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    Secret Report Accuses UK Defense Ministry of Five Nuclear Safety Breaches

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    The UK Defense Ministry has received a reprimand from its internal watchdog for five nuclear safety breaches, Scotland-based investigative journalism platform The Ferret reported on Sunday.

    The Defense Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR) has accused the UK’s Ministry of Defense of a “failure of safety culture,” “inadequate resourcing” and “continued non-compliance,” The Ferret reported, citing internal documents.

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    The DNSR reportedly served the ministry’s nuclear agencies with five safety improvement notices – one in 2017, two in 2016 and two in 2010, which alleged a series of safety errors with submarines at the Clyde bomb base.

    After the MoD released the official safety notices by the DNSR in response to a freedom of information request, it emerged that the most recent was served on September 14, 2017, to the ministry’s Strategic Weapon Project Team at Abbey Wood near Bristol for failing to meet safety requirements “on organizational capability.”

    “DNSR considers that the lack of a nuclear baseline and therefore the lack of control of organizational change demonstrates a non-compliance,” it read.

    The Defense Ministry was ordered to make “adequate arrangements to control any change to its organization structure or resources which may affect safety.”

    Meanwhile, in October 2016, the watchdog informed the ministry’s Naval Reactor Plant Authorisee  (NRPA) that it had also had a lack of “an adequate, extant nuclear baseline.”

    A month before the notice, the regulator panned the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire for “continued non-compliance” for failing to provide required safety documents.

    In May 2010, the DNSR blasted the Nuclear Propulsion Project Team for “failure to meet good safety management practice” in the program to build new Astute-class reactor-driven submarines.

    “Inadequate resourcing forms the root cause of failing to address regulatory concerns. DNSR’s concern is that future nuclear reactor program safety may compromised.”

    Another notice, dated April 2010, accused the naval base at Devonport in Plymouth of a “failure to reinstate primary systems” after submarine maintenance.

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    The Ferret cited Stewart McDonald, MP, the defense spokesperson for the Scottish National Party (SNP), as saying that the new revelations about the notices were “alarming.”

    “The number of safety improvement notices served on the MoD for nuclear safety failures is alarming, and shows a lack of regard for public safety and transparency. It’s appalling that it takes a freedom of information request to uncover this information, which speaks to a wider concern over transparency at the MoD.”

    Meanwhile, Mark Ruskell, a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Greens, expressed concern that there was a “corner cutting culture” that compromised nuclear safety:

    “Despite the vast sums spent on maintaining these weapons of mass destruction there is clearly a corner cutting culture that has seriously compromised safety standards.”

    The Ministry of Defense, however, maintained that it had complied with the stringent safety requirements: “We continue to deliver on our commitment to strengthen the management of all our nuclear programs, ensuring they are managed, advanced and delivered as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.”

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    The MoD also claimed that it was no longer publishing DNSR reports out of national security concerns.

    “Withholding these assessments will not prevent effective management and independent assessment of the defense nuclear program, or prevent its duty holders being held to account. When managing safety, our aim is to maximize transparency while balancing the need to protect our capabilities from exploitation by potential adversaries.”

    Tags:
    transparency, watchdog, notice, requirements, violation, breach, nuclear, safety, submarine, Ministry of Defence, Scotland, United Kingdom
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