The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has issued a Prohibition Notice to the Atomic Weapons Establishment’s (AWE) Aldermaston site prohibiting entry into a part of the Plutonium Technology Centre classified as a “confined space” unless a safe system of work is in place.
The Prohibition Notice was issued to ensure the safety of staff at the West Berkshire based site by controlling entry to a particular area on the ground floor where reduced oxygen levels may be present.
ONR served the Prohibition Notice on AWE on 26 May following a series of engagements with AWE including an enforcement letter in March 2022.
During ONR’s engagements with AWE, the site reported events at the facility which showed that the arrangements in place to control access to the area with potentially reduced oxygen levels were insufficient.
There was no harm to staff as a result of the shortfalls identified, and no risk to the public.
The reduced oxygen levels in the area are caused by AWE’s operational activities.
These are currently being investigated by AWE as part of ongoing work to ensure that the risks to staff and the public are reduced to ‘as low as is reasonably practicable.’
ONR will engage with AWE to make sure that positive progress is made to comply with the notice.
A spokesperson for ONR said: “The key purpose of the Prohibition Notice is to ensure the safety of staff at the facility who carry out work in the confined space.
“The Prohibition Notice will apply until ONR is satisfied that AWE have resolved the issue regarding potentially depleted oxygen levels in the confined space and it remains safe for staff to work in the area.”
The Prohibition Notice has been issued under the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997, Regulation 4(2) and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, s2(1) and 3(1).