Efforts to tackle a major fire at Britain's top secret nuclear weapons research site were plagued by poor communication, faulty fire hydrants, safety breaches and repeated confusion, according to an internal fire service report seen by the Guardian.
The official inquiry into the blaze last August at the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment by the Royal Berkshire fire and rescue service contains strong criticism of the nuclear plant's firefighting performance. There were "numerous problems" with the way the emergency was tackled, the report said. Aldermaston's on-duty emergency controller was "overwhelmed by the demands of the incident and unable to effectively provide the information required".
The fire started just after 9pm on 3 August when a solvent used in making explosives, methyl ethyl ketone, burst into flames. It burned for nearly nine hours overnight in a building within Aldermaston's explosives technology facility and it took 16 fire appliances and 68 firefighters to put it out.
The government's Health and Safety Executive is investigating whether to take legal action against Aldermaston. The results of the site's inquiry into the incident are due to be published in the next few weeks.
Berkshire fire service's "incident debrief" has been released in response to a request under freedom of information law. It said fire controllers discovered explosives were involved when they overheard a message in the background while they were on the phone.