Companies making bids for contracts to run the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, are being asked to come up with proposals to broaden its commercial scope, the AWE said this week.
The Ministry of Defence wants bidders to make proposals on activities which need not involve nuclear weapons. Warhead production work will stop when the last Trident submarine is commissioned this year.
‘The details would be decided once bids have been evaluated,’ AWE added.
Three consortia are chasing the £2.5bn government-owned, contractor-operated contract, under which AWE’s sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield will be managed for at least 10 years. Bids are due in May and the new contract starts on 1 April 2000, replacing a current six-year one with the Hunting-BRAE consortium.
The MoD also revealed that it would consider even longer-term management deals ‘depending on what public-private partnership proposals we get.’
A spokesman said the MoD remains open-minded. ‘Part of the contract will depend on private finance initiatives. It’s down to the companies to consider proposals,’ he said.
An AWE letter to employees says the new contract will seek to ‘enhance the partnership with industry,’ suggesting that future arrangements may be more innovative than the deal with Hunting-BRAE.
Hunting-BRAE said the deal ‘could include significant private finance initiatives covering operational and infrastructure areas’.
The next main job for AWE is the decommissioning of Chevaline warheads taken out of Polaris submarines. AWE said this week that reports that Aldermaston would be shut down were ‘rubbish’.