Thursday, 9 February 2012

NAO report Managing change in the Defence workforce impact on skills

National Audit Office report Managing change in the Defence workforce published today points out the Minsitry of Defence is under pressure to make rapid financial savings, is significantly reducing the size of its workforce, by over 54,000 personnel. A report today by the National Audit Office has found that these reductions are happening in advance of the Department’s fully understanding how it will operate with significantly fewer staff.

With regard to skills the report says 

The significant reduction in headcount creates a risk that current skills gaps will worsen. There is a significant risk that current skills shortages will worsen particularly as at least 16,000 personnel, 30 per cent of the reduction required, is predicted to occur through natural wastage, a process over which the Department has less control than redundancy.”

The recent statement by SEPA on the plans submitted by MOD for the remediation of the beach at Dalgety Bay may indicate that MOD has inadequate specialist skills to manage issues such as radioactive contamination.

"We consider that the plan, as it stands, lacks sufficient detail and have requested more information on a number of areas which include:

  • timescales for implementation of each stage of the plan;
  • more detail relating to the proposed investigation work;
  • investigation plans for Crowhill and Ross Plantation;
  • investigation of remediation options."

It has been previously pointed out that there are significant nuclear safety skills shortages. It will be interesting to see in this year’s report by the Defence Nuclear Environment Safety Board if the situation has changed

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Ministerial Visit to Dalgety Bay

 It’s interesting to note from a recent PA report on the visit of Defence Minister Andrew Robathan.  He said that “the Ministry of Defence does not deny liability” and went on to say “But I don't think you would expect us to accept liability before we know exactly what the situation is.”

Video report from STV

This is surprising since the MOD has known about the contamination since 1990 and even produced its own risk assessments; surely enough time has passed and information gained to establish the responsibility for the contamination based on reasonable probability.

The reference to “industrial sites and ship-breaking” and the “need for further investigations”, seems like an attempt to further muddy the waters and play for even more time.
The reference to “earth movement which of course has of course disturbed a great deal of stuff” suggests that buried radium residues may have been disturbed and brought to the surface with a consequent increase in risk.

It seems that MODs continuing failure to accept that in all probability that the MOD is responsible for the contamination of Dalgety bay is very likely to lead to SEPA designating Dalgety Bay as radioactively contaminated land.

It’s also interesting to see how MODs miss-handling of the radium contamination at Dalgety Bay, and in particular the failure to apologise or accept liability for the contamination may well have played a significant part in shaping people’s views about the options for managing the decommissioned nuclear submarines stored on the Firth of Forth at nearby Rosyth Dockyard. 

Link to press report

Link to press report concerning Devonport and Dalgety Bay

Dalgety Bay provides a classic example of the miss-management of an environmental issue causing reputational damage across all business areas. 

The situation has moved from one concerning essentially scientific and objective decisions to a much more difficult situation primarily driven by ethical and political considerations. This is especially true in the current political environment where the SNP is seeking success in the up-coming referendum on independence.   

31/1/12  (UKPA)  reports

More tests due on bay radioactivity

Further investigations are needed at a beach where radioactive particles were found before anyone should take full responsibility, Defence Minister Andrew Robathan has said.

The Tory MP visited Fife to hand over a draft plan for further action to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and to see the contaminated area for himself.

It comes after "significant" sources of radiation were discovered at Dalgety Bay on the Firth of Forth coast.

The contamination is thought to stem from residue of radium-coated instrument panels used on military aircraft which were incinerated and land-filled in the area at the end of the Second World War. The area faces the threat of being designated Radioactive Contaminated Land for public protection.

During a short visit to nearby Rosyth, Mr Robathan said the Ministry of Defence does not deny liability and questioned whether a clear-up of the site is needed.

"There was of course a Royal Naval air station here. It closed 53 years ago," he added. "Who knows who's liable. We're not denying liability but I think we need to be quite clear how this contamination has come about.

"For instance, there has been industrial sites. I understand there has been a ship-breaking yard just down the way. There's been earth movement which of course has of course disturbed a great deal of stuff. There's been housing estates built.

"We don't say that we are not in any way willing to help. We are willing to help. But I don't think you would expect us to accept liability before we know exactly what the situation is.

"We are therefore looking at this and we are willing to co-operate with the environment protection agency and others to find exactly what the situation is and then we can determine who is responsible for clearing it up, if there is a need to clear it up."
Last week former prime minister Gordon Brown, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, called for urgent action to clean up the site. He has previously urged the MoD to "accept responsibility"