HC Deb 01 December 1999 vol 340 cc191-2W
Mr. John Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress in selecting a contractor to manage and operate the Atomic Weapons Establishment from 1 April 2000. [101282]

Mr. Hoon

I am pleased to announce that following the completion of negotiations a contract will be awarded today to AWE Management Ltd. (comprising SERCo Defence Support, British Nuclear Fuels plc and Lockheed Martin Corporation). The two unsuccessful consortiums have been informed. The AWE workforce and trade unions will be told of the outcome today.

The principal features of the contract are: The contract, commencing on 1 April 2000, is for an initial period of 10 years with an option to extend to a 25 year term with an injection of private capital. The value of the initial contract is some £2.2 billion. The delivery of the UK's nuclear warhead programme, as outlined in the Strategic Defence Review, will not be affected by the change in contractor. The AWE sites and all assets remain in Government ownership. Appropriate safeguards have been established to protect sensitive UK information and to maintain the UK's independence in nuclear matters.

The safety of the public, the AWE workforce and the environment remain of paramount importance. Aldermaston and Burghfield will continue as nuclear licensed sites and subject to independent regulation by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) and the Environment Agency (EA). The MOD Compliance Officer will also retain the authority and responsibility to cancel the contract and to instruct the contractor to cease operations if there is a serious breach of the MOD's requirements.

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