Shinfield parish villages included in new Emergency Planning Zone around AWE's Burghfield site

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AWE Burghfield
The new Detailed Emergency Planning Zone around AWE Burghfield

AN EXPANSION to an emergency planning zone around AWE’s sites will see parts of Shinfield parish included, but there is no greater risk to the public according to West Berkshire Council. 

They say that the new, enlarged Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ) around the AWE Burghfield Nuclear Licensed Sites is due to new legislation and not due to any changes of activity on the site. 

A statement from the council, published earlier this week, said that the Zones were updated because of changes introduced as a result of the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2019 (REPPIR 19). 

The DEPZ creates a definitive area for the Council and other emergency responders to develop a detailed emergency plan, so that those living and working in the area can be protected and supported as quickly as possible in the unlikely event that a radiation emergency should ever occur. 

This is the first time that the Council has had responsibility for determining the DEPZs, a role previously undertaken by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). 

The revised zone includes all of the proposed Grazeley development, parts of Spencers Wood, Three Mile Cross and Shinfield. It also includes parts of Green Park and the Madejski Stadium.

AWE’s site in Burghfield is a former munitions factory where warheads are assembled and maintained while in service, and decommissioned when out of service.

It is one of four sites run by AWE.

The company’s website says that “safety and security remain paramount to our operations and the way they are implemented and managed is kept under constant review”.

A factsheet produced by West Berkshire Council says that there is no need for concern. 

“It means that in the very low likelihood of a radiation emergency happening and the radiation affecting areas outside the AWE site, you need to know what to do whether for yourself, your family, your home or your business,” it reads. 

It adds that residents would not necessarily have to evacuate in case of a radiation emergency, but instead to stay inside for up to 48 hours. 

“You would need to shelter inside a building whilst the situation is brought under control and no more radioactive material is being released. You will need to stay inside and tune in to local radio, TV channels, news websites, the AWE website and Twitter account @AWE_plc which will give further information and instructions, including updates on schools.”

It adds: “You will be advised whether it is safe to come out and go about your normal business or whether you have to be evacuated in a controlled and safe way to another location.”

A statement from Cllr Lynne Doherty, Leader of West Berkshire Council, said: “While I recognise that this does mean an adjustment in the size of the Burghfield zone, I must stress that the updates do not reflect any additional risk at the sites and are simply the result of changes in legislation.

“The safety of our residents is paramount, and a clearly defined area is required to inform local emergency planning to ensure that the public would be protected in the unlikely event of a radiation emergency.  We have existing emergency plans which are currently being updated in consultation with the other emergency responders and local partners to ensure appropriate arrangements are in place.

“We are also producing an information booklet that will be sent to all properties in the Zones to make sure that residents and businesses are well informed about the changes. 

“In the meantime general information is available on our website.”

All households and businesses in the public information areas of the AWE sites will receive an updated booklet from West Berkshire Council with this information shortly. It can also be read here

The outcome of the review of the DEPZs and an interactive map is available along with some FAQs at www.info.westberks.gov.uk/awe.

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