Monday, 9 April 2012

Lack of an independent review of the MODs radioactive management practices

It was custom and practice that MOD would periodically seek independent review of its radioactive waste practices; benefits included engendering public confidence and the advice from the civil nuclear sector against which MOD performance could be independently bench-marked.
These reviews were carried out by the Governments independent advisory committee on radioactive waste RWMAC made up of experts in the field of radioactive waste management. RWMACs role in providing advice to government was taken over by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM).

The last report by RMAC on MoD radioactive waste practices was published in 2001, since then there has been no further review. 

An FOI request dated 24th February 2012 asked

“it is over ten years since the last independent periodic review of the
MODs radioactive waste management practices by RWMAC.

Could you provide me with the following information :-

a: Could you please tell me why there has not been a review of MODs
radioactive waste management practices by CoWRM RWMACs successor or any
other body since 2000; and

b: if it is MODs intention to commission a review of the MODs radioactive
waste management practices.

c: If this is the case when is it intended such a review will take place.”

On the 23rd March MOD replied

“We are still working to identify any information that falls within the scope of your request 
and I apologise that we have been unable to respond to your request in the 20 days as set 
out in the FOI Act.  I will send you a final response or an update as soon as possible but 
no later than 22 April 2012. “

This seems to suggest that those responsible for policy issues such as this within the MOD have either forgotten the need for periodic independent reviews of the MOD’s radioactive waste management practices or it is now policy that no such reviews should take place.  The former suggests incompetence where as if the latter is the case, this suggests that there are issues that the MOD does not wish to come to the attention of the public or the media.  Either way this is a worrying state of affairs and only serves to weaken confidence in the MODs ability to properly manage radioactive waste arising from both the nuclear weapons and propulsion programmes. It also points out MODs failure to comply with its statutory duties under the Freedom of Information Act.

You can track progress on this FOI request on the “What Do They Know” website

23 April MOD failed to reply

As of 23 April the MOD have again demonstrated their inability to meet statutory duties and their own deadlines to provide an update by 22 April or to provide the information requested.

Update - MOD replied late on the 23 of April

"As you are aware the holding letter I provided on 23 March stated that a substantive 
response or a further update would be provided within 20 working days; taking the Easter 
break into consideration, this should have read 23 April 2012.  Unfortunately, a 
typographical error meant that 22 April was written inadvertently, and I apologise if this has 
caused confusion."

This suggests  the Government cannot get its dates right as was the case with the  Home Secretary Theresa May trying to deport Abu Qatada, the extremist Muslim cleric, Report in the Telegraph

"Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act gives an applicant the right to access 
recorded information held by public authorities at the time the request is made and does
not require public authorities to answer questions, provide explanations or give opinions,
unless this is recorded information held.  I can confirm that the Ministry of Defence (MOD)
holds no recorded information that would provide an answer to the questions you have
asked in your request.” 

The response suggests that the MOD is far from keen to answer the questions, suggesting they have something to hide or they have dropped the ball on this issue.  The MOD  may also have reasons not to subject the Submarine Dismantling Project project to independent scrutiny or there are problems delivering the policy outcomes that the MOD committed to in their policy statement publshed in 2007


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