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UK Ministry of Defence to Regain Management Over Production of Atomic Weapons

Back in 1993, the management over the design and manufacture of UK’s nuclear weapons warheads was outsourced to private arms companies, and has since been shared between British and American tech giants.

The UK Ministry of Defence will now retrieve control over its the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) site which produces, designs and supports British nuclear weapons, according to a written ministerial statement shared on the government’s website.

For nearly three decades, AWE was managed privately after entering into a “Government-owned Contractor operated arrangement” with Hunting-BRAE back in 1993.

Six years later, a 25-year contract was awarded to AWE Management Ltd (AWE ML) to run the site. It is now operated by a consortium led by Texas-based Jacobs Engineering Group and the UK’s Serco and Lockheed Martin, which own 51% of AWE ML.

Following the government’s re-arrangement, the site will now become an “Arms-Length Body” of the Ministry of Defence but “will continue to be managed by a world-leading team and a new Board will be appointed by the MOD”, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said.

“The change in model will remove the current commercial arrangements, enhancing the MOD’s agility in the future management of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, whilst also delivering on core MOD objectives and value for money to the taxpayer”, the statement from the ministry reads.

According to the UK government, the decision “was taken in order to simplify and further strengthen the relationship between the MOD and AWE plc” and to enhance the ministry’s ability “to invest in the development of the workforce, technology and infrastructure”.

The United Kingdom was the third country in the world to develop nuclear weapons, following the United States and Soviet Union. Since the 1960s, it has been purchasing US delivery systems to combine them with AWE-developed warheads, the site which is located in Berkshire. The country is estimated to have 215 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.

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