Office for Nuclear Regulation

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HM Nuclear Installations Inspectorate

Relicensing the Atomic Weapons Establishment Sites to AWE plc

LICENCE APPLICATION BY AWE plc

Introduction

35. On 30 November 1999 the Secretary of State for Defence announced that AWE Management Limited (AWEML) had been appointed to provide management and financial expertise to AWE plc, which was to operate the AWE sites from 1 April 2000. AWE plc submitted to HSE on 20 December 1999 an application for nuclear site licences for Aldermaston and Burghfield. The application was based on the guidance provided in the HSE publication "Nuclear Site Licences - Notes for Applicants"6. This section sets out the issues considered by HSE and the conclusions reached.

The Licensing Process

36. The assessment of the application from AWE plc was addressed within 3 broad areas - the organisation, the location and the activities. Topics examined included:

37. Consideration of the licence applicant's case has followed the normal approach to regulatory decisions under the NI Act1. That is, the licence applicant's case and supporting evidence has been assessed by NII; inspections have taken place to verify, so far as is possible, that the arrangements which AWE plc is putting in place are consistent with the submissions made in the Safety Management Prospectus etc.; and advice has been sought from legal and policy advisers in HSE where appropriate.

Notification of Public Bodies

38. NII has discretionary powers under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 s.3(3) to Direct a licence applicant to serve notice on certain local public bodies which may have duties in relation to the safety of the site. This is to ensure that all the local bodies concerned have an opportunity to comment and to suggest anything which, from the point of view of their own statutory responsibilities, ought to be provided for in the conditions attached to the licence.

39. Hunting BRAE Ltd was directed by HSE to notify public bodies prior to first licensing of the AWE sites. Nothing was forthcoming which required any addition to or amendment of the standard licence conditions. HSE has considered whether a further public body notification exercise was required prior to relicensing the AWE sites to AWE plc. It concluded that this was not necessary because:

- less than 3 years had elapsed since the original exercise was conducted on first licensing of these sites;

- there was no change to the activities being undertaken on the sites;

- the existing safety management system, licence compliance arrangements and emergency arrangements were to be carried forward by the new licensee;

- existing personnel would continue to manage and execute operations;

- MoD would retain ownership of the sites.

40. Accordingly it was judged unlikely that the change of management contractor would have any material impact upon the statutory responsibilities of local public bodies, or that it could prompt them to suggest anything additional which might need to be provided for in the licence conditions.