Daily Archives: August 4, 2013

Revealed: Shock ‘Code Red’ safety report on British nuclear subs as fleet is hit by leaking, cracked reactors and lack of trained staff

  • Safety issues with UK’s nuclear subs and facilities used to repair missiles
  • Cracks in reactors and nuclear discharges found in Navy’s oldest boats
  • Nuclear-qualified engineers are quitting over poor pay and conditions
  • Experts described latest report as the most worrying they had seen

 

An official watchdog discovered major safety issues with both the UK’s nuclear-powered submarines and facilities used to repair nuclear missiles, raising the risk of a catastrophic accident involving radioactive material.

Last night, experts described the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR) report for 2012-13 as the most worrying they had seen.

Leak: Tireless, the oldest submarine in the Royal Navy fleet, which entered service in 1984, suffered damage to its circuits earlier this year resulting in a radioactive leakCode Red: Tireless, the oldest submarine in the Royal Navy fleet, which entered service in 1984, suffered damage to its circuits earlier this year resulting in a radioactive leak

The document, obtained by this newspaper, reveals:

  • Cracks in reactors and nuclear discharges are directly attributable to the Royal Navy’s oldest Trafalgar Class SSNs (Ship Submarine Nuclear) remaining in service beyond their design date.
  • Faults with the new Astute Class submarines will delay their entry into service, forcing the Navy to continue sailing the ageing and potentially dangerous Trafalgars.
  • The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) failed to notice or rectify corrosion to a nuclear missile treatment plant in Berkshire.
  • Nuclear-qualified engineers are quitting the Navy in droves over poor pay and conditions, creating a skills crisis.

Head of the DNSR Dr Richard Savage wrote: ‘Significant and sustained attention is required to ensure maintenance of adequate safety performance and the rating [Red] reflects the potential impact if changes are ill-conceived or implemented.

 ‘The inability to sustain a sufficient number of nuclear suitably competent personnel is the principal threat to safety. Vulnerabilities exist in core skill areas, including safety, propulsion, power and naval architects.

HMS TIRELESS THE ‘KILLER SUB’

Two Submariners killed in an explosion aboard the HMS Tireless, 32-year-old Paul McCann (left) and 20-year-old Anthony HuntrodIn March 2007, sailors Anthony Huntrod, 20, (right) and Paul McCann, 32, (left)  were killed on HMS Tireless when a self-contained oxygen generator exploded during an Arctic exercise north of Alaska.

They died trapped in a small, smoke-filled compartment.

An inquest heard that there was a significant possibility the generator was salvaged from a hazardous waste depot in a cost-cutting bid  by the MoD.

‘Due to build delays with the Astute Class, there has been a requirement to extend the Trafalgar Class beyond their original design life in order to maintain the SSN flotilla at a fully operational level.

Some of the emergent technical issues affecting the Trafalgar Class over the last few years can be directly attributed to the effects of plant ageing.’

The report also raises concerns over whether the UK’s nuclear fleet and its inland nuclear establishments could withstand an earthquake on the same scale as the one that struck the Fukushima reactor plant in  Japan in 2011.

The document notes that facilities which form part of Britain’s Defence Nuclear Programme (DNP) require ‘continued priority attention’ to reach recommended safety standards.

Last night, nuclear expert John Large told The Mail on Sunday that the DNSR report revealed a crisis in Royal Navy nuclear safety.

He said: ‘This is the most self-damning and concerning report that I have seen. We’re talking about a ticking time-bomb, with a higher risk to the public and the environment than we previously feared.

‘The combination of a lack of nuclear engineers, the Astute submarines being so far behind schedule and the Trafalgar Class sailing beyond their design date is very worrying.

‘The Trafalgars, including HMS Tireless, the oldest boat of the class, should be withdrawn immediately.’

HMS Tireless, which entered service in 1984, suffered damage to  its circuits earlier this year resulting in a radioactive leak.

The nuclear sub was patrolling off South-West England when the problem arose, forcing its captain to return to Devonport. A more serious leak  was avoided because of swift remedial action.

Nuclear materials – including Trident missiles – are brought to the AWE’s site at Aldermaston, Berkshire, for assembly, maintenance and decommissioning.

Warning: There are also fears over the Aldermaston centre where Trident missiles are servicedWarning: There are also fears over the Aldermaston centre where Trident missiles are serviced

These processes include ‘uranium polishing’ – the removal of impurities from the material in order to extend its life cycle as a component in nuclear missiles.

The DNSR report states: ‘Inspection programmes have not been as comprehensive as regulators would expect.

As an example, corrosion in the structural supports of a building was not identified as early as would be expected which resulted in the Office for Nuclear Regulation issuing a Safety Improvement Notice.’

Last night the AWE admitted corrosion had affected its uranium component manufacturing facility, but added repairs had been completed.

An MoD spokesman said: ‘We would not operate any submarine unless it was safe to do so and this report acknowledges that we are taking  the necessary action to effectively manage the technical issues raised by the regulator.

‘It also highlights that the MoD is committed to maintaining expertise in submarine technology and operation – underlined by last month’s operational handover of the first two Astute Class submarines.’

Source – Daily Mail

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S. Korean Navy offers insight into demanding submarine life

 — Life aboard a submarine can be tough. Operations are hectic, quarters are cramped and the health of crew members can suffer as a result.
Captain Hyun Chang-hoon used to have strong teeth before he joined the submarine fleet more than 20 years ago, but now the 47-year-old suffers from dental disease, which is a common health problem for veteran submariners due to the higher-than-normal amount of carbon dioxide inside a submarine.

“Think about artificial teeth left in a can of Coca-Cola, which contains carbon dioxide. Teeth will dissolve a couple days later,” Hyun said. “My bad teeth are just one example of life in the deep sea where there’s no light.”
Hyun, the captain of a 1,800-ton submarine named after a famous independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun (1877-1910), was speaking of the intense lifestyle of soldiers in this unit during a Yonhap reporter’s visit to the ninth flotilla submarine base in the southeastern port city of Jinhae.

Poor dental hygiene is just one of the hardships crew members face when living in cramped quarters for extended periods of time.

“When I returned to home after completing months-long missions, I went to a public sauna to get rid of all kinds of body odor. But it didn’t go away,” said a vice admiral who had served in the submarine unit for nearly 30 years.

Due to confined space, no women have been allowed in the unit since its establishment in the early 1990s.

The Navy recently revealed the Type 214 submarine — the third of its kind in operation since 2010 — to give the public a very rare insight into various aspects of its weaponry, machinery, confined spaces and life aboard.

The atmosphere in the unit is derived not only from the nature of its missions, which require about 40 men to remain together underwater in an iron tube for many long days, but also because very few soldiers serve in the unit.

Secrecy and noise reduction is important to the submarine crew so they won’t be detected by the sonar of other submarines. Wearing boots with layers of soft-cushions on the heel is one way they reduce noise.

The Diesel submarine is operated by Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), which extends the ship’s submerged endurance compared to conventional submarines. The AIP system enables the crew to carry out underwater missions for several weeks without the need to access atmospheric oxygen.

It is equipped with ship-to-land missiles and torpedoes as well as an advanced sonar system for anti-submarine warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

South Korea currently operates over 10 submarines, including 1,200-ton Type 209 subs and 1,800-ton Type 214 subs.

The Navy plans to acquire nine 3,000-ton level heavy-attack submarines after 2020 with significant improvements in their radar and armament systems compared to their predecessors. A total of nine 3,000-ton submarines are expected to be built in South Korea with indigenous technologies, according to officials. By 2020, there will be over 20 ships operated by the Navy.

As the flotilla is expected to receive more ships in coming years, it is due to become South Korea’s submarine headquarters in 2015.

The procurement plan reflects the intensifying hidden underground battle with North Korea after a South Korean corvette Cheonan was sunk by a suspected North Korean submarine attack in March 2010. A total of 46 sailors were killed in the incident.

Navy officials stressed the need to beef up the submarine capabilities, citing growing naval tensions around the Korean Peninsula that could turn into an armed conflict.

China’s growing naval presence and Japan’s military build up to counter it also highlight the need for better anti-submarine warfare capabilities, they said.

“We will play a key role in deterring North Korea’s naval provocations and protect national interests in the deep sea,” Hyun said.

The biggest challenge for that goal is attracting and retaining skilled officers and crew members, as fewer cadets have applied for the intense submarine unit in recent years as the recruiting system was changed.

When the flotilla was first launched two decades ago, top-ranking cadets were selected for the submarine program and joined the ranks of the submarine flotilla to operate strategic naval weapons against North Korea. The communist country has operated a large submarine fleet since the 1960s.

After the recruiting system came under criticism for depriving cadets the opportunity to choose other units, the Navy now accepts applications for volunteers who want to become submariners. Instructors say they have difficulties enticing cadets and non-commissioned officers in joining the crew.
To tackle the manpower problem, the Navy is seeking to increase the pay of submariners, but receiving more government funding is no easy task, said a Navy captain in charge of the submarine training unit.

“We need more crew with in-depth knowledge and passion for the role submarines are expected to play in maritime strategy,” Hyun said.

Bob’s tales of life on a submarine – New book

Bob Clarke

Bob Clarke

A MAN who grew up in Thurrock before joining the Royal Navy has written a book about his time as a submariner during the Cold War.

Bob Clarke, who was born in Chadwell St Mary, regales a host of fascinating stories logged during his time in the Navy in the book If You Can’t Take A Joke.

He was inspired to join the UK’s sea force when his interest was stirred when he found the wreck of HMS Truculent, a wartime submarine, on Grays Beach.

On leaving school at 15, Bob joined the Navy, where he found himself embroiled in one of the most tense periods in history as submarines circumnavigated the world, on call should a nuclear war begin.

If You Can’t Take A Joke covers a year spent at a boys training establishment, 18 months aboard a major warship in the East Indies as well as ten years of service in submarines during the Cold War era and during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It also features 20 colour illustrations by up-and-coming Essex artist Shaun Stone.

Bob, who now lives in South Woodham Ferrers, said of his time in the Navy: “There was some excitement, but it was interspersed with a lot of boredom.

“Some of the stories are humorous, while some are about the serious things we did during the Cold War.”

Each possessed nuclear weapons and were met with the threat of mutually assured destruction.

But while no missiles were ever fired, the two were engaged in psychological warfare.

For more information about Bob’s book, visit  http://www.ifyoucanttakeajoke.co.uk/

 Source – Thurrock Gazette