Government claims releasing nuclear safety assessment would risk national security

Logo of the Defence Safety Authority

In response to a parliamentary question in July this year the Ministry of Defence said that  publishing the nuclear safety rating given by its internal regulator would endanger national security.

Until 2015 the MoD published an annual report by the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR), which is responsible for the safety of nuclear weapons, submarine reactors and defence nuclear transport. All the annual reports from April 2015 onwards have been censored.

The MoD began releasing DNSR’s annual reports in 2007, when it began doing so in order to avoid a freedom of information (FOI) tribunal hearing brought by the journalist Rob Edwards. In 2015 the DNSR was brought together with several other internal MoD safety bodies to form the Defence Safety Authority (DSA). From that time the DNSR annual report was summarised alongside assessments of the safety record in other ‘domains’ of MoD activity.

Each domain is given a Safety Assurance statement, where the level of safety assurance is rated either ‘substantial’, ‘limited’ or ‘none’. These cover both the safety standards in that domain and the capacity of the MoD’s internal regulator to provide that assurance. In the 2016/17 DSA report a separate assessment is made for each of these two aspects.

The Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, Fabian Hamilton, asked the MoD to release the Safety Assurance rating for the years when the DNSR reports were not being released. In response the MoD once again claimed that releasing the information would endanger national security, and confirmed that the 2017/18 report would also not be released, but said that “[t]his does not prevent the effective management and independent assessment of the Defence Nuclear Programme, nor prevent its duty holders being held to account”