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Gaps revealed in Scotland’s nuclear convoy crash preparations

Gaps revealed in nuclear convoy crash preparations, A series of shortfalls in Scotland’s emergency arrangements for coping with a nuclear bomb convoy crash have been exposed by a Scottish Government review.  The Ferret,  Rob Edwards on June 28, 2019

Leaking radioactivity from an accident would put “strains” on the resources for monitoring the contamination of people, food and the environment, it says. Monitoring may be required “at scale” because of the large number of people involved.

The review reveals that the fire service hasn’t finalised its emergency procedures for convoy crashes, the police need to be better briefed and vetted, while the ambulance service is not told about convoy movements.

The emergency services have also failed to properly record the lessons they learn from emergency exercises, it adds.

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 the Ministry of Defence attempts to keep them 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.

The Ferret revealed on 23 June 2019 that an emergency exercise in Scotland called Astral Climb in 2016 had suffered communication breakdowns that could have put people at risk.

report by campaigners in August 2017 warned that Scotland was “wholly unprepared” to deal with an accident or an attack on a convoy. When the issue was raised in the Scottish Parliament in May 2018, Scottish ministers promised to ask the police and fire inspectorates to conduct a review. ……..

According to the review, the hazards from a bomb convoy crash come from the “explosive, radioactive and toxic materials” that are transported. “The explosive hazard is the same as that which is associated with any chemical high explosive,” it said.

“The main radioactive materials are plutonium and uranium. Plutonium and uranium are both toxic and radioactive. The convoy may also contain other toxic (but not radioactive) materials such as beryllium and lithium. Beyond the immediate hazard area, the potential dispersion of airborne plutonium particles represents the dominant radioactive hazard.”The Scottish Government’s review listed five emergency procedures that have still to be “finalised” by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, including operational guidance and intelligence sharing. They should be completed “as a matter of priority”, the review concluded.

Police Scotland were criticised for only conducting a “verbal briefing” for officers prior to convoy movements. “There would be merit in considering a more formal process to provide a record of the information given to officers,” the review said.

“We found that Police Scotland uses appropriate measures to secure information but there was a lack of clarity regarding vetting and which staff and officers have access to sensitive information.”

The fire and police services were both upbraided for failing to record the lessons learned from emergency exercises such as Astral Climb in 2016. They were urged to introduce new systems to ensure that that improvements were made. ………..

July 1, 2019 - Posted by | safety, UK, weapons and war

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