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Atomic Weapons Establishment using public cloud

Fri 2 Sep 2016

AWE Cloud

The United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has signed a deal with Workday to begin using the public cloud service. As the current manager of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrence program, storing information with a public cloud provider has raised security concerns.

The AWE holds the primary responsibility for the UK’s nuclear deterrence program, employing a team of scientists, engineers, and administrators responsible for Trident warheads. The Register reports that the group has signed an agreement with Workday, a US-based cloud provider specializing in human capital and financial management services, to move some of the AWE’s information to the public cloud.

The cloud offers many opportunities for monitoring, aggregating and reporting of data; and in the nuclear arena it can offer the added benefits of streamlined reporting and transparency to watchdog groups. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the US commissioned Dell to build a private cloud in 2014 to streamline data management in a secure environment.

However, use of a public cloud even for administrative data associated with nuclear weapons management is very different.

In response to questions regarding the security of the information sent to the cloud, a representative of the AWE said, “AWE has gone through a process to identify a range of trusted suppliers to support the business, as we continue to embrace the opportunities that modern IT can bring. She added, “In common with all such activity, security arrangements have been assessed against AWE’s robust security requirements.”

The AWE refused to answer questions posed regarding whether the public cloud would host classified information.

Under its contract with Britain, the AWE designs and manufactures new warheads as needed, decommissions and disposes of redundant weaponry, and provides the government with intelligence and support to help minimize nuclear proliferation. To provide these services, the group is funded by the government at $1 billion per year.

The AWE, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin, Jacobs Engineering, and Serco, has a contract with Britain to provide these services through to 2025. However, a parliamentary vote in July of this year showed MPs overwhelmingly in favor of replacing the Trident program. While the decision is tightly controlled by the government, the vote indicates an interest in the program being delayed, modified or restricted in some way.

The group has been under scrutiny both for the expenses associated with its construction of Project Pegasus, its flagship $600 million project at the Aldermaston facility and for safety concerns raised by UK regulators that resulted in two separate censures of the group in 2016.


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