U.K. Extends Watch on Troubled Nuclear-Arms Site

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July 24, 2014, 10:16 a.m.

The United King­dom will carry out a second year of spe­cial mon­it­or­ing at a nuc­le­ar-arms site in breach of waste and safety rules, the Basing­s­toke Gaz­ette re­ports.

The Brit­ish Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­la­tion Of­fice said in a yearly re­port that cer­tain pro­tect­ive meas­ures “do not meet ex­pect­a­tions” at the Atom­ic Weapons Es­tab­lish­ment site at Al­der­ma­s­ton, the news­pa­per re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day. The doc­u­ment notes that the site in­cludes de­teri­or­at­ing struc­tures, and airs wor­ries over “the timeli­ness and qual­ity of peri­od­ic re­views” there.

“We are cur­rently in­vest­ig­at­ing AWE Al­der­ma­s­ton’s ap­par­ent fail­ure to meet a form­al reg­u­lat­ory re­quire­ment … that re­quired the re­duc­tion in volume and en­cap­su­la­tion of 1,000 drums of in­ter­me­di­ate-level waste by Feb­ru­ary 2014,” the BBC quoted the re­port as say­ing.

“We are also in dis­cus­sion with AWE about events re­lat­ing to short­falls in the op­er­ab­il­ity and avail­ab­il­ity of build­ing fire-de­tec­tion sys­tems,” the atom­ic of­fice said. “For both mat­ters we will con­sider wheth­er en­force­ment ac­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Pete Wilkin­son, an in­de­pend­ent is­sue ex­pert, said the doc­u­ment “shows that, while safety stand­ards at many nuc­le­ar sites are im­prov­ing, AWE is just mud­dling along and mark­ing time,” the Gaz­ette re­por­ted.

“Vast sums of money are be­ing spent at Al­der­ma­s­ton but we are see­ing no im­prove­ment in stand­ards be­cause the money is be­ing spent on ex­per­i­ments and fa­cil­it­ies to build new nuc­le­ar weapons, rather than on im­prov­ing safety,” said Wilkin­son, who heads the Nuc­le­ar In­form­a­tion Ser­vice in Read­ing.

The Al­der­ma­s­ton fa­cil­ity, though, said it “fully sup­ports the [Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­la­tion Of­fice’s] fo­cus on con­tinu­ous im­prove­ment, ef­fect­ive haz­ard con­trol and main­tain­ing high stand­ards.”

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