Atomic Weapons Establishment issued with non-compliance notice by Environment Agency over handling of hazardous waste
Britain’s nuclear bomb factories have been reprimanded by two government watchdogs for breaking safety rules on radioactive waste.
AWE, the private consortium that operates Trident nuclear weapons facilities at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire for the Ministry of Defence, has come under fire from the Environment Agency (EA) and the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) for failures in managing its hazardous waste.
The EA has issued AWE with a non-compliance notice because key posts meant to ensure the safe handling of wastes have been vacant for months. These include waste officers, radioactive specialists and the head of environment.
AWE blamed security requirements – which can include the vetting of prospective employees – for delays in filling the vacancies. According to the EA, AWE has breached conditions imposed in 2012 to ensure that enough skilled staff were employed to look after radioactive waste safely.
Anti-nuclear campaigners, however, accused AWE of only taking action when regulators forced them to. “Like all private companies undertaking government work, AWE is more interested in pursuing profitable activities than doing work which costs money,” said Pete Wilkinson, director of Nuclear Information Service.
“Since 2010 safety and environmental regulators have increasingly had to take action at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, and it is time to start asking whether AWE are fit to run this complex and hazardous site if they are unable to improve standards.”
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