The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has required immediate safety changes to be made at the UK’s nuclear warhead assembly facility and has said that even with the changes, operations at the site can only continue for a limited period of time. If sufficient progress is not made on reducing risk at the facility, ONR have said that operations may need to stop altogether. The UK’s nuclear warheads are assembled in the Assembly Technology Centre at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), Burghfield, using components manufactured at nearby AWE Aldermaston. The work is carried out in buildings known as ‘Gravel Gerties’ which are designed to collapse inwards and trap radioactive material if there is a partial explosion during the assembly process. Burghfield’s Gravel Gerties are thought to have been built in the 1950s. In May the National Audit Office revealed that a replacement building is six years late and is expected to cost £1.8 billion, an increase of 146 per cent over the £734 million approved for the project in 2011.
Ekklesia 13th Aug 2018 read more »