Britain will no longer have any stake in production of its nuclear warheads

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London, Dec 20 (ANI): Britain will no longer have any stake in the production of its nuclear warheads after the Government secretly sold off its shares in the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston to an American company.

British ministers agreed to sell the remaining one-third ownership of the state-owned nuclear firm BNFL in the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) to the California-based Jacobs Engineering Group, a global engineering firm that already carries out work for the nuclear weapons and research establishment in Berkshire, The Independent reported.

The announcement, which means that Americans will now produce and maintain Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, was slipped out on the eve of the parliamentary Christmas holiday. Officials refused to say how much the deal raised.

Opposition MPs last night expressed concern that the stake may have been sold off below market value to raise much-needed money for the Treasury.

They accused the Government of trying to conceal the sale of the stake in AWE Management Limited by failing to make an announcement in Parliament.

There was also anger that Britain would no longer directly control the site where Britain's nuclear warheads are produced and maintained, the paper said.

The Defence Ministry insisted that it had retained a "special share" in the establishment, which allows it to intervene in the site or sack the operators if necessary. A spokesman said the deal would protect the independence of the nuclear deterrent and ensure Britain's strategic interests were maintained.

The Ministry of Defence owns the site and equipment at the establishment, but contractors have carried out the work of the base since 1993.

MPs expressed anger that Parliament had not been informed of the sale of the AWE. The shadow Defence minister, Gerald Howarth, said: "The AWE is critical to Britain's nuclear deterrent capability and we find it astonishing that the decision regarding the increase in US involvement in the company was not announced to Parliament." (ANI)

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