NAG for zero emissions
What's going on at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston and Burghfield?
NAG Public Meeting
From Fukushima to Reading: Public Protection or public whitewash?
Guest speaker: John Large (international consultant on nuclear safety)
Chaired by Paul Gittings, Lead Councillor for Environment and Climate change, Reading Borough Council
Wednesday 31 October 2012
7.00 pm - 9.00 pm
Reading International Solidarity Centre
35 - 39 London Street, Reading, RG1 4PS
Organised jointly by Nuclear Awareness Group and Reading Peace Group
All welcome - admission free
The Fukushima nuclear disaster has exposed serious shortfalls in nuclear emergency planning arrangements. In the light of the Fukushima crisis, independent nuclear safety consultant John Large has analysed emergency planning arrangments for the Atomic Weapons Establishment - the factory where the UK's nuclear weapons are made, barely ten miles from the major urban centre of Reading.
Just how safe are we? Join John Large for an evening of discussion and debate on the risks that the nuclear industry poses to the public.
All welcome - admission free.
Organised by Nuclear Awareness Group and Reading Peace Group.
Follow by brief NAG Annual General Meeting.
At the end of November the Ministry of Defence (MoD) submitted a planning application to West Berkshire Council for construction of a Technology Development Centre at AWE Aldermaston. The Centre is being built as part of the UK's contribution to a joint UK – France warhead research programme known as 'Project Teutates'.
The Technology Development Centre will develop radiographic instrumentation for monitoring and analysing the results of hydrodynamics research experiments which will be conducted at a new joint research facility at Valduc in France. The Aldermaston and Valduc facilities are both scheduled to commence operation in 2015.
As is usual for planning applications submitted for AWE sites, information necessary to judge the risks posed by the development will be withheld from the public. A direction issued by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government allows the MoD to submit a limited environmental appraisal document to the local planning authority instead of undertaking a full environmental impact assessment.
The Technology Development Centre will design giant high power flash X-Ray machines for taking high speed photos of changes in materials during experiments which mimic the behaviour warhead components and mock-ups during a nuclear explosion. AWE has developed considerable expertise in such technology, based on Inverted Voltage Adder equipment, over many years of hydrodynamic research using existing facilities at Aldermaston.
The planning application is expected to be determined by West Berkshire Council's Eastern Area Planning Committee in late January / early February 2012. You can have your say by visiting the West Berkshire planning applications website (warning – not easy to use!) or by writing to:
West Berkshire Council
You should quote application reference 11/02557/COMIND in your letter.
Much of our recent work has been about highlighting the potential risks from low-level radiation. This video, presented by Dr Jeffrey Patterson of Physicians for Social Responsibility, gives an excellent overview of some of the issues associated with low-level radiation.
David Griffiths from the Environment Agency's Nuclear Regulation Group was our guest at the spring 2011 NAG meeting to reveal the untold story of how radioactive discharges from the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) have reduced over the last forty years. Using data from AWE and the Ministry of Defence which has never before been presented in public, David gave a fascinating presentation about efforts to drive down the levels of radioactive material released from AWE sites. (A copy of the Powerpoint slideshow with graphs and illustrations used during the talk is available to download at the bottom of the page).
David began by explaining that the Environment Agency has the responsibility of regulating discharges from nuclear licensed sites in England and Wales, but that at many of these sites there are as many non-nuclear environmental hazards posed by chemicals and wastes as there are nuclear hazards. These are also controlled by the Environment Agency, which also has a role to play in advising site operators on construction programmes, flooding issues, and reducing resource usage.
The Agency's aim is not just to ensure that site operators comply with permitted discharge limits, but also to drive down the quantity of radioactive materials released to the environment by securing improvements to production processes and equipment. AWE has made good progress in this respect over recent years and, according to David, “is probably the closest to achieving zero discharges than any other operator in the sector”. Since the 1960s the nuclear industry has changed from being largely unregulated to a very heavily controlled and closely monitored industry, with pressure for improvements in recent years driven by the European Union, the Ospar Treaty, and a 'best practicable environmental option / best available technology' approach to regulation.