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AWE Burghfield

Volume 476: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) pursuant to the answer of 6 May 2008, Official Report, column 835W, on AWE Burghfield, on whose authority live nuclear work was suspended at AWE Burghfield, as described in the Health and Safety Executive Quarterly Report for 1 October to 31 December 2007; on what date work was suspended; what work needs to take place before live nuclear work resumes; on what date work is expected to resume; on whose authority this will take place; and whether he was informed of this suspension; (205054)

(2) on what date the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate stopped live nuclear work at Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield; for what reason the work was stopped; when he expects work to recommence; and if he will make a statement.

As a result of temporary disruption due to flooding at AWE Burghfield, the nuclear site licensee, AWE plc, took a decision not to undertake live nuclear working while remedial work was undertaken. This decision was taken on 20 July 2007, in consultation with the nuclear installations inspectorate (NII) and with Ministry of Defence officials, and was consistent with our planned operational programmes. Precise details on these programmes, including live working dates, are being withheld for the purposes of safeguarding national security.

While necessary work to repair flood damage was ongoing, the opportunity was taken to maximise completion of existing work identified from AWE’s routine Periodic Review of Safety (PRS), as a parallel activity. Work varied in different facilities, examples include: replacing floors, plasterwork and doors; replacing electrical equipment; mechanical, electrical and lighting improvements and new vacuum and compressed air systems. Live working has already resumed. Facilities have been subject to rigorous scrutiny through AWE plc’s governance process with inspection by, and authority from, the NII.

Ministry of Defence officials maintain a constant dialogue with AWE plc and NII colleagues have been consulted throughout. The disruption did not have an adverse effect on the UK deterrent programme, and AWE Burghfield maintains its capability to support the deterrent safely under highly regulated arrangements.