Britain to nationalize its nuclear weapons industry

Britain announced on Monday that management of its nuclear weapons facilities will return to government control instead of leadership by an industry consortium.

Atomic Weapons Establishment PLC builds nuclear weapons in Britain and has been operated since 2000 by a group of manufacturers led by Lockheed Martin.

The contract was expected to be completed in 2025 but British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament this week that the AWE will be wholly owned by the Ministry of Defense, beginning in June 2021.

"Following an in-depth review, the MOD concluded that AWE plc will become an arms-length Body, wholly owned by the MOD," Wallace wrote in a Ministry of Defense statement.

"The change in model will remove the current commercial arrangements, enhancing the MOD's agility in the future management of the U.K.'s nuclear deterrent, whilst also delivering on core MOD objectives and value for money to the taxpayer," Wallace wrote.

AWE is based at Aldermaston, England, and develops nuclear warheads for the Royal Navy's submarines.

In February, the ministry announced plans to develop new nuclear warheads, and nationalizing the British nuclear weapons industry reflects the government's interest in creating a better alignment between AWE and the ministry's priorities.

The end of the lucrative 25-year contract can be seen as a blow to Lockheed Martin, Serco Group and Jacobs Engineering, all AWE owners. In 2019, AWE paid $105 million to shareholders, despite controversial cost overruns and worker safety violations, and has been the subject of criticism from Britain's National Audit Office.

The Ministry of Defense has also been a target of demands by the government, under Prime Minister Boris Johnson's leadership, to control wasteful spending.

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