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Education and Training


Research Facility

Atomic Weapons Research Establishment Orfordness

Atomic Weapons Research Establishment Orfordness

Full name of site:

Atomic Weapons Research Establishment Orfordness


Orford Ness, Woodbridge IP12 2NY, Storbritannien

Operational period:




Primary user:

Atomic Weapons Research Establishment


Orfordness on the east coast of England is the largest vegetated spit in Europe. Prior to the 20th century it was a rarely visited place. During the First World War the Royal Flying Corps established an airfield which was principally used for experimental work.

Later, during the 1930s a small team arrived to conduct experiments into radar that were critical in proving the value of this technology. In 1956, the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment built an experimental outstation whose primary task was environmental testing to simulate the conditions that nuclear weapons and their components might experience during trials and in service with the armed forces.

Immediately offshore inert nuclear weapon casings were dropped to refine their shape and methods of delivery.

Here science and high politics merged, with investigations that were crucial to the credibility of the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent forces, the cornerstone of the country’s Cold War defence policy.


National Trust

Valuation of authenticity and integrity:

After closure in the 1960s most of the metalwork was stripped from the site, but the ruins of most of the test buildings remain.

Status and access:

The site is owned by the independent conservation body The National Trust. There is supervised public access to protect the local wildlife and to ensure visitor safety.

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