THE emergency response to a radioactive leak from the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has been rehearsed in a training exercise involving 400 staff from across 40 different agencies.
In one of the largest exercises of its kind in recent years, agencies had to respond to a fictional incident in which radioactive material was released from the site, affecting areas in West Berkshire and Hampshire.
The aim was to test West Berkshire Council’s AWE Off-Site Emergency Response Plan and demonstrate to the nuclear regulator that agencies would be prepared in the event of an incident at the sites in Aldermaston and Burghfield.
Speaking about the exercise, West Berkshire Council’s executive member for community resilience and partnerships, Marcus Franks, said authorities were not complacent, despite the likelihood of such an incident being very low.
He said: “This was particularly useful for testing how we all work together and across borders to respond to an incident and keep the public safe.
“The exercise ran smoothly, but there are always lessons to be learnt from exercises such as this and we have now begun a review to understand how we can make our emergency plan even better.”
Staff from agencies such as Thames Valley Police, the Ministry of Defence, the Met Office, Food Standards Agency, British Telecom and Highways England all took part in the exercise.
Elements of the plan tested during the exercise included command and control arrangements at local and national control rooms, the warning and informing of local communities and the recovery strategy.
AWE’s site director, Haydn Clulow, said: “West Berkshire Council’s Off-Site Emergency Response Plan for the AWE sites is tested every three years and we have rigorous emergency response procedures in place.
“Our extensive and specialist response capability in the highly unlikely event of a radiation emergency affecting the public, includes our own fire and rescue and medical service, monitoring teams, radiation protection advisers and analytical and scientific experts.”
For more information about AWE in West Berkshire, the council’s off-site plan, and information for residents in an emergency click here.