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The Environment Agency (EA) has issued an Enforcement Notice following investigations relating to an increase in tritium discharges from the AWE Aldermaston site to the Aldermaston Stream over the period November 2012 to March 2013.
AWE reported increases in tritium discharges to the EA over the period November 2012 to March 2013. The EA permits AWE to discharge 39 TBq (a TBq is 1,000,000 million Bq) to air from its operations at Aldermaston. The EA assessed the levels of tritium as being (around 50 Bq per litre of water discharged to the Aldermaston Stream) and concluded that these did not represent an environmental hazard.
AWE responded: “From November 2012 to March 2013 AWE recorded tritium levels in the North Ponds which exceeded the notification level AWE had agreed with the EA.
Investigations identified the source as out-gassing of tritium waste drums in one of our storage buildings. Readings from July/August 2013 showed that Tritium levels had returned to those previously recorded following the reinstatement of the ventilation system in the storage building.
We can reassure the public that there is no need for concern, as these heightened levels are still very low and pose no health threat. They are very much lower than the World Health Organisation Guidance for Tritium in drinking water.
While there is no danger to the public or the environment, we accept there is a need for the company to review some of its processes. The Enforcement Notice requires AWE to review other modifications made on site to see whether questions raised relate only to this issue or whether they are more widely systematic.
"AWE plc, as the Environmental Permit Holder, takes its responsibilities of public and environmental protection very seriously and will continue to work with the EA and other regulators."
Notes: Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen gas that occurs naturally in the environment, it is widely used in medicine and by the nuclear industry. Tritium is very weakly radioactive and represents a very low hazard at the levels discharged to the environment in this incident.
Notes to Editors:
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Val Hincks, 0118 985 6410