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Danger of nuclear bomb convoys in Scotland

Safety risks exposed by nuclear bomb convoy exercise in Scotland, The Ferret, Rob Edwards on June 23, 2019  An emergency exercise imagining an explosion spreading radioactive contamination from a nuclear bomb convoy crash in East Lothian was hampered by communication breakdowns that would have put people at risk.

An official assessment of the exercise by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been passed to The Ferret. It reveals that paper masks worn by the emergency services would have failed to protect them from radioactivity leaking from a damaged nuclear warhead.

During the exercise police could not hear the convoy commander over the radio because he was wearing a respirator. Police also missed vital safety information because they failed to invite the commander to briefing meetings, and were criticised by the MoD for being “unfamiliar” with emergency procedures.

Campaigners condemned the exercise, codenamed Astral Climb, for not testing measures for protecting the public. They accused the MoD of failing to learn from mistakes made in previous nuclear bomb convoy exercises. …….

Convoys comprising up to 20 or more military vehicles transport Trident nuclear warheads by road at least six times a year between the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport on Loch Long, near Glasgow. and the bomb factory at Burghfield in Berkshire. The warheads have to be regularly maintained at Burghfield.

Though they are meant to be secret, the convoys are often photographed, filmed and followed on social media. They travel close to major centres of population such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham.

In May 2018 The Ferret revealed that safety problems plaguing the convoys had risen to a record high, with 44 incidents logged in 2017. A report by campaignershas warned that Scotland was “wholly unprepared” to deal with an accident or an attack on a convoy……..

It took more than two years for the MoD to release the report on Astral Climb in response to a freedom of information request by the campaign group, Nukewatch. The MoD apologised for such a “severe delay” and redacted sections of the report to protect “national security” and “personal information”.

The Scottish co-ordinator of Nukewatch, Jane Tallents, accused the MoD of failing to safeguard the public. “The MoD is now conducting convoy accident exercises which don’t even pretend to test any measures to protect the public from a radiation release,” she said.

“In the past more realistic exercise scenarios still stopped short of actual evacuation and sheltering of the public but at least played out on paper how that might be done. For Astral Climb 2016 the MoD imagined a convoy on a back road it never uses nowhere near any population centres.”

She added: “Nukewatch can only conclude that the MoD itself realises that a robust test of emergency procedures would always show that the public would be put at risk. Therefore they have moved to an annual box ticking exercise with the minimum of information being released to the public.”

Tallents urged the Scottish Government and emergency services to demand more transparency. “The scenarios for future exercises should be set by the regulators and civil emergency services to ensure that they are realistic and challenging,” she told The Ferret.

“Of course the best way to protect the public is to stop transporting nuclear warheads on our roads altogether.”…….

The Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND) described the MoD report on Astral Climb as a “massive cause for concern”. Nuclear weapons were a “major threat” to the health and safety of local communities, it warned……

The Scottish Government pointed out that the transportation of defence nuclear material in Scotland was a reserved matter for the MoD. “The Scottish Government expects any such transportation to be carried out safely and securely and has made this expectation clear to the UK government,” said a spokesperson……..

June 24, 2019 - Posted by | safety, UK, weapons and war

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