Fire service called to acid incident at AWE Aldermaston

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A Parliamentary Question asked by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has revealed that the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service was called out to the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston on 16 August 2012 to deal with an incident resulting from an acid experiment.

The incident, which was not disclosed to the AWE Local Liaison Committee or local media, took place during a routine experiment at AWE Aldermaston on 16 August 2012 involving acid samples. According to an AWE spokesperson, “an operator heard an unexpected noise from a microwave acid digester used for small scale chemical analysis”, and as a precaution the AWE on-site emergency services were called to attend. Further investigation showed that the noise was caused by “a fail safe mechanism in the equipment”.

As well as AWE's own emergency services, two appliances from the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service were also called to the chemical laboratory where the incident took place, and stood by for a short time to provide assistance if needed.

No staff were injured during the incident and there was no release of the acid samples that were inside the digester.

AWE has admitted that that there have been 50 fire service call-outs at its two sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield since the major incident involving an explosives handling facility which took place in August 2010.