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What we do

Discover how we support the defence and security of the UK.

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Our history

Learn about our proud history and what makes up our DNA.

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Site safety and security

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Connecting communities

Keeping you connected to what is happening at AWE

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About us

Learn more about our company and how we support the defence and security of the UK.

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Orion laser facility

Orion is one of the most powerful lasers and largest laser facilities in the UK.

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A unique national asset

We have unique nuclear expertise. We have a clear purpose and goals that set our direction.

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World-class expertise

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Working ethically

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Freedom of Information

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AWEsome education

Discover how we are supporting future generations.

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Local Liaison Committee

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Our regulators

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Supply chain

The supply chain is crucial to the delivery of our programme. What does it take to be a supplier.

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Local Liaison Committee

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International partners

We seek to drive better value and efficiencies through collaborative international relationships.

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Working at AWE

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Before you apply

Things to know before applying for a job.

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How to apply

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Current vacancies

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Orion facts

The Orion laser, one of the biggest capital science projects in the UK in the last 25 years, is fundamental to the continued development of nuclear warhead science and essential to the ongoing safety, reliability and certification of the deterrent.

The facts

  • Orion replaced the HELEN laser which successfully performed experiments for more than 25 years. It will extend the density and temperature space providing materials data and validating the computational models upon which projected weapon performance is based.
  • Orion enables our scientists to work at pressures and densities found nowhere else on Earth. Helping to determine the behaviour and characteristics of materials under extreme conditions which allow us to develop and validate theoretical models.
  • Orion delivers a unique combination of 10 long-pulse (nanosecond) and two short-pulse (sub-picosecond) beamlines. The short-pulse petawatt beamlines are two of the highest power beams of their type in the world.
  • Orion, which is a large neodymium glass laser facility, is designed to study high energy density physics. It will generate matter many times times denser than solid, at temperatures up to 10 million degrees. 
  • The high temperatures, pressures and compressions achieved during Orion’s ‘shots’ can also aid research in understanding the conditions relevant to inertial fusion energy, planetary and solar physics, high energy particle acceleration and even black holes.
  • Orion supports the UK-US relationship in plasma physics research, complementing the larger National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
  • Orion’s long and short pulse capability will provide independent control of compression and heating and can be used for systematic studies of various aspects of high energy density plasmas and facilitate development of diagnostic instrumentation.
  • Although Orion’s paramount purpose is to support the deterrent programme, the Ministry of Defence has made 15% of Orion’s system time available for cutting-edge collaborative academic research. This research will support current and future AWE programmes. The call and selection of suitable experimental proposals is managed through the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

See our Orion fact sheet and publications for more information.