A protest has been planned for a Suffolk airbase as speculation mounts that nuclear weapons storage facilities could return to the site. 

According to US Air Force budget estimates for 2024, a $50 million 144-bed "surety dormitory" is planned for RAF Lakenheath, north of Mildenhall, as part of a "potential surety mission".

The Federation of American Scientists previously reported that, in the 2023 defence budget, the UK appeared in a list of countries where investment is taking place for "special weapons" storage facilities. 

A US defence official said: "The United States routinely upgrades its military facilities in Allied nations. Consistent with  long-standing practice, the UK, NATO, and the U.S. do not disclose nuclear posture or basing.

"It is policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any general or specific location."

John Marais, spokesperson for Norwich Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), said a large protest against the storage of US nuclear weapons will take place at the gates of RAF Lakenheath on Saturday, September 23. 

"Having nuclear weapons there makes East Anglia a potential target for nuclear attacks should nuclear war happen. That is our first concern, it is not very comfortable to be right in the front line which is where this would put us," said Mr Marais. 

"We also don't want to be complicit in in mass-murder which could arise. Whether we like it or not if NATO gets dragged into some kind of nuclear exchange we would have no choice but to face the outcome of that."

East Anglian Daily Times: Protesters at RAF Lakenheath in 2001Protesters at RAF Lakenheath in 2001 (Image: Denise Bradley/Newsquest)

Mr Marais said previous protests, including one last November and further rallies earlier this year, have seen between 200 and 300 people attend, with even more expected in September. 

"Up until now we have known they had plans for it but now it is looking pretty certain," he said.

"We will be showing up at the main gate to Lakenheath. There will be local people, people from Norwich, Ipswich, Cambridge, London, we've had people from as far as Yorkshire and Scotland.

"I suspect it will be bigger this time because things are ramping up. We need to get serious, we can't just let this happen because we are complict in this." 

This comes amid growing tensions and nuclear safety concerns following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year. 

Mr Marais said he finds it 'deeply concerning' that local MPs have not been more vocal about the plans for the airbase. 

"There has been no discussion from our MPs about whether it is right to have foreign nuclear weapons on our soil," he said.

"We clearly can't leave it to politicians, we need to get out there and make noise."

At one time, RAF Lakenheath had capacity to store some 110 nuclear bombs, but all of these were withdrawn by 2008. 

US nuclear weapons began being stationed in the UK in 1954, a move that caused controversy over the years perhaps most notably at now-closed RAF Greenham Common where, in the early 1980s during the Cold War, the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp was established in protest of cruise missiles being stored at the base. 

Groups also camped along the perimeter of RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire in protest of cruise missiles stationed there.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was launched with a public meeting in London in February 1958, and people from all walks of life including scientists, religious leaders and academics, began to show their support.

The UK adopts a posture of "minimal credible nuclear deterrence" and has a "no-first use" policy. 

The country has a ceiling of no more than 260 warheads, which rose from 180 in 2021, and operates continuous at-sea deterrence.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "It remains a long-standing UK and NATO policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons at a given location."