NIS Update – Vote for AWE Dis/Assembly Facility not unanimous

NIS UPDATE 6th March 2009

Vote for AWE Dis/Assembly Facility not unanimous

Unlike previous West Berkshire Council decisions on AWE Planning Applications, the vote for the new warhead dis/assembly facility to be built in the Burghfield flood plain was not unanimous.

Peter Burt spoke against the plan on behalf of NAG, citing the following main points:

This application was the only item on the Agenda of a special planning meeting held on Wednesday 4th March in Newbury Council offices instead of in the usual village hall.

  1. Reading Borough Council had not had an opportunity to comment on the proposal, as their council meeting to consider the matter was on the same date, 4th March. WBC had rejected a RBC holding letter. To avoid damaging the relationship between local councils, a decision should be deferred until RBC, the closest neighbouring borough to the development, had consulted their members.

  1. The Officer's report does not cover all the issues in the relevant legislation, the Government's Planning Policy Statement 25 (PPS25) on development and flood. The application fails the Sequential Test, to allow development in exceptional circumstances, and it should not be permitted, even if flood mitigation elements are built into the design.

  1. The design is not based on the latest Climate Change model, due for publication this Spring.

  1. The Nuclear Regulators have made no objection, but the they already want to limit the population around AWE. In 2008 regulators convened a meeting to advise the local planning authority that an application for a development close to the licensed site boundary should be refused on siting policy grounds. This is extremely relevant to (1) as RBC could face restrictions on house building because of this development.

Peter concluded that it would be unwise for the committee to approve the plan and should refer it to the Secretary of State for its technical issues to be considered in a Public Inquiry. Or, it should at least wait for RBC's comments and for the new Climate Change model to be available. There was a risk of the development being seen to be driven through unfairly and it was in the interests of both WBC and AWE to agree to a short delay.

After a series of questions and the officers dealing with Peter's points (unsatisfactorily), the meeting heard AWE speakers support its plans and after an hour's debate, a vote was called. Councillor Macro votes against, but all the other councillors voted for the plan.

Planning Conditions

The Nuclear Installation Inspectorate (NII) has an Integrated Intervention Strategy for AWEplc to help minimise future potential regulatory risk. It monitors AWE's required safety improvement and assesses AWE's periodic review of safety (PRS) submission.

It reports:

Parts of the AWE sites suffered from flooding in July 2007, particularly the Burghfield site, which delayed remediation work identified by the PRS and affected the emergency arrangements infrastructure. Following the resumption of production activities, we are satisfied with AWE's further progress. As part of our regulatory intervention strategy, we have in place a number of permissioning hold points at both A & B sites, and have recently issued further licence instruments agreeing limited, continued use of the assembly/ disassembly GGs.

We are working with AWE to secure the identified improvements in criticality operating rules and operating instructions following our enforcement action in April 2008. AWE is putting in place arrangements that are much more in line with regulatory guidance and industry best practice. [The improvements were met by the required date: 19 January 2009. Ed.] It should be noted we are satisfied that there is no immediate risk from criticality at AWE.

We have held discussions with AWE and the local authorities to assess the site's emergency preparedness and the arrangements for compliance with the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001 (REPPIR). Recent emergency exercises have identified learning opportunities for strategy and policy, emergency arrangements officers, planning officers, and effective interaction between multi-agency, local authorities and AWE, which are being addressed.

Reporting period June-September 2008 Published March 2008

In addition to the six Environment Agency Conditions (see NIS Update Feb.08), WBC imposed 19 Conditions and 19 Informatives.

NIS Updates

Previous issues of NIS Updates are available on the NIS website at:

HSE Nuclear Newsletter Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE)

We responded to a number of requests for guidance and advice in respect of siting criteria for nuclear installations and associated local planning considerations for the Aldermaston and Burghfield sites through a joint workshop, attended by the licensee and the local authorities (West Berkshire, Reading, Wokingham, Hampshire and Basingstoke and Deane). We have advised the local planning authority that an application for a development close to the licensed site boundary should be refused on siting policy grounds.

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