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UK’s Ministry of Defence kept ‘devastating’ nuclear accident risks under wraps

‘Devastating’ nuclear accident risks kept under wraps, The Ferret, Rob Edwards, July 4, 2021,

 A ruling allowing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to keep nuclear safety problems secret has been condemned as a threat to democracy, with “devastating” accident risks.

An information tribunal in London has rejected a bid to release reports about Trident nuclear bomb and submarine hazards on the Clyde because of fears about leaks to an increasingly “aggressive” Russia.

But the secrecy has come under fierce fire from a former nuclear submarine commander and campaigners. They criticised the MoD for hiding its nuclear blunders, putting people in danger, and edging the UK towards a “closed and dictatorial state”.

The Scottish National Party attacked the MoD’s secrecy as “absolutely untenable”. The idea that withholding information would keep the UK safe was “a very dangerous delusion”, the party argued.

The MoD, however, insisted that nuclear information had to be protected “for reasons of national security”. The defence nuclear programme was “fully accountable” to ministers, it said.

Annual reports by the MoD’s internal watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR), were published for ten years under freedom of information law. But this ceased in 2017.

The Ferret revealed that the reports for 2005 to 2015 highlighted “regulatory risks” 86 times, including 13 rated as high priority. One issue repeatedly seen as a high risk was a growing shortage of suitably qualified and experienced nuclear engineers. 

The DNSR report for 2014-15 warned that the lack of skilled staff was “the principal threat to the delivery of nuclear safety”. It also cautioned that “attention is required to ensure maintenance of adequate safety performance” for ageing nuclear submarines at the Faslane naval dockyard near Helensburgh.

The Ferret reported in 2019 that a belatedly released extract from the 2015-16 report showed that the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator was itself struggling with staff shortages. It could not complete all the “essential tasks” to ensure nuclear safety.

The MoD’s decision to stop publishing DNSR reports was appealed to the First Tier Tribunal on information rights by researcher and campaigner, Peter Burt. Hearings were held in London in December 2019, but the verdict was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The ruling, which has now been made available, dismissed his appeal and endorsed the MoD arguments for secrecy. Key parts of the tribunal proceedings were conducted in private, with Burt banned from taking part………………..

July 6, 2021 - Posted by | safety, secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK, weapons and war

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