Campaign of the Month: Block the Builders
Block the Builders is a campaign in Great Britain which aims to nonviolently prevent the building of a new laser facility at AWE Aldermaston, the first stage of a series of proposed developments which would enable AWE Aldermaston to build new nuclear weapons. Block the Builders holds a monthly nonviolent blockade of the site. As and when details of companies profitting from the development of new nuclear weapons emerge, we also protest at that companies offices or site. In 2006 there have been five or six blockades of AWE and visits to concrete company LaFarge's Aldermaston depot, local haulier John Stacey's yard and the Chippenham offices of M+W Zander - the German company which has a £20m contract for overseeing the design and build of Orion. The Orion project is estimated to cost £183m in total and tens if not hundreds of companies - big and small - are in the process of turning a profit from AWE's development. Construction, engineering and design compaies like Laing, Jacobs Engineering and WS Atkins all have major contracts. Companies known to be exploiting the illegal expansion of AWE are based all over the UK and overseas.
On 23 June 2004, the Thatcham planning committee accepted the GB Ministry of Defence's proposal to build a state of the art laser facility (the Orion laser) at AWE Aldermaston. The facilities, which will enable the development of new nuclear weapons at Aldermaston, received less scrutiny by the planning committee than a supermarket. All planning applications made to West Berkshire District Council by AWE have now been passed and new building work has begun at various sites within AWE including the Orion laser project.
Many people, and local Councils, now demand a public inquiry into the proposed developments at Aldermaston, but the outcome of such an inquiry would not be legally binding. It seems the public has less opportunities to make its voice heard in the planning of a nuclear weapons factory, than if your neighbour wants to build a new garage.
Any new nuclear weapons would be immoral – and unlawful. They are indiscriminate weapons which cannot distinguish between military and civilian targets, and which have a deadly legacy for generations. Any nuclear weapon – even a targetable low yield weapon – violates international law. The radiation released by any nuclear weapon cannot be contained in either space or time.
New weapons would mean that the UK would continue to break its international obligations under the Nuclear Non–Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – to make progress, in good faith, towards disarmament. The new facilities at AWE also undermine the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (signed and ratified by the UK, but not yet in force), as they would enable research on nuclear weapons to continue without underground testing.
The Block the Builders campaign aims to increase awareness of the new developments, and to mobilise for nonviolent action against these developments.