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AWE Aldermaston chiefs say they will disclose fire inquiry
7:18pm Wednesday 4th August 2010 in News
A REPORT into the 11-hour fire at an explosives facility at AWE in Aldermaston is to be made public.
The fire started in a building in the non-nuclear explosives manufacturing section of the site at about 9pm yesterday.
AWE manufactures and maintains warheads for the UK’s nuclear deterrent on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.
Fire crews from the complex and six crews from the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service were called to tackle the fire, which was out by 8am this morning. One male worker from AWE Aldermaston sustained minor injuries.
AWE has now announced it will commission an independent inquiry. The results will be sent to local authority members as well as the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, which is part of the Health and Safety Executive.
Robin McGill, chief executive at AWE said: “We will make our findings public by briefing the AWE Local Liaison Committee which is made up of representatives of local authorities in Hampshire and Berkshire.”
He said he wanted to thank Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue for tackling the blaze alongside AWE’s own fire crew who showed “great professionalism”.
He also wanted to thank the local people who were evacuated from their homes because of the incident.
“Our emergency response procedures worked well and although we were confident there was no risk to the public, this routine precaution was taken to ensure the welfare and safety of our immediate neighbours,” he said.
Earlier in the day a spokesman for AWE said: “A full investigation into the causes of the incident, which has no radiological implications, will be undertaken. The Ministry of Defence and AWE’s regulators have been informed.”
While the fire crews tackled the blaze, 14 residents of Red Lane, which borders the northern end of the site, were evacuated to the Aldermaston Manor hotel or the Apollo Hotel in Basingstoke.
They were allowed to return to their homes by 10am this morning.
Ministry of Defence Police also set up a 600-metre cordon around the affected building, which effectively closed Red Lane from its junctions with Spring Lane and Raghill.
By midday , the cordon had been reduced to 300 metres within the site perimeter, opening Red Lane to traffic.
Councillor David Shirt said he had been chairing a meeting of Aldermaston Parish Council in the parish hall, in Paices Hill, at around 9pm on Tuesday when the drama started.
He told The Gazette: “We saw all these flashing lights going up the hill and we wondered what was going on. We knew it was big because there were more than half a dozen emergency vehicles going up the road.”
Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive have been on site today as part of their own inquiry into the fire.
Critics of nuclear weapons were quick to call for an independent inquiry into the incident.
Peter Burt, director of the Nuclear Information Service, said: “AWE handles radioactive materials, explosives and hazardous chemicals, and despite extensive safety precautions on the site this incident shows that accidents can and do happen.
“There is no room for complacency and Tuesday night’s accident is a reminder that AWE poses considerable risks to local communities.”