NIS Update: October 2009



A planning application for the latest in the series of major infrastructure developments at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) will be submitted to West Berkshire Council next month.

Plans for Project Pegasus – a proposed new Enriched Uranium handling facility at AWE's Aldermaston site – have been under development since 2004, and are now ready for submission to West Berkshire's planning committee.

In a recent letter about the planning application to Reading East MP Rob Wilson, West Berkshire's Chief Executive Nick Carter wrote “it is my understanding that this will be submitted in November”, and the October meeting of the AWE Local Liaison Committee was also informed that the planning application was due to be submitted imminently.

The new facility will replace the enriched uranium handling capacity provided by Aldermaston's A45 plant, which is approaching the end of its life.

Another AWE infrastructure project, the 'Gemini' office accommodation development at Aldermaston, is moving close to completion. In August contractors BAM Nuttall formally handed the first of the two buildings over to AWE and staff are expected to occupy the new offices from mid October.

Elsewhere at Aldermaston construction work on Project Circinus – the High Explosives Fabrication Facility – is scheduled to commence at the end of 2009.



Robin McGill, the new Chief Executive Officer at AWE, has undertaken a review of AWE's business with the aim of improving the focus of AWE's operations and cutting operating costs.

AWE has informed local media that it is “currently carrying out a review of the ways in which AWE assets and skills can be used most effectively to meet programme requirements and offer better value for money. A number of changes are being made to ensure AWE has the right skills and capabilities in place. “

The review has commenced with a restructure of the AWE Executive Team, with the aim of reorganising the business to reflect AWE's work programmes rather than functional disciplines. David Glue, Director of Stockpile Management, will take early retirement and Jason Smith, Commercial Director, will move to a new post with Rolls Royce. Richard Tinsley will become Director of the Trident Programme, Rob Fletcher takes over as Commercial Director, Graham Nicholson will be the new Director of Science and Technology, and David Philby will join from Lockheed Martin to become Director of Systems Engineering.

The review also aims to change the way in which AWE works with its shareholding companies – Lockheed Martin, Jacobs, and Serco – to integrate them more closely into managing AWE.

Local newspaper coverage of the review has highlighted potential redundancies that are expected to arise as a result of restructuring. The review has identified a probable requirement for about 50 redundancies from within a range of corporate support functions and activities, and AWE has commenced formal consultation with trade unions over the redundancies. The MoD and AWE's regulators are also being consulted over the review. Prospect, the main trade union representing AWE staff, is hoping to negotiate no compulsory redundancies, with staff in at-risk posts being deployed elsewhere within the organisation.

In a letter to members of AWE's Local Liaison Committee, Mr McGill wrote: “For AWE, the future is positive. We will continue to have pride in our mission as we deliver relevant and interesting work to our customer. Operationally, once we restructure and transform the business, AWE will be more agile, with clear accountability and direction for all. Our focus on safety in all our operations and projects will be unchanged throughout.”



AWE plc received a Warning Letter from the Environment Agency in July for a breach of the Water Resources Act following the failure of a statutory water sample taken in November 2008 from one of the surface water outfalls at Aldermaston.

The organic chemical hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) was detected in the sample at levels above AWE’s consented limit. HCH is a man-made chemical categorised as a persistent organic pollutant, and is designated in the UK as a 'Red list' pollutant, the presence of which in the environment is of particular concern. HCH is harmful to insects and fish and is strictly regulated under several EU Directives.

The exact source of the contamination is uncertain as HCH is not used by AWE in its current processes. To date HCH has not been identified in any further samples taken at AWE.

Two further pollution incidents from AWE sites have been reported to the Environment Agency at Circus Farm, both of which involved suspended solids entering a stream. A further incident was recorded at the Burghfield Brook, when a carbon filter failed releasing small spheres of carbon into the brook. The Environment Agency considers that no long-term damage to the environment has been caused by these incidents and does not plan to take any enforcement action as a result.



West Berkshire Council has revealed that it received over £3 million in payments from the Atomic Weapons Establishment over the last financial year.

The majority of payments were business rates for AWE sites, with significant sums also paid as fees for planning applications and for supervision of highway improvements at AWE Aldermaston.

In response to a question under the Audit commission Act, West Berkshire Council released the following figures showing the income it received from AWE during the financial year from april 2008 to March 2009:

Rates: £3,210,900

Planning application fees: £71,870

Supervision of highway works: £90,000

Total: £3,372,770

Although most of this money was for business rates payable for AWE's property, it will not directly benefit council tax payers living in West Berkshire as business rates are collected by local authorities on behalf of central government and then redistributed back to local authorities according to their needs as part of the local government finance settlement.

Among payments made for planning applications was a fee of £47,065 for the application for the new Main Processing Facility at AWE Burghfield. It is likely that the forthcoming planning application for an enriched uranium facility at Aldermaston will net the council a similar sum of money.

Surprisingly, West Berkshire received no money from AWE for section 106 payments, which allow councils to seek a contribution from developers for local infrastructure necessary to serve a new development, raising questions as to whether West Berkshire is allowing AWE to escape payments which are seen as an important income stream by most councils.

The Audit Commission Act 1998 allows local electors to question a local authority's auditor during the authority's annual audit about any aspect of the authority's finances for the previous financial year.



NIS is pleased to welcome Steven Hendry to the organisation as our new Administrator. Steven is currently completing a PhD with the University of Kent on Notions of Effectiveness in Local Environmental Groups and has played a significant role in recent campaign work on climate change organised by Reading Rising Tide. Steven will be working in the NIS office in Reading on Tuesday and Wednesday each week.

Joe Hudson remains with NIS as our IT consultant.




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