Tuesday, 19 April 2011

MOD Blunder on Nuclear Report

MOD failure to properly redact sensitive sections of nuclear documents released in response to an FOI request puts national security at risk.  See the reports in the Telegraph and BBC

The Telegraph reported “The MoD was last night examining other documents handled by the same junior official responsible for redacting the nuclear report” this report seems to suggest that management is trying to shift the blame to the most junior member of staff involved.  The report also would seem to suggest that the Americans may be less than pleased.

“ Secret details of how US Navy submarine reactors were maintained”
This incident may be indicative of the impact caused by the loss of staff and experience within the MOD

Monday, 11 April 2011

Incident aboard HMS Astute - Human factors and nuclear safety

The unfortunate incident aboard HMS Astute that lead to the death of an officer and another being seriously injured raises concerns about failures to identify personnel who may be unsuitable for life aboard nuclear submarines. It is notable that that the HSE draws attention to the need to consider carefully human factors in the design of the man machine interface in nuclear activities.

So far as civil nuclear activities are concerned operators can leave the site and when on site have space and access to amenities where as in a submarine operators live, cramped within a machine, 24/7 over extended periods of time.

It would seem that human factors may have played a significant part in this unfortunate incident. Bearing in mind that some submarines as well as having a nuclear reactor have on board nuclear weapons, it is clear that lessons must be learnt to ensure such incidents do not occur again, which could lead to altogether more serious outcomes.

Quote used in article
"Fred Dawson, a former senior safety official with the MoD, said that the tragic events on Astute “may reflect pressure either domestic, or at work, on crew manning submarines”.
He added: “My concern is about the failure of management to pick up on people like this, and that such people are key to the safety of nuclear systems.”


Saturday, 2 April 2011

New UK nuclear industry regulator launched which includes defence nuclear activities

New UK nuclear industry regulator Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) launched

"ONR has been established today as an agency of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), pending planned legislation to establish it as a statutory body. The ONR will bring together the relevant nuclear regulatory functions of HSE (through its Nuclear Directorate) and the Department for Transport.

The organisation will ensure that those authorised to carry out nuclear activities, in both the civil and defence sectors, do so in a safe way – from power stations and radioactive waste to transport of materials and submarines. ONR staff will also regulate the security of civilian nuclear installations."

The Ministry of Defence is to be commended in moving away from its own system of internal regulation to civil regulation with all the benefits that brings, particularly of transparency and independence, the authorisation of defence related nuclear activities such as nuclear submarines, their berths the ship lift at Faslane, RNAD Coulport, nuclear weapon transportation and the Vulcan reactor at Dounreay etc.

Link to the ONR statement