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Atomic Weapons Establishment: Expenditure

Volume 493: debated on Monday 1 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the expenditure incurred at the Atomic Weapons Establishment of £800 million in 2008-09, £900 million in 2009-10 and £950 million in 2010-11 is additional to (a) the capital cost of warheads included in the Defence White Paper, (b) the £5.3 billion 25 year AWEML and management contract, (c) the running costs of the current Trident programme and (d) settlements made under the Comprehensive Spending Review. (271399)

The figure of £5.3 billion was the estimated 25-year management and operation costs produced when the AWE Management and Operation contract was extended to a 25 year term. This was published on 22 January 2003, Official Report, column 14WS. Since 1 April 2008 the financial planning for AWE has made no distinction between these costs and additional investment associated with the Nuclear Warhead Capability Sustainment Programme (NWCSP), which was announced on 19 July 2005, Official Report, column 59WS. The figures of £800, £900 and £950 million quoted therefore comprise both additional NWCSP investment and the underlying management and operation costs for the years in question.

There is no programme to develop a new warhead at AWE. The December 2006 White Paper Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent (Cm 6994) refers, in paragraph 5-11, to

“£2-3 billion for the possible future refurbishment or replacement of the warhead”.

The decision on whether to refurbish or replace the warhead has yet to be made and will likely be necessary in the next Parliament. This cost is not reflected in any of the figures quoted in the question.

In service costs of the current Trident programme were provided in a response to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), on 13 November 2008, Official Report, column 1302W. These did not include the cost of AWE.

Finally, the 2007 pre-Budget report and comprehensive spending review White Paper (Cm 7227), made clear in paragraph D8.7 that additional NWCSP funding, (which is incorporated within the £800, £900 and £950 million figures) was provided to continue the programme of investment in sustaining key skills and facilities at AWE,

“both to ensure we can maintain our existing nuclear warhead for as long as necessary and to enable development of a replacement warhead should that be necessary”.