Friday, 2 April 2010

MoD's internal regulator condemned military's plans as 'flawed, inaccurate and outdated'

This Guardian article “MoD's internal regulator condemned military's plans as 'flawed, inaccurate and outdated' with interest.

I make the following observations. The situation reported in the Guardian may reflect on a lack of resources and in particular the impact successive budget cuts and the difficulty in retaining suitable qualified professional staff. As long ago as 2003 The MOD recognised this problem in the “DEFENCE ENVIRONMENT AND SAFETY REPORT 2003-2004”

“Risk 5. NUCLEAR SKILLS SHORTAGE: Effect: Insufficient qualified and experienced personnel to support the Defence Nuclear Programmes. Likelihood: Medium, Impact: Inability to sustain aspects of the Defence nuclear outputs. Risk Category: Personnel, Reputation, Operational”

It seems the short-comings highlighted in the DNSR Review might in part be due to these shortages of staff and resources identified in the DESB report. The shortages of skilled professional staff are likely to increase as the civil nuclear programme begins to accelerate drawing skilled staff away from the Defence sector

The recent budgetary situation in MOD has received coverage in the press and there will be significant cuts in the near future which may serve to cause even greater difficulties in funding and staffing.

It seems sensible therefore for MOD to move to a system of civil regulation which would engender far greater public confidence in the safety of its naval nuclear operations. MOD has recognised this; in the licensing of the Atomic weapon Establishments under the Nuclear Installations Act and as a matter of policy in the “ANNUAL REPORT TO THE DEFENCE ENVIRONMENT AND SAFETY BOARD 2000/01”

“MOD accepts that, where it is practicable, demonstrating openness and transparency and building confidence will best be achieved by compliance with the civil regulatory regime and the Department has agreed to consider further moves in that direction.”

It is interesting to note that the “ANNUAL REPORT ON SAFETY, HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION IN MOD 2004/5” was much shorter than previous reports and failed to include any reference to nuclear safety; and so far as I can determine from the MOD website that no further annual report to the DESB has been published.

Perhaps the time has come to consider the affordability of MOD nuclear programmes and whether they can be resourced to conform to civil safety standards.