Development and maintenance of nuclear weapons and associated systems requires a massive infrastructure. Sites related to Britain's nuclear weapons are spread all over
the country and beyond in the United States.


Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield, a few miles from Aldermaston, is responsible for assembling the government's nuclear warheads. Nuclear components are transported from Aldermaston to Burghfield, where they are assembled and then transported by road to Coulport for deployment on Trident submarines.

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston, near Reading, is at the centre of British nuclear weapons design and production. It is responsible for design, production and maintenance as well as the dismantling of older or out-of-date nuclear warheads. Aldermaston co-operates extensively with nuclear weapons laboratories in the United States on research and development, and maintaining the UK's current Trident warheads.
Aldermaston is owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), but since the early 1990s AWE has a GOCO status - Government Owned-Contractor Operated. Thus, although the Ministry owns the site, private companies run the day to day operations. Since April 2000, AWE has been run by British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL), Lockheed Martin and Serco, two American companies.

The Chapelcross nuclear reactor in the South West of Scotland produces tritium, an essential ingredient to enhance the destructive power of nuclear warheads by increasing its explosive power. As tritium has a relatively short radioactive half-life, the Tritium in warheads must be replaced regularly. Chapelcross is due to be closed down within the next 2 years.

Sellafield is a major nuclear facility on the west coast of Cumbria; it is owned by the government and run by BNFL. Historically, the key material for nuclear weapons, plutonium, was produced by reprocessing spent fuel from the UK’s older Magnox nuclear reactors. Sellafield now reprocesses nuclear materials for a range of international customers including a number of Western European countries and Japan. Reprocessing nuclear materials increases the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation by increasing the amount of plutonium available.

Britain's Trident submarines are based at the Clyde Submarine Base in Faslane near Glasgow. In the 1980s and 1990s, major construction work was carried out at the base to build facilities to accommodate Trident. Faslane also hosts visits from US Trident submarines.

Faslane also hosts a number of nuclear-powered attack submarines, known as "hunter killers". These submarines carry conventional weapons, and are used to escort Trident submarines on their patrols.

Trident warheads are stored at the Royal Naval Arms Depot Coulport, adjacent to Faslane. There are normally 144 nuclear warheads on submarines and a further 30-50 at Coulport, where basic maintenance work and inspections are carried out on them. From time to time small numbers of warheads are removed from each submarine and replaced. Rocket fuel, high explosives and plutonium are kept in close proximity here.

Barrow in Furness
The Trident submarines were built by Vickers Shipbuilding & Engineering Ltd in Barrow in Furness, Cumbria, which also builds nuclear-powered attack submarines, based at Faslane and Devonport.

Nuclear reactors that power the Trident submarines are built by Rolls Royce in Derby. The nuclear fuel that powers Trident nuclear reactors and fuel rods that are put into the modules of the reactors is also manufactured there.


It is believed that the US has some 100 nuclear weapons deployed in Britain, probably at USAF Lakenheath.

Devonport is expected to be an above ground storage site for sections of old, unusable submarines - where nuclear fuel (from reactor core) is extracted as part of a refit or decommission. The cores are then transported to BNFL Sellafield where they are stored in a cooling pond until a safe means of disposal is found.

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