This morning I attended the Local Liaison Committee (LLC) of the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Burghfield as one of the Reading Borough Council representatives. It was my second meeting at AWE; the first was at Aldermaston and so it was interesting to see the other site.
Introductions were by Robin McGill the new Managing Director of AWE. He is an engineer by training and a former BP senior executive who took early retirement before then running the Institute of Engineering Technology. He explained that a new site licence had been granted in March by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.
We had a series of reports updating us on internal and external testing of water, soil, air and other samples. I didn’t know that as well as these samples AWE also samples local blackberries, milk and fish to ensure that they are all well within safe limits.
AWE is also embarking on a major building programme at Burghfield to build a new nuclear facility and as part of the plan will demolish some old 1940’s buildings. The contractor traffic will be considerable and there is a traffic plan to ensure that the impact on local villages and residents is minimised. AWE are also progressing a “Local Development Order” with West Berkshire Council that will allow them to undertake a range of minor works without having to constantly come back for planning permission. In addition AWE are planning a new stakeholder event regarding the Pangbourne pipeline soon.
AWE conducted a simulated disaster exercise on 3 June involving the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service and West Berks PCT that tested the emergency responses and was reportedly a success.
Concerns were expressed over the “Women’s Peace Camp” in neighbouring Bluebell Wood. The squatters had used the Human Rights Act to defend their right to remain on MOD property. However, local residents were getting fed up with the noise and hygiene of the “camp”. A number of LLC members expressed the hope that they could be moved on soon.
We finished our visit with a tour around the AWE Burghfield Fire Station and a briefing by their own fire section staff, followed by a buffet lunch.