Catalogue of safety defects at nuclear bomb factory

Official reports produced by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, and released to New Scientist magazine under the Freedom of Information Act, have revealed a catalogue of up to 1,000 safety defects at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Burghfield, Berkshire*.

Some operations are reported to have been temporarily suspended on the orders of the inspectors, but others have been allowed to continue after the Ministry of Defence insisted that the work is "necessary in support of the UK Strategic Deterrent".

Many of the problems relate to equipment and radiation-containment structures used when nuclear warheads from Trident submarines are dis-assembled and tested, before being returned to the Navy for deployment. One of the series of 12 reports reveals that an inspection this April found that some of the "engineering fixes" which AWE claimed to have delivered had not actually worked. In response, members of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) noted that this "does not instill confidence that AWE's own procedures are being followed."

* Article at  and reproduced in full at