Devonport in ‘special measures’: no end date in sight

Arial view of Devonport Royal Dockyard, with 5 Basin and the Low Level Refuelling centre visible

Devonport Royal Dockyard Limited (DRDL) remains under enhanced regulatory attention by the Office For Nuclear Regulation (ONR), and no date is given for an expected return to routine regulatory attention. The site has now been in enhanced regulatory attention for five years, due to concerns about its safety performance.

Enhanced is the second highest of three categories of regulatory attention. The highest category is reserved for the most hazardous facilities and the overall security of the Sellafield site. Besides Devonport, the other six sites under enhanced regulatory attention are the rest of the Sellafield site, the two AWE sites the former nuclear power station site at Dounreay and the Hunterston B and Dungeness B power stations.

DRDL have a nuclear safety programme in place, which is intended to move the site to routine regulatory attention, and is working on improvements to 14 and 15 Dock, as well as upgrades to provide a maintenance facility for Astute and Dreadnought submarines. However, according to the recently released ‘Chief Nuclear Inspector’s Annual Report’, a review in August 2018 found that the programme was under-resourced and ambiguously managed.

According to ONR, changes that are needed at the site include learer safety accountability, better learning, self-assessment and benchmarking and improvements to organisational safety culture. A review undertaken by ONR in March 2019 found that improvements had been made since the previous August and ONR say they expect better progress will be made over the current year. ONR say they have also engaged with the MoD to try and encourage progress on defuelling the out-of-service submarines which are currently laid-up at Devonport.