NIS Update: January 2013

Fears over structural safety of buildings halts work at Atomic Weapons Establishment

Production work has been halted in one of the main manufacturing facilities at the UK's nuclear weapons factory because of safety fears caused by corrosion of structural steelwork.  The government's nuclear safety watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), has issued managers at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston, Berkshire, where the warheads for the UK's Trident nuclear weapons are  manufactured, with a formal improvement notice ordering the factory's managers to halt all non-essential operations in the building while the extent of the corrosion is investigated.  Read more.


Alternatives to Trident take centre stage as senior politicians question need for new nuclear weapons

As Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander hits out at spending billions on replacing Trident, other senior politicians have added their voices to the growing criticism of government plans for new nuclear weapons.  Read more.


AWE construction programme continues to make headway

Significant progress has been made in delivering the major projects programme at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), with three key new facilities on schedule for handover to operational managers next year.  Read more.


UK government outlines position on Trident and Scottish independence vote

The UK's coalition government insists that independence for Scotland would not result in the UK abandoning its nuclear weapons even though finding alternatives to the current nuclear bases on the Clyde estuary would have a “huge cost” and would be an “enormous exercise”.  Read more.


Nuclear risks rule Devonport out as an option if Trident quits Scotland

The UK's Trident nuclear submarines could not be rebased at the Devonport naval dockyard in Plymouth for safety reasons if an independent Scotland orders the fleet to leave, according to a report from Scottish CND.  Read more.


Audit Office: 'More to do' in improving Ministry of Defence equipment project performance

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) needs to do “consistently better” in improving cost management and reducing delays in the delivery of its major equipment projects according to the government's financial watchdog.  Read more.


Police investigating fatal shooting shocked by binge drinking on nuclear submarine HMS Astute

An inquest into a fatal shooting on board one of the Navy's nuclear powered submarines has been told that police investigating the incident were so shocked by binge drinking among the crew that they wrote to military authorities to highlight their worries.  Read more.


US nuclear powered submarine involved in collision in Gulf

The USS Jacksonville, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, has collided with a small fishing vessel in the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.  The accident, which took place on 10 January, resulted in damage to one of the submarine's periscopes but did not injure anyone.

The collision occurred when the submarine was submerged at periscope depth, with the crew of the fishing vessel apparently unaware of the accident.  Following the incident the unidentified craft "continued on a consistent course and speed offering no indication of distress or acknowledgement of a collision”, according to a statement from the US Navy's Fifth Fleet..

The statement confirmed that the Los Angeles class submarine's reactor remained in a safe condition and that there was no damage to propulsion plant systems or concern regarding the submarine's watertight integrity as a result of the collision.

This is the Jacksonville’s fourth collision since 1982, when the submarine collided with a Turkish cargo ship off the coast of Virginia, USA.  Subsequent collisions occurred between the Jacksonville and a US Navy barge in 1984, off the coast of Vancouver, Canada, and with a Saudi Arabian container ship in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, in 1996. In 2004, a fire broke out in a compartment of the Jacksonville causing minor injuries to a fire fighter and a sailor while the submarine was docked in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Virginia.


Radioactivity In Food and the Environment Report 2011 published

The Food Standards Agency, in collaboration with the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, have published the 'Radioactivity in Food and the Environment' (RIFE) Report for 2011 – an annual assessment of radioactivity in food and the environment and public exposure to radiation in the UK.

The report presents the results of a nationwide monitoring programme and concludes that public exposure to ionising radiation around nuclear sites the UK remains within legal limits.  

For Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites, the 2011 RIFE report indicates that public exposure to radiation around Aldermaston and Burghfield in 2011 was below the legal limit.  Concentrations of radionuclides in food and the environment around each site were similar to previous years and radionuclide concentrations around both sites were low.

According to the Environment Agency the results “clearly show that discharges from AWE and all nuclear licensed sites in the UK do not pose a significant risk to public health and that all doses are within legal limits”.

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