The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has announced that both the Aldermaston and Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites will require 'enhanced regulatory attention' as a result of failures to improve nuclear safety performance at the two sites.
In the case of Aldermaston, this will be the fourth year running that the site has required special measures from the regulator.. For Burghfield it represents a decline in safety standards as the site was only removed from a regime of enhanced regulation a year ago.
The measures were announced in the ONR Annual Report for 2015/16. There are 36 nuclear sites in the UK and only seven require an increased level of regulation from ONR over the year ahead.
Aldermaston was first placed under special measures by ONR in 2013. At the time ONR stated that the sites were "expected to receive enhanced regulatory attention for around two years, as we anticipate the issues to be resolved during that time", but progress on a construction programme for new buildings that will enhance safety at the site is lagging behind schedule.
The ONR report cited “AWE’s continued reliance on the use of ageing production facilities, delayed delivery of safety justifications for those facilities and delays to delivery of new build projects” as reasons for the need for enhanced regulation at the two sites. The regulator also said that “a number of safety significant legacy issues in one of these facilities were not being acted on promptly by the licensee”.
Earlier this year the MoD conducted a review of the contract with AWE Ltd, who run both AWE sites, as a result of poor performance in delivering contract requirements and constructing new site infrastructure, but decided to continue with the contract despite concerns.
In addition to the Aldermaston and Burghfield sites, Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd and six civil nuclear sites have also been identified as requiring an enhanced level of regulatory attention by ONR.