Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE)
Find out about AWE and what to do in an emergency.
West Berkshire is home to two Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites, located in Aldermaston and Burghfield. Both sites are managed by AWE (PLC), known as AWE, which is an arm's length non-departmental public body who are wholly owned by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), and work in close collaboration with the Defence Nuclear Organisation (DNO).
On this page:
- What to do in the unlikely event of a radiation emergency at an AWE site
- REPPIR 2019
- Determining the Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ)
- AWE off-site emergency plan
- Further information
If you get a call or find out that there is a radiation emergency about AWE, then follow the steps below:
- go in - go indoors and follow the advice below
- stay in - close and stay away from all windows and doors - damp down or put out fires and turn off any fans that could draw air from outside
- tune in - tune in to local radio and TV - advice and updates will also be given on news websites and social media
- don't use your phone - don't use your landline or mobile unless there is a separate emergency - this could overload the system and should be left clear for the emergency services
- don't leave the area - don't leave the area unless told to do so by the emergency services - you will be much safer indoors
To find out more information about what you should do if there is a radiation emergency at AWE Aldermaston or Burghfield, please see the instructions and advice in the REPPIR Public Information Booklet:
To view the REPPIR Public Information Booklet in British Sign Language (BSL), click the following links to the relevant YouTube videos:
- 1 - booklet introduction
- 2 - what does AWE do
- 3 - what could happen at AWE
- 4 - how will I know if there is a radiation emergency
- 5 - what is the advice and why should I follow it?
- 6 - what if I am advised to evacuate
- 7 - the science bit
- 8 - radiation measurements
- 9 - maps
- 10 - back page to keep for information
The Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2019 (REPPIR) place a number of responsibilities on the council, including:
- determining the Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ)
- informing the public what to do in the unlikely event of a radiation emergency at an AWE site
- developing an off-site emergency plan
- training and testing the plan
- AWE Off-site Planning Group
The detailed emergency planning zone is the area where the council needs to have planned, in detail, how it, along with many other responders, will respond in the unlikely event of a radiation emergency arising from one of the AWE Sites.
West Berkshire Council is responsible for determining the DEPZ for each AWE site.
The process to define the DEPZ was last completed in January 2023.
The Consequence Reports provided by AWE and the DEPZ report relating to the decision are available to view below:
If you have further queries, please contact the Emergency Planning Service.
West Berkshire Council is responsible for developing an AWE Off-Site Emergency Plan.
This is a multi-agency plan, with the aim of enabling an effective response to incidents at either of the Atomic Weapons Establishments which has, or could have, an impact on the community surrounding the sites. As a result, the plan has a number of specific sections including:
- information about the sites and their hazards
- the roles and responsibilities of each responding agency
- the activation, command and control and coordination procedures
- protective actions to implement
- warning and Informing, including communication procedures
- information about recovery
- where to find more information
At least 27 different agencies are involved in the development of the plan.
The plan is developed alongside AWE to ensure that their on-site and the off-site responses are coordinated. It is also linked to a suit of other plans, including each agencies own response plans and specific multi-agency plans, so that the AWE Off-Site Emergency Plan is not used in isolation.
The plan is not a public plan since it is focusing on what the responders will do should there be a radiation emergency, or any other emergency with an actual or potential off-site consequence.
It is also regularly updated as a result of organisational changes, major changes or as a result of lessons learnt from exercises or incidents, on site, in the UK, or internationally. Therefore, there would be a risk of an old plan being available in circulation which could be misinterpreted at the time of an off-site emergency.
A public version of what the responders will do is being developed for issue.
Training and testing the plan
In accordance with the legislation, West Berkshire Council undertakes training and testing of the AWE Off-Site Emergency Plan.
Training and awareness sessions take place on a regular basis throughout the year for responders.
Testing is also undertaken in order to validate the plan. This testing is in line with the legislation and the regulators guidance and can take the form of a full command and coordination exercise to targeted workshops and tests of specific areas such as road closures, shelter versus evacuation and communications.
AWE off-site planning group
All the work undertaken is coordinated through the AWE Off-Site Planning Group, led by West Berkshire Council, which meets throughout the year.
The council is also directly involved or has representation on the following groups:
You can find further information on the following external websites: