Safety concerns over Berkshire nuclear weapons factories

Trident-class nuclear submarine Vanguard Image copyright PA
Image caption AWE manufactures the warheads for the UK's nuclear deterrent Trident

Two nuclear weapons factories are to remain under extra scrutiny due to safety concerns over their ageing facilities, a government watchdog said.

The AWE sites in Aldermaston and Burghfield, Berkshire, make and maintain the UK's nuclear warheads.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said the sites will be scrutinised closely for at least two years.

Contractor AWE Plc said the replacements for the outdated facilities had been delayed.

The private company manufactures the warheads for Trident, the UK's nuclear deterrent at sea.

AWE had planned to replace the Burghfield facilities by 2016, but due to construction delays it is expected to be completed in 2023, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service

In the ONR's chief nuclear inspector's annual report, the regulator said: "Both sites have received enhanced regulatory attention for approximately six years.

"Historically, this was due to safety and compliance concerns, and the continued undertaking of operations in ageing facilities due to delays to the delivery of modern standard replacement facilities."

It added it expected AWE to be in a position to support a move back to routine regulatory attention during 2021.

Image caption AWE said it was committed to improving safety

Paul Rees, AWE's director of environment, safety and health, said: "While we acknowledge that short-term challenges remain, the progress we are making in some areas demonstrates our strong commitment to improving safety and regulatory compliance."

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