Last winter, after a visit to the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston — the Los Alamos or Livermore of the United Kingdom — I came away with a new understanding of how intertwined the US and UK nuclear weapons programs really are:
I think it comes as a shock to most people on either side of the Atlantic when they learn how much the UK depends on the United States for its nuclear deterrent. Even I was a little taken aback during my visit to Aldermaston when Don Cook, the Managing Director of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, began to address us in his flat American accent.
I thought “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Couldn’t they have found someone British?”
After a couple of days at the AWE, and a tour of the lovely historical collection, I accepted the reality that, no, the United Kingdom does not in any way, shape, or form have an independent nuclear deterrent.
Today comes the news that the White House has nominated the same Don Cook as Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration. He’s at least the second American to come into the Defense Programs gig after a stint at Aldermaston.
Seriously, it’s one nuclear weapons program, from the designs to the neutron generators.
Update | 11:07
In case you are interested, here is Don Cook’s biography, from the National Nuclear Security Administration:
Donald L. Cook, Nominee for Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy
Dr. Donald L. Cook was the Managing Director of the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in the United Kingdom from 2006 to 2009. In this capacity, he was accountable for AWE’s performance on the contract with the U.K. Ministry of Defence, which includes support of the U.K. Trident warheads and development and sustainment of capability in nuclear weapon design, development, manufacturing, qualification, assembly, transport, support in service, and finally, decommissioning, dismantlement, and disposal. Prior to heading AWE, Dr. Cook worked at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico for 28 years in Pulsed Power Sciences, Microtechnologies, Infrastructure, and Security. From 1999-2006, he was Director of the MESA Program Center, accountable for design and construction of the Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) complex. In 2003, he assumed Program Director responsibilities for Sandia’s Infrastructure Program and for Sandia’s Safeguards and Security Technologies Program, which responded to a new Design Basis Threat. From 1977-1999, Dr. Cook led efforts in pulsed power accelerator design and experimentation, fusion research, hydrodynamics, radiography, diagnostic development, and computational code development. He managed the Sandia Inertial Confinement Fusion program from 1984-1993 and was Director of Pulsed Power Sciences from 1993-1999. Dr. Cook is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Institute of Physics (IOP).