British Nuclear-Arms Guards Accused of Sleeping on Job

A British police officer guards the entrance to the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston during a 2010 demonstration by peace activists. A number of British Defense Ministry law-enforcement personnel face allegations that they failed to complete their patrols at the AWE facility at Burghfield (Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images).
A British police officer guards the entrance to the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston during a 2010 demonstration by peace activists. A number of British Defense Ministry law-enforcement personnel face allegations that they failed to complete their patrols at the AWE facility at Burghfield (Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images).

Britain is examining claims that personnel guarding nuclear warheads slept at work and did not finish their rounds, the London Guardian reports.

U.K. investigators could be looking at as many as 50 Defense Ministry law-enforcement personnel, the London Daily Mirror reported. The Guardian did not specify how many people in the 2,500-member police force have been subject to scrutiny. The newspaper said seven people gave up their positions prior to any punishment.

The claims focused on the British Atomic Weapons Establishment's Burghfield site, which is engaged in constructing, maintaining and disassembling nuclear warheads for the country's submarine-based ballistic missiles.

"At least some of the police were sleeping on the job when they missed the patrols," an insider told the Daily Mirror. "This is highly embarrassing at such a key facility."

A Defense Ministry spokesman said the allegations of unauthorized naps have not been part of any formal inquiry, the Guardian reported.

The official added, though, that personnel were facing scrutiny "for failing to complete their full patrols."

"At no point was the security of the site or its nuclear assets compromised," the spokesman added.

Peter Burt of the Nuclear Information Service, an independent watchdog, said the "sheer scale of these claims are astonishing, especially given the highly sensitive nature of the complex," the Daily Mirror reported.

Dec. 16, 2013
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Britain is examining claims that personnel guarding nuclear warheads slept at work and did not finish their rounds, the London Guardian reports.