A construction worker died in an accident at AWE Aldermaston on 6th July. News of the death was released by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) on 10th July in a statement which described it as “a serious construction incident…which has resulted in a construction worker fatality”. The incident is currently under investigation by Thames Valley Police. According to a report in Construction News, the worker was a 57-year-old employee of Balfour Beatty, and the injury occurred during piling operations. The worker was airlifted to hospital, but later died. A statement released by AWE suggests that other workers may have been injured, but less seriously.
According to the ONR statement no nuclear materials were involved in the incident. ONR is responsible for conventional health and safety on nuclear licensed sites, and will be responsible for regulatory action if the police investigation concludes that no criminal act has taken place. Aldermaston has been under enhanced regulatory attention from the ONR for 10 years, since 2013. The other nuclear licensed AWE site at Burghfield had been under enhanced attention for a similar length of time, but was moved into routine attention in April 2022.
A major infrastructure project currently underway at Aldermaston is Project Pegasus, which is building an enriched uranium storage and manufacturing facility, but there are other construction projects at the site. According to the report in Construction News the building under construction will house “labs, offices, storage, workshops and training space as well as a separate ‘calibration building’ and other infrastructure and ancillary buildings”. This appears to be a description of a new AWE building known as the ‘Hub’, but AWE declined to confirm this to us. NIS understands that workers on on construction projects at AWE are typically employed by subcontractors such as Balfour Beatty.
In February a press release from AWE announced that Andrew McNaughton had been appointed as Executive Director of its Fissile Programme. His previous experience includes a year spent as CEO of Balfour Beatty, before being fired in 2014.
There were a number of workplace fatalities at Aldermaston during the early years of its operation, with at least seven workers reportedly killed between 1955 and 1986. Many of these incidents are documented in the NIS report ‘Playing With Fire‘. The last death at the site for which details are available occurred in 1979, when a detonator exploded, killing a man working in the explosives technology area. Additionally, at least eight workers are thought to have died due to having been contaminated by radioactive material.
More recent safety events at AWE include a serious fire in an explosives manufacturing facility in 2010, an electrical injury in 2017 for which they were fined £1m and an electrical near miss in 2019 which resulted in a £660,000 fine for failing to ensure the safety of contractors.
In a statement released to the press, AWE said:
“On the evening of 6 July, there was an incident on a construction area within the AWE site at Aldermaston involving Balfour Beatty employees, one of whom was airlifted to hospital. It has now been confirmed that this person has tragically passed away. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with his family, loved ones and colleagues.”
“We are supporting our employees impacted by the events, and have stood up an incident team who will work with Balfour Beatty, the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Thames Valley Police to support the investigation that will now take place. As this is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”