20 September 2007: for immediate release
Official reports produced by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, and released to New Scientist magazine under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed a catalogue of up to 1,000 safety defects at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Burghfield, Berkshire.
Some operations are reported to have been temporarily suspended on the orders of the inspectors, but others have been allowed to continue after the Ministry of Defence insisted that the work is “necessary in support of the UK Strategic Deterrent”.
Many of the problems relate to equipment and radiation-containment structures used when nuclear warheads from Trident submarines are dis-assembled and tested, before being returned to the Navy for deployment. One of the series of 12 reports released under FoI legislation reveals that an inspection this April found that some of the “engineering fixes” which AWE claimed to have delivered had not actually worked. In response, members of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) noted that this “does not instill confidence that AWE’s own procedures are being followed.” The NII reports criticised AWE’s “poor” and “unacceptably slow” progress.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “It is shocking to discover that warheads which combine high explosives with radioactive cores are being handled with anything but the highest of safety standards. That the concerns of the official watchdog have gone unresolved for several years is a national scandal. So called ‘military necessity’ cannot be used to over-ride public safety”
She continued, “In addition to contributing to a much more dangerous international situation and breaching our obligation to disarm under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we now find that these weapons pose a direct danger to people across the south of the country due to their unsafe maintenance. Instead of investing in the replacement of Trident, the Government should comply with our international obligations and scrap it now.”
Notes to Editors:
1. For further information and interviews please contact Ben Soffa, CND’s Press & Communications Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859
2. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere. www.cnduk.org