Monday, 4 February 2013

Astute - no investigation of the root causes of the problems recently reported in the Guardian

In response to a FOI request the MOD has admitted the MOD has not carried any analysis of the root causes that that lead to problems on the Astute class submarines and  that this was at least in part due to the collective loss of experience. 

This raises serious questions as to the safety of the MODs' nuclear submarine programme, the effectiveness of the MOD management systems and in particular the effectiveness of the MOD's internal Nuclear Regulator  and the  Defence Nuclear Safety Committee; it may only be luck that a serious incident has not yet happened.  

This situation would certainly not be allowed to develop in the civil sector which is subject to independent regulation by the Office of Nuclear Regulation

Original FOI request 29 December 2012

Reply from the MOD dated 4th February 2013

"Request for Information under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000  

Further to my letter of 28 January 2013, I am writing to provide a substantive response to your request for the following information: 

The Guardian recently revealed problems with the Astute nuclear submarine, which is 
coming to the end of three years of sea trials. 

Rear Admiral Lister is quoted as saying that "he had identified three sorts of problems with the Astute: 

a: flaws in design that only became apparent when testing started; 

b: equipment that broke down too easily; 

c: and some problems relating to poor construction at the shipyard."" 

Could you please provide me with information about the root causes of these problems. 

I can confirm that the MOD does not hold any information within the scope of your request.  This is because no analysis of problems on the Astute class submarines, nor any of the other lessons learning processes undertaken on the Astute programme, have categorised problems in the exact terms you describe in your request.  In his interview with the Guardian, Rear Admiral Lister was providing an engineer’s assessment of the generic problems experienced during the early phase of the Astute build programme, and not seeking to quote the formal lessons learning work that has taken place. 

Outside the scope of the FOI Act I should like to add that the most significant factor in the problems that have occurred in the Astute programme is the collective loss of experience of designing and building nuclear submarines owing to the long gap between the construction of the last of the Vanguard class (HMS Vengeance) and the start of the construction of HMS Astute."

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