AWE, the company that runs the nuclear plant, insists that the number of safety incidents is usual for a site of such size
The safety record of Britain’s aged nuclear weapons plant at Aldermaston in Berkshire has been less than enviable. AWE, the private consortium that runs the sprawling 750-acre site, is due to appear in Reading crown court in March, charged with breaking health and safety law in connection with a fire in August 2010.
The prosecution is being brought by the government’s watchdog, the Health and Safety Executive, which has also asked AWE to review its arrangements for dealing with fires. The official inquiry into the fire by the Royal Berkshire fire and rescue service was very critical of Aldermaston’s performance, saying there had been communication breakdowns, confusion and faulty fire hydrants.
In response to inquiries, AWE admitted in September that there had been as many as 50 other fires at Aldermaston over two years, though it said that they were all minor. It also said that an incident during an acid experiment on 16 August last year resulted in the fire brigade being called out.
AWE insists that the number of safety incidents is usual for a site that contains 7,000 people, and that it always informs the appropriate authorities. Its critics, however, are sceptical, claiming that Aldermaston tends to try and keep its problems under wraps.