Saturday, 22 January 2011

Cash crisis hits MOD Nuclear Safety

In response to an FOI request MOD has published the Defence Nuclear Environment Safety Board assurance reports for 2008 and 2009.

These reports highlight the very serious resource and funding problems now faced by the MOD in the delivery of the nuclear propulsion and weapon programmes safely without unacceptable risk to workers the public and the environment.

In 2009 The BBC reported on the Haddon cave review into the circumstances of a Nimrod aircraft crash in 2003 that results in 14 military personnel
To quote from the report
“Gen Cowan was promoted to a four-star general in September 1998 and appointed the first Chief of Defence Logistics in April 1999. He was responsible for carrying out the government's plan to unite the separate logistics support agencies for the Royal Navy, Army and RAF into a single Defence Logistics Organisation. In 2000 he announced a target of reducing costs by 20% by 2005, an aim which Mr Haddon-Cave QC said appears to have been "implemented across the board with a ruthless, if not 'Stalinistic', efficiency". In his report, Mr Haddon-Cave said Gen Cowan should have realised cutting costs could come at the expense of safety and airworthiness. Gen Cowan, who left the post in August 2002, is now retired.”
It’s clear from the 2009 DNEB report that little has changed with the exception of the even greater need for the MOD to cut costs is much greater than in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The DNESB recognised the impact of these cuts on safety in their 2009 DNSEB assurance report by acknowledging “The risk resulting from inadequate resources in the DNP has been closely monitored since it became a significant issue last year” . The DNESB highlighted the lack of adequate resource to deliver (and regulate) the defence nuclear programmes safely resourcing as the number one risk on the DNESB risk register.
Whilst the Nimrod crash lead to the unfortunate and regrettable deaths of 14 service personnel; an accident involving a nuclear weapon or a submarine reactor has a the potential to cause harm on a much greater scale because nuclear weapons are transported on public roads and submarines are berthed and serviced near or alongside centres of population.

This post has been reported in the Guardian

Link to the report on Chanel 4 News and Friday 28 January featuring coments I made during an interview with Julian Rush

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Safety Concessions at Clyde Submarine Base

Safety Concessions at Clyde Submarine Base
In response to an FOI asking for information about the number of concessions granted against nuclear safety regulations by year since 2000 at the Clyde Submarine Base. Safety concessions are situations where there is relaxation of a safety standard which agreed between the operator and the regulator. eg time allowed to reach a particular standard and mitigating measures taken to reduce hazard and/or risk.
MOD have provided the following information
“It may be helpful for me to explain that occasionally, for operational reasons, there may be a requirement to temporarily append a safety case and provide temporary suspension of associated conditions and limits of safe operations, or the authorised scope of operations at Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Clyde. Prior to this decision the impact of such an amendment is carefully considered to ensure that any safety risk is both tolerable and as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). On each occasion, when such an amendment is needed, HMNB Clyde will approach the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator to consider and formally agree the amendment. Please find below a table which gives the number of amendments as agreed with the Regulator since 2000:

Year Number of amendments
2000 2
2001 0
2002 2
2003 1
2004 3
2005 2
2006 0
2007 0
2008 1
2009 3
2010 4
The relaxation of a safety standard which is agreed between the operator and the regulator providing the temporary suspension of associated conditions and limits of safe operations. This implies that workers/ the public and the environment are at greater risk.