Update November 2007

NIS UPDATE November 2007

Objections to Components Manufacturing Facility over-ruled

Despite 121 objections received by West Berkshire Council to the Components Manufacturing Facility at AWE Burghfield, the planning committee approved the application on 14th November 2007. An original 11 Conditions attached to the approval were increased to 15 and included a Verification Condition, requiring AWE to provide documentary proof of compliance with the other 14. It was of little consolation for objectors to hear the committee Chair say that that objections had helped to ‘tighten up’ the conditions. NIS Objection relied on Nuclear Installation Inspectorate reports and correspondence in 2006/7 concerning safety at AWE Burghfield disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act. We argued that serious safety issues at the site should be resolved before further building was permitted. The case was undermined by the NII’s failure to object. Although the NII was not authorised to object, the council has a duty of care not to allow safety to be overlooked, whoever the applicant. The latest NIS report, How Safe Is Burghfield?’ is currently with a journalist and will be published soon.


New Planning Application AWE Aldermaston


High Explosives Fabrication Facility (HEFF)

OBJECTIONS to WBC by Tuesday 12th December 2007 


Planning Application: 07/02438/COMIND


Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, Reading, Berks. RG30 3RP

Replacement High Explosives Fabrication Facility building, associated outbuildings and access roads, vehicle turning areas, hard standings, blast protection, 8 x lightning conductor towers, security fencing, landscaping and temporary construction enclave.

You will be pleased to know that AWE have appointed a nominated Biodiversity Champion (Derek Piers) for this project who is AWE’s nominated technical authority on ecology. Also, tree felling will be programmed outside of the bird nesting season to minimise disturbance to wildlife and a species-specific action plans has been drawn-up to protect individual species.


The usual reasons to object to this plan can be put, regarding the local plan, flood prevention, traffic and so on. However, the real objection to the building of a HEFF on a site dotted with nuclear waste, nuclear research and warhead production facilities, is that it is unsafe. Ask any regulator if manufacturing high explosives on a nuclear power plant site would be acceptable. How then can it be safe at Aldermaston? The answer is ‘risk assessment’. So long as government policy is to build nuclear weapons, then the risk is balanced against that policy. The test is not, ‘is it safe’, but ‘is the risk As Low As Reasonably Possible’ (ALARP).


Send Objections to: CInwards@westberks.gov.uk or

C. Inwards, Development Control, West Berks. Council, Market Street, NEWBURY Berks. RG14 5LD

Further Information

Many of the detailed plans are not available for security reasons on the WBC website at: http://ww2.westberks.gov.uk/publicaccess/tdc/tdc_home.aspx . But the following extract shows just what is involved for munitions workers who do this work.

The dimensions of each part of the building are given in m2:
Offices 69.92
Workshop 34.45
Supervisor Control Room 24.43
Meeting Rooms 33.53
Mess Room 50
Processing Cells 1054
Control Corridor 1450
TOTAL 2716.03m²

Process Building (2504m2)
The Process Building comprises of 12 cells (one cell being sub-divided), arranged around a central corridor and accessed via a series of lobbys. The Process Building is 66m long and 35m in width. The cells will contain the process equipment required for pressing, machining, storage and measurement of HE components. The central corridor contains electrical distribution boards and work stations for the remote operation of processes within cells. Access to the cells and lobby is via blast doors, designed to protect the central corridor from the effects of an explosion within a cell. An engineered interlock system
on the blast doors ensures that there is always a closed and locked door between a cell, adjacent cells and central corridor. The blast doors are mechanically opened, remotely or locally using hydraulic power. In the event of an explosion within a cell, the design is such that the blast is directed through blast panels and towards the traverse. Integrated into these blast panels are emergency exit doors. Each cell has a minimum of two exits, one via the emergency exit within the blast panel and the other via the blast door into the central corridor. Each cell has a mezzanine floor that contains ventilation system and other services to support the process operations. Air for ventilation is principally drawn from the outside through vents. Pipes and cables connect the distribution systems in the plant room by penetrations in the wall sealed against blast pressure.

Support building 213 m2
The support building contains supporting facilities such as toilets; changing rooms; mess room; workshops and stores; an office and conference room and a central control room. The Support building is 26m long and 23m wide. It is provided to protect against ‘wrap-

around’ blast from an explosion of a cell in the Process Building and to protect against incoming fragments from an explosion from another building. The support building is visually attached to the Process Building, but does not rely on the blast wall for support, being structurally separated in order to mitigate damage in the event of the blast wall shifting in a potential explosion. The population of the building will be up to 36, with up to 10 working in the Process Building.

Plant Room
The plant room is located above the central corridor and lobbies of the process building. The plant room contains the common services to the cells, distribution pipework and cabling and is approximately 52m long.

Future Plans and Objections

Further planning applications are expected in line with AWE’s published site development plan. An application to rebuild the warhead disassembly / assembly plant at Burghfield expected in 2008 carries a new dilemma. This long overdue plan to replace the failing ‘gravel gerties’ will need to be carefully thought about because according to the NII regulators, a new facility for disassembling warheads is urgently needed on safety grounds. However, no distinction between assembly and disassembly will be possible in the planning application leaving those opposed to warhead assembly in a quandary. In order to decommission the less than160 warheads currently in the UK stockpile, a new disassembly plant is needed, opening the door to the servicing and assembling of warheads for the next 40 years.

West Berkshire Planning Consultation

Between 23rd November 2007 and 11th January 2008 WBC are holding an informal consultation period on planning matters and your comments are invited. To read the options paper and to provide feedback, see the Council website at:


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. More information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.