Two safety incidents a month at Aldermaston atomic weapons plant

The report has been compiled by a Government watchdog Credit: ITV

A new independent report has revealed around two safety related incidents a month over the last three years at AWE’s nuclear weapons factory in Aldermaston – including the most serious issue recorded at any UK nuclear site since 2009.

The report, published by independent, Government watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), covers incidents reported to the safety regulator between April 2001 and March 2015.

The report lists 3,866 ‘unintended’ events at UK nuclear sites, 311 of which took place at sites involved in the MoD’s nuclear weapons and submarine programme.

By far the largest number – 137 – took place at AWE Aldermaston, where the country’s nuclear deterrent, Trident, is manufactured and maintained.

The report revealed that over the last three years, (2012 to 2015), a total of 82 safety-related events were reported by AWE Aldermaston – an average of more than two every month.

The most serious incident, in 2012, the discovery of corrosion in structural steelwork, resulted in the closure of the secret A45 building which makes enriched uranium components for nuclear warheads and fuel for nuclear submarines.

The incident was rated as Level 2 on the INES international scale - ranging from levels one to seven, for recording the seriousness of nuclear events - and was the most serious safety problem recorded at any UK nuclear site since 2009.

Also revealed were a further 22 cases where plant operating rules, limits, or conditions were breached, three cases where personnel received an intake, or suspected intake, of radioactive material, and two fires.

Site-wide loss of power supplies, alarm failures, waste items incorrectly stored, and unauthorised duties by a member of staff, also came to light.

A further 29 nuclear safety incidents at AWE Burghfield site, where warheads are assembled and disassembled, were reported over a fourteen year period, between 2001 and 2015.

Commenting on the report, Peter Burt, a spokesman for the Reading based, Nuclear Information Service (NIS), said:

“This is the first time that we have learnt about many of the events described in the report, which have been concealed by AWE from the public, the local press, and even AWE's own Local Liaison Committee.”