Role details

Atomics Weapons Establishment - Chair

Application deadline 18 June 2024


Atomic Weapons Establishment
Sponsor department
Ministry of Defence
Business, Commercial, Major Projects, Transformation
Number of vacancies
Time commitment
130 day(s) per annum
£150000 per annum
Length of term
3 years
Application deadline
11:59pm on 18 June 2024

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Timeline for this appointment

  1. Opening date

    15 May 2024

  2. Application deadline

    11:59pm on 18 June 2024

  3. Sifting date

    21 June 2024

  4. Interviews expected to end on

    18 July 2024

Timeline dates are only an estimate and can change

About the role


For the past 70 years, the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE plc) has played a crucial role in nuclear defence, providing the warheads for the UK’s nuclear deterrent. The role of the UK’s nuclear warheads and the Continuous at Sea Deterrent is to deter the most extreme threats our nation might face, not just now, but that might emerge in the decades to come.
Today, AWE is recognised as a centre of scientific, engineering and technological excellence, equipped with some of the most advanced research, design and production facilities in the world. AWE plc was until 2021 owned by a private-sector consortium. From July 2021, AWE became an ‘arms-length body’ wholly owned by the MoD.

Role description

The role of the Chair of AWE is a vital to the successful delivery of the strategic objectives for the organisation: providing effective leadership and direction to the AWE Board; shaping the organisation’s strategy; and providing robust challenge and support to the Executive Team. The Chair will also build effective relationships with stakeholders and represent AWE externally and is directly responsible and accountable to the Secretary of State.

Appointed by the Secretary of State for Defence, the Chair will lead AWE to deliver and maintain a safe and secure Nuclear Warhead stockpile, supporting the strategic relationships that sustain the UK as a Nuclear Weapons State, and providing wider support to the UK’s security priorities and scientific interests.

Organisation description

In 2020, the Government announced the replacement warhead programme in Parliament, reaffirming its commitment to maintaining the United Kingdom’s minimum credible independent nuclear deterrent. This new programme is accelerating the transformation activity at AWE and requires an extensive and complex infrastructure build agenda, likely one of Europe’s largest over the next decade.  Our main site is on the former RAF Aldermaston, with major facilities at Burghfield, Blacknest, Alverstoke and RNAD Coulport. A team of world-renowned scientists, engineers and specialists undertake critical work, providing and maintaining warheads for Royal Navy submarines – everything from design and manufacture to in-service support and decommissioning. With unique nuclear skills and expertise, the business is also able to provide intelligence and support to the UK Government by developing innovative solutions to combat nuclear threat, terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

Board composition

The AWE plc Board comprises a collection of industry experts that together support delivery of the AWE mission. The Board is responsible for setting the strategy of the business and providing oversight of, and constructive challenge to, the Chief Executive Officer and the Executive Committee, to whom it delegates the day-to-day running of AWE’s business and operations. The Board currently comprises of the Chair, six independent Non-Executive Directors (NEDs), one NED appointed by the MOD as a shareholder, and three executive directors.

In March 2024, AWE appointed Nick Elliott CB MBE, as its new Chief Executive Officer. Leading an established management team at AWE, Nick brings experience of the defence, engineering and infrastructure domains, having previously been Commercial Director and Deputy Chief Executive of Defence Equipment & Support, and a Non-Executive director of the Boards of the Submarine Delivery Agency and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Person specification

Essential criteria

  • Significant experience at Board level as a Chair or Non-Executive Director with a record of supporting, challenging, and holding to account a strong executive team.
  • Experience of working in defence, engineering, manufacturing, infrastructure or the nuclear enterprise, or a similar or related environment, with the ability to provide Board level oversight of risk identification and management
  • The ability to think strategically, set clear direction and effectively command the confidence of a range of audiences.
  • Excellent inter-personal and communication skills, including experience of building networks, managing complex relationships and effectively influencing senior stakeholders.
  • The ability to lead a complex, commercial public sector asset with the credibility to interface with regulators and government.

Desirable criteria

  • Experience of working with the public sector.
  • Change oriented, with a track record of supporting complex transformation within organisations, including operational, organisational and cultural change.
  • Experience of developing and implementing long-term strategies within delivery organisations.
  • Experience of delivering large, complex multi-year programmes, particularly infrastructure in a highly regulated, safety-critical, environment.
  •  Experience of supporting organisations to develop a high quality, high performing, diverse and inclusive workforce at all levels of the organisation.

Application and selection process

How to apply

Please submit materials by email to The closing date for applications is 11:59 on Thursday 13th June 2024.

Your submission should include:

§  The reference number P2310-165L and role title in the subject line of your email.

§  Your current CV with educational and professional qualifications and full employment history, explaining any gaps in your employment history, giving details where applicable, of budgets and numbers of people managed, highlighting relevant achievements in recent posts.

§  The names of two referees who may be contacted at short-list stage, i.e. before the final interview, describing in what capacity and over what period of time they have known you. Referees will not be contacted without your consent.

§  Notification of any dates you are unable to accommodate within the indicative timetable set out above.

In addition, your application must include the following completed documentation:

§  Diversity Information Form. Please complete the electronic form here: Diversity Information Form.

o   We are committed to recruiting public appointees that reflect the diverse communities we serve. The diversity information you provide will help support monitoring our recruitment processes to ensure they are fair to all and allow us to attract diverse and talented candidates. The diversity data in this section is collated anonymously and will not be disclosed to anyone involved in assessing your application.

o   If you wish to be considered under the Disability Confident scheme, please indicate where specified on the Diversity Information Form. 

o   You will also be invited to declare any potential conflicts of interest on this form. This information may be made available to the panel and they may wish to explore issues with you, should you be invited to interview. (For more details about what this may include, please see page 7 of the person specification).

Should you need any adjustments to make the recruitment process more accessible to you, please notify the Russell Reynolds team when you submit your application.

Overview of the application process

AWE has appointed Russell Reynolds Associates to support this recruitment.

The Selection Panel for this role will assess applications on merit in determining the candidates considered most suitable for this appointment.

The Selection Panel will comprise:

§  Madelaine McTernan CB, Chief of Defence Nuclear, Ministry of Defence (Panel Chair)

§  Henry Lloyd, Director, UK Government Investments and Shareholder NED, AWE

§  Dr Rebecca Weston, Managing Director Warhead, Ministry of Defence

§  Sir Stephen Lovegrove GCMG KCB, Independent Panel Member

The panel will assess the applications to select those demonstrating the best fit with the role by considering the evidence you have provided against the Essential Criteria in the Candidate Profile section. Failure to address any or all of these may affect your application. The Panel will identify a subset of candidates who best match the criteria for an initial interview with Russell Reynolds Associates to further explore their skills and experience with reference to all the criteria in the person specification.

Following sifting, selected candidates will be invited to participate in additional engagement activity ahead of panel interviews, which may include meeting with members of the AWE Board’s Nominations Committee. The Selection Panel will identify which candidates are appointable before a final decision on who to appoint is made by the Secretary of State for Defence.

AWE reserves the right to make any offer of appointment conditional upon references and satisfactory conclusion of security enquiries.

The provision of false or misleading information by a candidate who is appointed will be grounds for termination without notice.

Advisory Assessment Panel (AAP)

  • Madelaine McTernan CB, Chief of Defence Nuclear, Ministry of Defence (Panel Chair)
  • Henry Lloyd, Director, UK Government Investments and Shareholder NED, AWE
  • Dr Rebecca Weston, Managing Director Warhead, Ministry of Defence
  • Sir Stephen Lovegrove GCMG KCB, Independent Panel Member
Advisory Assessment Panels (AAP) are chosen by ministers to assist them in their decision-making. These include a departmental official and an independent member. For competitions recruiting non-executive members of a board (apart from the Chair), the panel will usually include a representative from the public body concerned.
AAP’s perform a number of functions, including agreeing an assessment strategy with ministers, undertaking sifting, carrying out interviews in line with the advertised criteria and deciding objectively who meets the published selection criteria for the role before recommending to ministers which candidates they find appointable. It is then for the minister to decide who to appoint to the role.

Eligibility criteria

§  This post is reserved for UK Nationals only.

§  The successful candidate must hold or be willing to obtain security clearance to Developed Vetting clearance level. Further information is available here.

§  Candidates will be subject to the standards expected in a public role. Please review the Seven Principles of Public Life (Nolan Principles), available in Appendix I.

§  Candidates must also note the requirement to declare any interests that they have that might cause questions to be raised about their approach to the business of AWE plc, including any relevant business interests, shareholdings, positions of authority, retainers, consultancy arrangements or other connections with commercial, public or voluntary bodies, both for themselves and for their spouses/partners. Please review the Further Information section below for more detail. You will be invited to declare any potential conflicts of interests on the Diversity Information Form when you submit your application.

Security clearance

The successful candidate must hold or be willing to obtain security clearance to Developed Vetting clearance level. 

Additional information for candidates

Equality and diversity

AWE’s ambition is to create workplaces where we recognise and celebrate differences, encourage diverse contributions and our employees feel able to be themselves at work. We are striving to create a genuine culture of openness and inclusion at AWE and encourage diverse applicants. We believe that talent is talent – no matter what a person’s gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or social background. The nature of what we do does mean that there are certain requirements for anyone who comes to work for us.

Disability confident

AWE plc is an accredited user of the Disability Confident symbol, which signifies organisations which have a positive attitude towards disabled applicants. All Disability Confident Employers will offer interviews to disabled candidates who meet the minimum requirements for a job or role. If you wish to apply for consideration under this scheme, please complete the declaration in the Diversity Information Form provided. It is not necessary to state the nature of your disability. Whether you choose to apply under the Disability Confident scheme or not, you can still ask us to make particular adjustments for you.

Reasonable adjustments

Should you need any adjustments to make the recruitment process more accessible to you, please notify the Russell Reynolds team when you submit your application.

Principles of public life

The Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder.
1. Selflessness
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
2. Integrity
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
3. Objectivity
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
4. Accountability
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
5. Openness
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
6. Honesty
Holders of public office should be truthful.
7. Leadership
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour and treat others with respect. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

Code of conduct for board members

The Government expects all holders of public office to work to the highest personal and professional standards. In support of this, all non-executive board members of UK public bodies must abide by the principles set out in the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies. The Code sets out the standards expected from those who serve on the boards of UK public bodies and will form part of your terms and conditions of appointment.

Management of outside interests and consideration of reputational issues

Appointments to a public body require the highest standards of propriety, involving impartiality, integrity and objectivity, in relation to stewardship of public funds and the oversight and management of all related activities. This means that any private, voluntary, charitable or political interest that might be material and relevant to the work of the body concerned should be declared. It is important that those appointed as members of public bodies maintain the confidence of Parliament and the public. If there are any issues in your personal or professional history that could, if you were appointed, be misconstrued, cause embarrassment, or cause public confidence in the appointment to be jeopardised, it is important that you bring them to the attention of the panel and provide details of the issue(s) in your application. In considering whether you wish to declare any issues, you should also reflect on any public statements you have made, including through social media. The panel may explore issues with you before they make a recommendation on the appointment.

Please note that due diligence searches will be undertaken on shortlisted candidates and references may be taken up prior to interview or prior to any advice being put to Ministers. As part of our due diligence checks, we will consider anything in the public domain related to your conduct or professional capacity. This will include us undertaking searches of previous public statements and social media, blogs or any other publicly available information and associated enquiries deemed relevant to the appointment. This information may be made available to the panel and they may wish to explore any issues with you, should you be invited to interview.

Appointment and tenure of office

Appointments are for the term set out in this advert, with the possibility of re-appointment for a further term, at the discretion of Ministers.  Any re-appointment is subject to satisfactory annual appraisals of performance during the first term in the post. There is no automatic presumption of reappointment; each case should be considered on its own merits, taking into account a number of factors including, but not restricted to, the diversity of the current board and its balance of skills and experience. In most cases, the total time served in post will not exceed more than two terms or ten years in any one post. 

Application feedback

We will notify you of the status of your application. We regret that we are only able to offer detailed feedback to candidates who have been unsuccessful at the interview stage.

How to complain

If you feel you have reason to complain you should direct your concerns in the first instance to Russell Reynolds Associates at

Data protection

The Cabinet Office will use your data in line with our privacy policy.
The Ministry of Defence privacy notice can be found here

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