British nuclear HQ handed over to Americans

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The Independent Online
THE ATOMIC Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston is to be handed over to Lockheed Martin, the American defence company, writes Emma Cook.

Last night a Ministry of Defence spokesman said an announcement on the base's future would be made in the Commons this week. Lockheed is thought to have beaten two other contenders for the contract, renewable in April. Bids were made by the present management, Hunting-BRAE, and Babock.

Hunting-BRAE has a tarnished record after being fined for a plutonium leak last year. Peter Tolson, a former safety chief, described the plant as "a disaster waiting to happen". A leaked report revealed more than 100 safety breaches in less than a year including dangerous accidents and environmental contamination. According to Tolson, there were eight breaches of "criticality" at the base between February and October.

Lockheed's record may be less than clean, too, and there will be concern that a US group is controlling a British base. Whoever wins the contract will have to invest in extensive rebuilding and improve safety records.