Tag Archives: Health & Safety

AWE Aldermaston uranium enrichment facility closed due to ‘corrosion’ in vital structural steelwork

A secret plant that enriches uranium for Britain’s nuclear warheads on submarines has been shut due to “corrosion” in vital structural steelwork.

The AWE Aldermaston facility was closed following inspections by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the nuclear division of the Health and Safety Executive.

Regulators feared one of the “older manufacturing facilities”  at the complex in Berkshire, which builds components for the Trident ballistic nuclear missiles on Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarines, did not conform to standards that demand buildings are capable of withstanding “extreme” weather and seismic events.

The ONR issued an “improvement” notice that prompted the closure by the AWE, the private consortium that operates the plant for the Ministry of Defence. AWE has been given until the end of this year to rectify the problems by the ONR.

The group’s role is to manufacture and sustain the Trident warheads and “maintain a capability” to produce a successor to the ageing nuclear deterrent in the future.

AWE said it covers the entire “life cycle” of warheads in Britain from initial concept and design through manufacturing and assembly to decommissioning and disposal.

The firm is run by a group of three private companies:  US firms Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering Group, and the Serco in Britain.

Critics last night said the corrosion in an older building highlighted the Britain’s “ancient and rickety” nuclear infrastructure.

The ONR notice was served on November 8 after a scheduled inspection in August that found an “unexpected” area of steel corrosion in structural steelwork.

The issue emerged through information published in the ONR’s regional community newsletters which are published quarterly.  Inspections at the plant were said to have “discovered an unexpected area of corrosion on structural steelwork in one of their manufacturing facilities at Aldermaston”.

Subsequent inspections by AWE found “further degradation” and all non-essential operations were stopped at the facility.

It is understood the building in question is used for the manufacture of nuclear components and was found not be able to withstand “exceptional challenges”.

“ONR investigated, and found that AWE had not fully complied with Licence Condition 28(1) in so far as its arrangements to examine, maintain and inspect the structure were not adequate to prevent the degradation of the structure, and the resulting challenge to its nuclear safety functions,” said an ONR spokesman last night.

He added: “The Improvement Notice required AWE to ensure that the structure is repaired such that its safety function is fully restored.”

The Ministry of Defence last night said the ONR demands had not had any immediate impact on Britain’s nuclear submarine programmes. A spokesman said AWE was accessing the “extent of the problem” and considering “how best to rectify it”.

“The MoD’s ancient ancient and rickety infrastructure is clearly not up to the job of replacing the current Trident nuclear weapons programme,” said the Green MP Caroline Lucas. She added: “Rebuilding it to modern safety standards will add even more to the vast costs of the programme.”

An AWE spokeswoman said operations had been suspended as a “precaution”. She add that the improvement notice “formalises a lot of the inspection and review work” that had already been carried out by the company.

SOURCE: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/awe-aldermaston-uranium-enrichment-facility-closed-due-to-corrosion-in-vital-structural-steelwork-8466191.html

Corrosion – Fatal Impact on Concrete Wall Flaw

A deficiency in the concrete wall construction of the basin at the Gatlinburg Wastewater Treatment Plant led to the basin wall collapsing, killing two employees in April, a report from the state issued Thursday says.

“Walls were cast in a manner that produced a cold joint between the cast wall which fell” and three interior intersecting walls, according to the report from the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA).

TOSHA announced in early October that it found no safety violations at the plant, and this week released a five-page report that was the basis for that finding. When TOSHA announced in early October there were no safety violations, it didn’t give a probable cause of the basin wall collapse.

The new report does. What its inspectors call a “cold smooth joint” led to leakage of acidic waste across the joint, and “as a result, corroded the rebar splice couplers over a number of years.”

The couplers were not believed to have failed at one time, but gradually over the life of the basin, the report said.

When the findings of no safety violations were announced earlier this month, Veolia spokeswoman Karole Colangelo said, “Although the findings from TOSHA reinforce our emphasis on employee safety, it does not dismiss the fact that two Veolia Water employees perished in this tragic accident, and company employees continue to mourn their deaths.”

“It was assumed the two operators were making adjustments to the effluent flow inside the equalization basin,” the report says. While the men were working, the wall collapsed and fell on the building in which they were working.

The collapse sent about 850,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into the Little Pigeon River and forced the city to pump more untreated water into the river until it could come up with a temporary solution a few days later.

According to the workers’ last journal entry at 5:30 a.m. that day, the basin contained 1.3 million gallons of water and was 85 percent full. The water level was recorded at 25.5 feet. The report says interviews with operators and plant officials show the average water level was 4-8 feet.

The plant is owned by the city but managed by Veolia Water North America Operating Services LLC. Veolia officials told the state inspectors that both Crowder Construction Co., that built the plant and Flynt Engineering Co., that designed it are out of business. The basin was finished in 1996.

TOSHA learned that after the basin was finished in 1996 the north wall had cracks and a lateral displacement/bowing of the wall and walkway. Veolia told the state that buttresses were installed that “corrected” the problems with the wall and walkway.

TOSHA noted that the flow control building where the workers were is still not accessible, but the state says “we have no probable reason to think that access to this area would reveal any additional information that would result in citation being issued to Veolia.”

The report says the contractor used “splicing couplers” instead of dowels, as required in the original drawings, noting that while that was a “deviation” from the design, it was probably not the cause of the collapse. The report did say that “formation of a cold joint resulted in accelerated corrosion of the couplers.”

TOSHA reviewed the original design of the basin and found the design of walls “adequate.”

SOURCE: http://themountainpress.com/view/full_story/16198627/article–Report–Wall-flaw-caused-accident-?instance=main_article_top_stories