AWE Planning Application for Assembly/ Disassembly facility
AWE expects to apply for planning permission around December 18th for its replacement Gravel Gerties in the Burghfield high security area. The new name for the project is MENSA, named after a star constellation. The Consultation period of 21 days cannot formally be extended as this is set out in the Council's procedures. However, given the Christmas holiday period and the fact that it is a major application, the Planning Officer will accept consultation responses and representations after the consultation deadlines have officially expired.
NIS is currently consulting with other groups concerning the grounds on which toobject to this major development. As previously noted, the conditionof the existing warhead dis/ assembly facilities is giving the NIIRegulators serious concern. NII continues to permits work in the GGs only on a single-operation-approval basis. Safe facilities are needed for future disassembly of the 100+ warheads in the current stockpile but the new plans will provide a new assembly workshop too. However, when we examine the new plans, they may not meet the required legal safety standard. Climate Change flood events are expected to increase and be unpredictable (see below: Emergency Planning for SeriousFloods). Burghfield may be the wrong site for a nuclear warhead facility all together.
Emergency Planning for Serious Floods
The threat of sudden and overwhelming floods was the risk under discussion at a recent Civil Contingencies Local Emergency Planning conference in London. The Conference was organised by the Public Policy Exchange, in association with the Centre for Parliamentary Studies and was attended by 25 delegates from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, Army, Navy, local EPOs, Fire Services, theScottish Executive, academics, a journalist and NIS (also representing NAG, Plymouth Peace Group and SCANS).
Phil Evans, the Meteorology Office Chief Advisor to the government,explained that weather forecasting is currently not good enough, giving only 1-12 hours warning of unpredicted events. Next year an improvement is expected, giving two days notice when new modelling programmes are installed in the Met. supercomputer. Climate change is the challenge – and we don't know what we will be facing in future.The significant implication for AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield is that risk assessments may have to be re-drawn and could conclude that the risk will become too high to justify. Apart from flood risk, a lightning strike on nuclear materials or a weapon may become a more frequent possibility.
Extracts from the Pitt Review of the July 2007 floods were provided as background information. For example:
"…we firmly believe that the public interest is best served by close rcooperation and a presumption that information will be shared, We must be open, honest and direct about risk, including with the public. We must move from a culture of 'need to know' to one of' need to share'. Pitt Review 06/08 ES7
NII Quarterly Report 1 July -30th September 2008
1. Change in ownership of AWE
Thereis still no confirmation that the contract between the MoD and Jacobs Ltd has been finalised for the take over of BNFL's share of AWEML. The announcement will be made by MoD, rather than AWEML. Thenew contractor will have responsibility for ensuring that AWE plc meets its nuclear license obligations and the NII has already checked that AWE plc has addressed the possible nuclear safety implications of the change.
2. Regulators advise to Local Councils onPlanning
The HSE/NII is a non-statutory consultee, providing advice to Local Authorities with regard to planning applications in the vicinity of the Aldermasto nand Burghfield sites. In August HSE/NII wrote to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council advising against a proposed housing development on the Boundary Hall because of its size and close proximity to the AWE site in relation to the AWE off-site plan.
Two FoI requests for information were made to NII during the summer quarter in relation to AWE. While the regulator's report says its upports making appropriate information available to the public it then warns that time spent providing it has to be taken out of planned front line inspections at the AWE sites. This contradictionis worrying because the FoI system cannot work unless dedicated staff are employed to provide information in cooperation with the inspectors.
4. Improvement Notice on Criticality Control
AWE has until January 19th 2009 to complete the required improvements inthe documentation system associated with criticality risk to avoid legal action by the regulators. By September, reported progress was mixed although overall, AWE was making satisfactory progress.
NIS Legal Challenge of the replacement of Trident
A date has been set for the Nuclear Information Service Appeal, calling for governmental accountability of the illegality of the replacement and maintenance of the UK's nuclear weapon system proposed in the Government's White Paper, ‘The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent', published on 4 December 2006. NIS's application for Appeal against the decision not to allow a judicial review of the Trident decision is listed to be heard on Monday 26thJanuary 2009 in the High Court, The Strand London at 10.30am.
Previous issues of NIS Updates are available on the NIS website at: http://www.nuclearinfo.org/