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Safety of nuclear bomb assembly plant

The Ministry of Defence has ignored warnings from nuclear safety inspectors and has
continued to assemble Trident nuclear weapons in facilities which the Health and Safety
Executive says do not meet modern safety standards.
A report by Rob Edwards in the New Scientist has revealed serious safety problems at the
Atomic Weapons Establishment in Burghfield where nuclear warheads are assembled.
The assembly and disassembly of British nuclear weapons involves surrounding the plutonium
pit of the weapon with high explosives. The task is carried out inside special buildings
known as Gravel Gerties. These have roofs covered in 6 metres of gravel. The idea is that in
the event of a major explosion the roof will collapse and that this will contain the spread of
In the photo the Gravel Gerties are the four circular buildings inside the high security
area at Burghfield in Berkshire.
Rob Edwards obtained a series of safety report carried out by the Nuclear Installations 
Inspectorate (NII), part of the Health and Safety Executive. In one report the NII says that
"The current safety facilities fail to meet modern standards". The inspectorate identified
1,000 safety defects. In April 2007 300 of these problems were still outstanding.
The Ministry of Defence has continued to assemble Trident warheads in these facilities despite
the NII's concerns. The completed weapons are transported by road across Scotland to Coulport
on Long Long. The most recent convoy was in mid September.
Di McDonald of the Nuclear Information Service said: "The NII has been effective in warning of 
unsuitability of the buildings and the poor working practices at Burghfield, but it is
powerless to override the MoD"

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