Skip to content

Regulator requires improvements at AWE

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has served Improvement Notices on the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) requiring improvements to the processes for control of changes to key safety documentation.

The independent nuclear regulator does not consider that the issue poses an immediate risk to nuclear safety, but requires sustained improvements so that safety is not adversely affected in the future.

On a nuclear licensed site, a management system is a suite of documents that includes policies, management arrangements, standards, company processes, procedures and guidance. Under the stringent licensing regime governing nuclear safety in the UK, site licensees must demonstrate robust processes for the control of changes to management systems documentation.

ONR has raised specific concerns associated with the lack of an appropriate grading system for changes to documentation, a disproportionate emphasis on reducing the burden of health and safety on the business, and inadequate implementation of the process for the control of changes to documentation.

The two identical Improvement Notices, issued to AWE's Aldermaston and Burghfield licensed sites, are the result of a focussed ONR compliance inspection following a series of shortfalls identified during previous inspections at the two sites.

The notices require a formal improvement plan to be agreed between AWE and the regulator within defined timescales. ONR expects AWE to implement an adequate process for the control of changes to management systems documentation that gives due regard to safety.

The Chief Nuclear Inspector, Dr Richard Savage, said: "This enforcement action follows a period of close regulatory attention at AWE and focussed inspection on this area.

"We are concerned that AWE has not established and implemented an adequate process for the control of changes to management system documentation that supports compliance with nuclear site licence requirements.

"While not posing an immediate safety risk, we want to see sustained improvements in order to maintain the multiple levels of defence in depth that we expect from all our nuclear site licensees."

ONR has shared its expectations with AWE, and this engagement has increased regulatory confidence that the licensee can implement a plan that can deliver the required improvements. A Project Assessment Report, summarising the enforcement decision, will be published in due course.