Office for Nuclear Regulation

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HM Nuclear Installations Inspectorate

Relicensing the Atomic Weapons Establishment Sites to AWE plc



66. One of the activities at the AWE sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield is the incorporation of fissile material in a device designed to form part of a nuclear assembly. In applying licence conditions it is not HSE's intention that its inspection and enforcement activities affect the design of a completed device. HSE has no regulatory role in weapon design matters and the AWE Act Amendment Order4 disapplies licence conditions to the extent that they affect the design of a nuclear device. Nuclear device design issues are dealt with by a body appointed by the Secretary of State for Defence.

Licence compliance arrangements

67. Licence compliance statements are contained in the existing AWE Company Safety Management System and were adopted by the new licensee on 1.4.2000. Any subsequent changes will be dealt with under the normal change control procedures.

68. The start of the new management contract coincided with the date on which a new licence condition relating to the control of changes to organisational structures and resources, licence condition 36 (see Annex 1), was due to come fully into force. Consequently particular attention was paid to ensuring that AWE plc would have appropriate arrangements in place. Draft arrangements were submitted by the company and were found to be acceptable.


69. Decommissioning of redundant facilities is an important responsibility of a licensee. The new licensee is faced with a legacy of old buildings, mainly on the Aldermaston site, that have been under care and surveillance for up to 20 years. A decommissioning strategy document and decommissioning plan was received and assessed by NII. Decommissioning safety cases and detailed project management plans produced for specific facilities regarded as a priority for decommissioning have also been reviewed.

70. The company's stated decommissioning policy is "to carry out promptly unless there is a clear safety and environmental benefit from deferral". This is clear and compatible with NII expectations, and is supported by a realistic strategy and funded programmes to implement it. The new management team had identified the scope for improvement on the project management arrangements for decommissioning. Thought had also been given to some "spend to save" initiatives and the adoption of better size reduction techniques. These initiatives are welcome and will be kept under active review from the commencement of the new contract.

71. A recently revised decommissioning strategy document setting out proposals for the long-term planning for decommissioning the site has been submitted by the new management team. The 10 year plan, together with plans for specific identified facilities, has been approved under LC35 (this means that the plans cannot be changed without the agreement of NII) and it is proposed to continue this practice of regulatory control.

Radioactive Waste Management

72. The new waste management strategy was judged to be clear and compatible with NII requirements in this area. The policy and objectives are supported by a detailed strategy and funded plans. It is understood that arrangements are in place to enable private financing of capital schemes and that it is envisaged that an integrated ILW treatment facility will be provided. The legal specifications referred to in paragraph 21 continue in force and are binding on AWE plc.

Special Nuclear Materials

73. The current arrangements for the storage of Special Nuclear Material (SNM) were inspected. This confirmed that further examination by AWE plc of the future requirements, capabilities and options was required. Furthermore, the current storage containers and older storage facilities were unlikely to be acceptable in the long term and are getting in the way of decommissioning. AWE plc has given an undertaking to produce, by September 2000, a programme with key milestones to address these matters.

Safety Cases

74. Safety cases are already in place following the licensing of Hunting-BRAE Ltd and there is a programme for undertaking Periodic Safety Reviews. AWE plc formally took over the safety cases on April 1st, coincident with the adoption of all licence compliance arrangements by the Chief Executive on behalf of AWE plc.

Emergency Arrangements

75. The emergency arrangements for Aldermaston and Burghfield remain unchanged. New Approvals were prepared in each case. The plans cover both on-site and off-site emergency responses and are derived from the contingency plans for each facility that are contained in their safety cases. Contingency arrangements exist with four hospitals for the treatment of different classes of casualties. Thames Valley Police Headquarters at Kidlington is designated as the off-site centre (OSC).


76. HSE's inspections, reviews and assessments of the licence applicant's case revealed no issues to impede the granting of nuclear site licences to AWE plc for the AWE sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield. Accordingly new licences were granted on 29 March 2000 by HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations, Mr L G Williams, and came into force on 1 April 2000.