Flood defence scheme proposed for AWE Burghfield

Flooding at AWE Burghfield in 2000.


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has submitted a planning application to West Berkshire Council requesting permission to build flood defences for the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield, which has a history of flooding.

The AWE Burghfield site, where the UK's Trident nuclear warheads are assembled and disassembled, is situated in low-lying ground and the Burghfield Brook stream runs through the site.

In July 2007 severe flooding at AWE Burghfield came close to overwhelming the site, resulting in a ‘near miss’ event and causing long-term disruption to nuclear weapons manufacturing. Floodwater rose to 2 feet – lifting drain covers, cutting off one facility on the site, and affecting a total of 84 buildings.  Following the flood live warhead work was suspended for nine months while clean-up work took place at a cost to the taxpayer of £5 million.

Since 2007 emergency flood defences have been deployed at AWE Burghfield roughly twice a year on average as a result of bad weather warnings.

The planning application submitted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is seeking permission for construction of an upstream flood storage area on land to the south of the AWE site; bunding to prevent floodwater innundation and protect individual buldings; and a pumping station to remove floodwater.

The Burghfield Brook will be widened where it passes through land owned by the MoD, and a newly constructed high-flow channel will be designed which will be able to accommodate water from a 1 in 200 year six hour storm.

A number of bridges and culverts crossing the Burghfield Brook within the AWE Burghfield site will be removed, bringing improvements to the ecology of the stream.  Three more culverts crossing the brook will be rebuilt, and landscaping will be undertaken to enhance the local environment.

The scheme is expected to take approximately eight months to construct.

Planning permission was granted in 2009 for Project Mensa, a new warhead assembly and disassembly facility at AWE Burghfield, despite objections about flood concerns at the site.

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