Hansard on AWE Aldermaston, Nov 4th 2008

4 Nov 2008 : Column 300W

AWE Aldermaston
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects a pre-construction safety report to be submitted to the Health and Safety Executive's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate on the planned construction of a uranium enrichment facility at AWE Aldermaston. [232377]

Mr. Quentin Davies: There are no plans to build a uranium enrichment facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE). Nor has the process of uranium enrichment ever been undertaken at AWE Aldermaston.

AWE currently has the capability to store, cast, machine and recycle enriched uranium. These capabilities are required for the foreseeable future, not only for use in Trident warheads, but also for submarine reactor fuel. Operation of these facilities is licensed by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate. In order to provide this capability into the future, the best value for money option is to build a replacement uranium handling facility. The proposed replacement handling facility programme is in the assessment phase. If this handling facility proceeds to construction, the requisite safety reports will be submitted to meet regulatory requirements.

AWE Burghfield: Planning Permission
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 26 June 2008, Official Report, column 447W, on AWE Burghfield: planning permission, what the reasons are for the revisions to the timetable for submitting planning applications for new development at Atomic Weapons Establishment sites. [232441]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The overall planning programme remains within the 2005 to 2015 period identified within the AWE Sites Development Context Plan. Some changes within the projected planning submission programme have occurred, reflecting the need to address technical issues and a reordering of priority in some cases. Such changes are to be expected in a complex capital facilities programme.

AWE Management: Emergencies
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date the Royal Berkshire Hospital last took part in a Level 1 emergency exercise for an Atomic Weapons Establishment site; and when the hospital is next scheduled to participate in such an exercise. [232434]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The Royal Berkshire Hospital plays an important role in emergency planning for Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites and is routinely invited to participate in Level one emergency exercises. The hospital last took part in a Level one emergency exercise for an AWE site on 30 September 2003. AWE supported an exercise at the Hospital involving simulated management and treatment of radioactively contaminated casualties in October 2006. The next Level one exercises are planned for late spring (Aldermaston) and autumn (Burghfield) 2009; precise dates have yet to be finalised with the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

4 Nov 2008 : Column 301W

AWE Management: Floods
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his most recent estimate is of the costs arising from the July 2007 flooding at the Atomic Weapons Establishment sites. [232435]

Mr. Quentin Davies: As I indicated in the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Davies) on 29 October 2008, Official Report, column 1029W, the costs, to the extent that they are not covered by commercial insurance, are still the subject of commercial discussions between the MOD and AWE plc.

AWE Management: Safety
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what procedures are in place to monitor AWE Management Ltd's retention of a nuclear baseline which demonstrates that its organisational structures, staffing and competences remain sufficient to maintain nuclear safety at the Atomic Weapons Establishment sites operated by the company. [232440]

Mr. Quentin Davies: In common with civil nuclear operators, the Atomic Weapons Establishment sites are licensed by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) and are required to comply with 36 licence conditions. Licence condition 36 requires that any changes to the nuclear baseline organisation for managing safety is monitored, assessed and categorised in terms of its impact on nuclear safety management in order to gain appropriate regulatory approval. The NII monitors AWE compliance against its licence conditions through inspection of processes and procedures.

AWE Management: Standards
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether AWE plc has complied with the improvement notice served by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate of the Health and Safety Executive on 3 April 2008 in respect of criticality documentation shortfalls. [232842]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The improvement notice issued to AWE plc. by the nuclear installations inspectorate (NII) on 3 April 2008 was served following an investigation into breaches of criticality operating rules at Aldermaston. The notice referred to the need for procedural guidance to have greater clarity. Improvements were sought in respect of the company's arrangements and processes for complying with licence conditions covering operating rules and operating instructions.

AWE plc. has agreed an implementation plan with the NII to meet the aforementioned, which requires the company to complete the necessary improvements by 19 January 2009. The NII has indicated that it is content with AWE plc.'s progress and that at no time were there any immediate operational risks from a criticality event.

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