A spokesperson for Trident Ploughshares said: "We are unsurprised but nevertheless disappointed at the level of dishonesty and disingenuousness of ministers. The expansion of AWE, continued deployment of Trident and plans to replace it contradict and undermine the government's stated support for global abolition of nuclear weapons."

She added: "This is hypocritical, destabilising and breaches disarmament obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Britain signed 40 years ago. There can never be a lawful or moral use for Trident, so the whole system must be taken out of service immediately. We would rather see AWE used for warhead decommissioning as part of a global Nuclear Weapons Convention, in line with government proposals."

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