A WATCHDOG group has called for the Atomic Weapons Establishment to become more accountable to those in the local community.

The Nuclear Information Service has published its annual review, which looks into the openness with which the AWE operates and assesses the company’s arrangements for discussing matters of concern with local communities.

The report argues that AWE ignored requests to give a public commitment to adopt 'best practice' standards in community engagement, and concludes that site managers do not seem to accept that dialogue with local communities should be a routine part of its operations.

Nuclear Information Service director Pete Wilkinson said: “2013 was a very poor year for AWE, with its safety performance under the spotlight as a result of a number of cases of enforcement action taken against the company by government regulators.

“AWE's public response to these incidents – trying to hush them up- merely emphasised the company's distrust of local people and the media, even though those living close to AWE sites have a perfect right to know about safety matters which might affect them.

“Over the last year, it's become very clear that AWE's arrangements for dialogue with surrounding communities are shoddy and unsatisfactory.”

An AWE spokesman said the report was based on a “subjective qualitative assessment”, and added: “AWE recognises the importance of regular, open and constructive dialogue with local stakeholders and our duty of care to the community for maintaining a safe, secure and environmentally responsible operation.”

He said a new AWE website, set to go live later this year, will include a local liaison committee page.