Faslane safety lapses uncovered by Herald's FOI requests

A number of safety lapses at the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the Clyde, including one in which workers were over-exposed to radiation from a reactor, has worried government inspectors. Internal documents obtained by the Sunday Herald in response to a number of FOI requests reveal that the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has been concerned about poor supervision at the base and is monitoring the situation.

The inspectorate’s governing body, the Health and Safety Executive, has also expressed frustration at the failure of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to respond to repeated requests for information.

Concerns were raised by a previously unreported incident on 13 January 2005, when workers were called in to remove scaffolding from above a submarine reactor. They were not told, however, that the reactor was “hot” as it had been conducting high-power trials prior to sailing. As a result, four workers were exposed to excess radiation beaming through the reactor casing. The incident was uncovered by Faslane health monitors, who conducted a survey which detected “a measurable dose” of radiation. An investigation was launched by the MoD’s internal watchdog, the Naval Nuclear Regulatory Panel and it is understood to have found that safety guidelines were breached.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed details of the reactor incident. But a spokesman pointed out that the radiation dose received by the workers was less than 1% of the legal limit for a year. “HSE is working closely with the Naval Nuclear Regulatory Panel in monitoring improvements to the arrangements for control and supervision of work at the Faslane site,” he said.

A spokesman for Faslane was unable to comment on the incident as it was the subject of a request under the Freedom of Information Act. “We take health and safety extremely seriously,” he said. “It’s a number one priority.”

Nuclear watchdog alarmed by Faslane danger (Sunday Herald, 12 March 2006)