Skip to main content

Aldermaston Defence Establishment

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the recent leak of radioactive material from a pipe at Aldermaston defence establishment.

On Wednesday 2 December an escape was discovered from the pipe which carries treated effluent from the atomic weapons establishment (AWE) Aldermaston to the River Thames. The escape was terminated promptly by AWE staff and no special action was required. Both the amount and the level of contamination were small, falling well below the notifiable reporting level. None the less, all the relevant authorities and the occupiers of adjacent properties were informed of the situation.No effluent is discharged from AWE until has been fully treated and checked to ensure that it is below the limits set by the regulatory authorities. This escape took place when the pipe was being refilled with clean water following routine maintenance, so the effluent involved in the escape was even more diluted than usual. The cause appears to have been an incompletely closed sampling point, though the precise circumstances are being investigated. At no time has there been any danger to either the public or the environment—indeed, the levels found were barely above the recommended guidelines for drinking water. However, surplus water has now been removed by tanker to AWE and the area has been subjected to a thorough check.