Britain’s nuclear weapons base has suffered from a dozen serious nuclear safety failures in recent years, according to official records. Over the last six years HM Naval Base Clyde, where Britain’s Trident nuclear submarine fleet is based, suffered from nearly 400 “widespread” nuclear safety events relating to a “poor safety culture”.
In 12 of these cases the problems involved an “actual or high” risk of unplanned exposure to radiation or contained release of radiation within a building or submarine, according to information released by ministers in the last week. Last year the number of nuclear safety events involving nuclear propulsion nearly doubled, from 57 in 2013 to 99 in 2014. In one incident in 2012, contractors working on the base were exposed to radiation while repairing submarine equipment.
The 12 most serious events at the base, classified by the Ministry of Defence as “Category B”, are ones in which there is an “actual or high potential for a contained release [of radiation] within building or submarine or unplanned exposure to radiation”. According to the Ministry’s own criteria, this classification is used for safety events that involve a “major failure in administrative controls or regulatory compliance”.
Other serious nuclear safety events included the unsafe operation of a crane on a jetty handling explosives, faulty radiation testing, and low-level radioactive contamination around a pipe that dumps supposedly decontaminated waste into the sea. Despite the problems, the base has not recently suffered from any of the most serious category of safety failures – ‘Category A’ – which would have involved release into the environment in the surrounding area.
Excerpt from JON STONE,Britain’s nuclear weapons base suffers from ‘serious’ nuclear safety incidents and ‘poor safety culture, Independent, Mar. 2, 2015