Tag Archives: DNSR

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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UK – Nuclear submarines banned on two lochs following safety failures

DEFENCE watchdogs took action after Navy exercises at Loch Goil and Loch Ewe showed up inadequate plans in the event of accidents.

HMS Ambush
HMS Ambush
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NUCLEAR submarines have been banned from two lochs over safety fears.

Three Royal Navy exercises to test responses to simulated submarine accidents in March and April failed assessments by Government safety regulators.

And the MoD’s internal watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR), have responded by imposing the ban.

It prohibits nuclear subs from berthing in Loch Goil, near the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, and in Loch Ewe in Wester Ross.

Nuclear subs have been banned from Loch Goil

Loch Goil

 Loch Goil is used for testing the noise range of the Navy’s 11 nuclear subs to ensure they can navigate oceans undetected.

But the DNSR are demanding a satisfactory rerun of Exercise Strathport, which was staged last month, before the subs are allowed in the loch again.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation, who work with the DNSR, said: “Exercise Strathport was deemed an inadequate demonstration as their plan was considered inadequate.

“This needs to be revised and reissued, after which the DNSR and ONR will reinspect as a basis for providing consent to use Loch Goil on a case-by-case basis.”

Nuclear subs have been banned from Loch Ewe

Loch Ewe

Emergency exercises at Loch Ewe have been plagued with problems for years, prompting the DNSR to secretly ban submarines from the loch in 2008.

An exercise late last year failed “due to an inadequate plan, communications and facilities”, said the ONR spokesman.

The DNSR have also ordered an emergency exercise at the nuclear weapons depot at Coulport, near Faslane, to be rerun.

The specifics of the exercises are classified so it is not known what failures were recorded. But in past exercises, there have been communication breakdowns, radiation exposure risks and
failures to properly account for the number of casualties.

John Ainslie, of Scottish CND, said: “We cannot sleep easily in our beds so long as these floating Chernobyls remain in our lochs. The MoD has been given a red card by its own internal regulator. It is clearly not ready to respond to a nuclear accident at Coulport, Loch Goil or Loch Ewe.”

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson promised to raise questions in Parliament.

He said: “Any suggestion that there are inadequate safety plans in place will be deeply disturbing to the local communities and to Scotland as a whole.”

The MoD last night declined to say what impact the loch bans might have on their submarine operations.

A spokesman said: “The MoD takes its nuclear safety responsibilities seriously and conducts regular training to maintain high standards.

“We are taking steps to address issues raised by regulators following recent exercises but there is no risk of harm to the public or to the environment. The Royal Navy continues to operate submarines safely out of HM Naval Base Clyde.”

Source – Daily Record

Devonport – Nuclear accident at Dockyard “would cause thousands of deaths” campaigners say

  1. HMS Vanguard, one of the Trident-carrying submarines, arriving at Devonport naval base

    HMS Vanguard, one of the Trident-carrying submarines, arriving at Devonport naval base

THE Ministry of Defence has not ruled out the possibility of moving Britain’s nuclear armed submarines to the Devonport naval base, despite safety concerns from campaigners.

The Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) asked the MOD whether the fleet of armed Vanguard class submarines carrying Trident missiles could move from its current home in Faslane in Scotland to Devonport.

The response stated that neither the Devonport Naval Base nor the dockyard would safely permit the berthing of an armed Vanguard submarine.

But the campaigners were also told the MOD’s internal safety watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator, “has not provided any advice” on the feasibility of docking a Vanguard class submarine at Devonport.

John Ainslie, co-ordinator of Scottish CND, has drawn up a report looking at the risk of nuclear contamination in Plymouth in the event of a serious accident.

He told The Herald: “If Scotland were to go independent there are questions over what would happen to Trident. I have always been a bit wary about how easy it would be to move them.

“I was thinking they would have real problems basing them at Devonport because of the whole safety issue.

“You have got such a high population close to the submarine base at Devonport, there would be a very serious risk of fatalities and so forth.

“A missile accident at Devonport, in the centre of Plymouth, could result in thousands of deaths.

“In addition, a large proportion of the city would be abandoned for hundreds of years.”

Scotland is due to vote on independence in 2014, and the SNP has stated it hopes to remove Trident missiles from Faslane.

But an MOD spokesman said there are currently no plans to move the submarine fleet.

Ian Ballantyne, editor of Warships magazine, said in the event of Scottish independence Devonport would be the only feasible alternative for the submarines.

“They already spend years of their lives here, they already come and go and get re-fitted at Devonport,” he said.

“If Scotland goes independent and says ‘take your nuclear submarines away’ then they would have to operate from Devonport. “There is no way if we are a nation that operates nuclear submarines they would go anywhere else.”

Source – This is Plymouth