NIS UPDATE 7th March 2008
Environment Agency (EA) Warning Letter to AWE
The Dec.07 Minutes of the AWE Local Liaison Committee (LLC) reports that AWE has received an Environment Agency warning letter. The warning concerns gaseous samples in the H area Hydrodynamic area of AWE Aldermaston. A familiar story of aging facilities not meeting modern safety standards and maintenance management failures are the cause of radioactive discharge sampling equipment malfunctioning on a regular basis. The EA Inspector explained that while the Agency is pleased to see AWE spend £50,000 on new equipment, and some physical changes completed, work is on-going with a lot still to do. AWE Directors are aware that an EA Enforcement Notice will be served if safety improvements are delayed and control over maintenance work remains sloppy.
September / October 2008 is the target closure date to avoid further sanction. Safety at Burghfield
The NII Periodic Review of Safety (PRS) of AWE Burghfield warhead assembly facilities continues to report safety concerns in its last Quarterly Report for 2007. Currently, each procedure of warhead disassembly work has to be permissioned following a separate licence application, but the following statement reflects increased limits on warhead activity for the foreseeable future. New gravel gerties will not be available for some years since plans are not expected to be submitted to the Local Planning Authority before August 2008. "AWE has agreed that no live nuclear work will be carried out until the necessary ALARP fixes are in place." http://www.hse.gov.uk/nuclear/llc/2007/aldermaston4.htm There also seem to be problems with the safety review for VIPER at Aldermaston, and HSE believe that AWE procedures for reporting abnormal incidents need improving.
AWE Local Liaison Committee (LLC) Meeting Minutes Since the re-vamp of the AWE website, previous Minutes of the LLC are no longer available. This is unacceptable since the developments reported to the LLC are not time sensitive and all Minutes should be freely available if the Committee is to achieve its function of being a public link with AWE. Minutes for 13 December 07 are now on the AWE website at:
NIS is making representation through Reading Borough Council for all previous Minutes to be reinstated on the AWE website.
Legal Opinion on West Berkshire Council HEFF planning decision
The MoD was granted planning permission by WBC for a High Explosives Fabrication Facility (HEFF) at AWE Aldermaston on 6th February despite over 100 objections. NIS legal consultant Jamie Woolley, a local authority/environment legal expert, considers the plans have insufficient information on which the local planning authority could make a decision. Additionally the LPA was unable to provide its statutory consultees with sufficient information on which to assess the plans. NIS is now taking legal advise with a view to seeking a legal opinion on whether or not the LPA was right to approve a plan when insufficient information for itself or its consultees was submitted by the applicant. This is a test case. It is the first time that the MoD has withheld information in a planning application for developments at AWE. Prior to the end of Crown Immunity in 2006, no such approval was required.
Women were right to challenge the AWE Byelaws Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp received judgment on 6th March 2008 in its Judicial Review of the AWE 2007 Byelaws covering the MoD controlled land outside the fence at AWE Aldermaston. Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Mr Justice Walker, who heard the case a month ago, found in favour of the claim on some points and against it on others.
The Judgment confirmed that the Women’s case had merit and that a full hearing had been granted on 1st February this year. It quashed the Byelaw criminalizing “the putting of any thing on any surface” but dismissed the claim that a byelaw to criminalise the Women’s Peace Camp was unjustified.
“The Peace Camp has been here for 21 years – a visible sign that freedom of expression is alive and well. It is not only a valid means of alerting people to the deadly risk that Britain’s nuclear weapons programme creates, but also is a place where women’s views can be heard.”
The women are considering an appeal, and are consulting their lawyers as a matter of urgency.