NIS Update: March 2013

Radiation leak forces Royal Navy nuclear submarine to return to base

One of the Navy's oldest nuclear powered submarines has been ordered to return to dock for emergency repairs after a leak of radioactive coolant was discovered in its reactor compartment.  Read more.


Safety watchdog: Atomic Weapons Establishment “exposed people to risk”

An investigation by the government's nuclear safety watchdog has found “clear evidence” that the structure of a nuclear processing facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has degraded to the extent that "normal operations can no longer be justified".  Read more.


UK government snubs international conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons

The UK has announced that it will not be participating in an international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapon use hosted this week by the Norwegian government.  Read more.


£800 million contract for nuclear submarine reactor production

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has agreed a ten year contract worth around £800 million with Rolls-Royce Submarines to deliver and maintain nuclear propulsion plants for the Royal Navy's nuclear powered submarines.  Read more.


Norwegian government pension fund withdraws investment from AWE partner

The Norwegian government's pension fund has withdrawn its investments from Jacobs Engineering – one of the parent companies behind the consortium which manages the Atomic Weapons Establishment – because of its involvement in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.  Read more.


Coulport nuclear weapons store to remain exempt from scrutiny by government nuclear watchdog

New arrangements for private sector management of work at the Coulport nuclear weapons store in Scotland will not require the site to be licensed under the regulatory regime for the nuclear sector, according to the Office for Nuclear Regulation.  Read more.


Regulator approves Devonport Dockyard safety review – with reservations

Despite reservations about unresolved safety issues, the Office for Nuclear Regulation has agreed to accept a safety assessment undertaken by Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd for the nuclear submarine refuelling facility at HM Naval Base Devonport.  Read more.


Archive papers show Devonport selected over Rosyth for submarine refit work despite safety and cost risks

Devonport dockyard in Plymouth was selected as the sole site for refitting the Royal Navy's nuclear powered submarines by John Major's government even though the competing Rosyth dockyard in Fife would have been safer and cheaper to run, according to recently released archive papers.  Read more.


AWE Aldermaston emergency planning zone to remain unchanged

Council emergency planners have decided to retain the current 3 kilometre emergency planning zone surrounding the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston – despite a review by AWE which concluded that the radius of the zone could be reduced slightly.  Read more.


West Berkshire Council gives go-ahead for development within AWE Burghfield emergency zone

Despite policies against allowing residential development within the detailed emergency planning zone of Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites, West Berkshire Council have given planning permission for conversion of a car showroom into six homes at a site  within the AWE Burghfield emergency zone.  Read more.


Pangbourne Pipeline – slow progress on decommissioning trials

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has told members of its Local Liaison Committee that consultation on options for decommissioning of the Pangbourne Pipeline is unlikely to commence before the end of 2013.  

The underground pipeline, which closed in 2005, runs from the AWE Aldermaston site to the River Thames near Pangbourne and for many years discharged radioactive effluent from Aldermaston into the river.  AWE is now considering options for decommissioning the contaminated pipework.

AWE has recently conducted a series of trials on sections of the pipeline which lie under the Aldermaston site to identify the potential challenges surrounding the various decommissioning options.  Offsite trials will now commence to explore the practicalities and implications of removing the pipeline in full or in part or leaving it untouched underground.  The company has described this as a “complex and lengthy task that needs to factor in the many different environmental and infrastructure conditions and will take time”, and as a result considers it unlikely that recommendations for consultation with stakeholders will be developed before the end of 2013. 

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