Scientists call for axe to fall on nuclear weapons research

Press release, 13 October 2010

36 science professors have today written to the Prime Minister calling on him to protect core scientific research by cutting investment in developing new nuclear weapons.

The scientists, who include ex-Royal Society head, Sir Michael Atiyah and Nobel Prize winner, Sir Harold Kroto, highlight how £2bn a year, over 25% of the government’s total scientific research and development budget, is currently spent by the Ministry of Defence (1).

Their objections focus on government funding of a multi-billion pound research programme at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, aimed at developing new nuclear warheads. This year this science programme received an additional £1bn of government funding, and this level of ‘additional investment’ is set to continue until 2013 (2).

These funds have enabled Aldermaston to buy 3 new supercomputers in the last year, the latest reportedly the most powerful in the UK, at undisclosed cost to the taxpayer (3). They are also set to fund a controversial new hydrodynamics facility that will conduct experiments on materials used to build nuclear warheads – again at undisclosed cost (4).

These developments are going ahead despite serious questions existing about the future of the UK’s nuclear weapons programme and a recent pledge by Obama that the US will not develop new nuclear warheads (5).

Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility who co-ordinated the letter said, “It’s completely irrational to cut scientific research into medical and environmental problems whilst pouring billions of pounds of research money into facilities for designing new nuclear warheads.

He continued,

“The Cold War is over. The major security threats we will face in the coming years have their roots in problems like climate change and resource shortages. These are the areas where more of our research should be focussed, and yet the UK currently devotes 20 times more research funding to military projects than to renewable energy. If cuts have to come, it’s clear to us that Aldermaston is where the axe should fall.”



A copy of the letter and full signatory list are available here

To organise interviews contact Stuart Parkinson at SGR on 07941 953640



1) UK Defence Statistics 2010. Table 1.8.

2) In 2009 Quentin Davies announced that investment at Aldermaston would increase to £1bn a year up to the end of March 2013 (Column 136WS)

3) In May 2010 AWE bought two new supercomputers known as ‘Willow’ . Then in August 2010 AWE bought ‘Blackthorn’ reputedly the UK’s largest supercomputer –

4) AWE has also just received planning permission to build a controversial hydrodynamics facility known as Hydrus – again at undisclosed cost.

5) New Nuclear Posture Review Briefing by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.