The requirement for AWE to improve the safety of its warhead disassembly bunkers is not disputed. In 2007 NIS published ‘How Safe is AWE Burghfield?’ a report based on FoI disclosures documenting the safety failures of the existing ‘Gravel Gertie’ (GG) facilities and addressing the dilemma in which the MoD found itself. In 2006 and 2007 the HSE Nuclear Inspectorate (NI) pressed AWE to close the facility until essential safety improvements could be carried out.
The MoD refused on ‘national security‘ grounds. Eventually the NI secured an agreement that warhead work would only be carried out under a single-operation permissioning regime, which continues today. This emergency arrangement ensures that no work is done by AWE before the NI have inspected the buildings on each occasion permission is requested.