Emergency arrangements “below standard” at Barrow submarine shipyard

Emergency arrangements and management systems at the BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness are “significantly below standard” and require improvement, according to the government's nuclear safety regulator.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has written to BAE Systems demanding improvements in arrangements for accounting for and providing shelter for personnel at the shipyard in the event of a radiation emergency, and has also highlighted the need for changes to safety management systems.

BAE “accept that improvements are necessary” and have committed to develop plans to remedy the safety shortfalls, according to ONR.

The shipyard at Barrow is the only site in the UK licensed to build nuclear powered submarines for the Royal Navy.  Work is currently underway at Barrow on construction of Astute class submarines, and under government plans new 'Successor' class Trident replacement submarines will be built there from 2016 onwards.

Flaws in emergency arrangements became apparent following the 'Indigo 13' emergency exercise which took place at Barrow in July 2013, and a demonstration of mustering arrangements in December 2013 which exposed “a number of shortfalls”.

ONR concluded that arrangements for accounting for persons on site during an emergency “were significantly below standard” and that improvements were necessary.  An internal investigation conducted by BAE Systems following the December exercise identified a number of recommendations, and ONR considers that the company has now made “satisfactory commitments” to address the issues.  The regulator intends to monitor progress during future site inspection visits.

Following a compliance inspection, ONR inspectors have also expressed concern that safety management systems at Barrow are below standard because BAE Systems failed to take action to address a revision to site licence conditions in 2011.  The company has “recognised that a review of management arrangements is necessary” to remedy the situation.

The concerns were revealed in a routine ONR quarterly report for the Barrow Shipyard which was recently published online. 

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