Clyde nuclear contractors dodge accident compensation costs

Private companies contracted to operate the Clyde nuclear submarine bases are being given a multi-million pound exemption by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to relieve them from paying compensation and clean-up costs in the event of a “potentially catastrophic” accident.

Government contracts with site operators at Faslane and Coulport – which include international engineering corporation Babcock and the ABL Alliance, led by the consortium which operates the Atomic Weapons Establishment – will limit the contractor’s financial liability in case of injuries, deaths, explosions, fires and radiation leaks to no more than £100,000 “per nuclear event”.

Andrew Murrison, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, has announced that contractors would be relieved of their liability for an accident “where the financial impact of an event would make the contract untenable due to the nature of work being undertaken”.  The vast majority of costs following such an accident, which could run into many millions of pounds, would be met by taxpayers.

Twelve Members of Parliament have signed an Early Day Motion tabled by Paul Flynn MP recording an objection to the MoD proposals.  The MPs are concerned that the value of the contingent liability is unquantifiable due to the potentially catastrophic nature of a nuclear incident, and that the arrangement removes all risk from the private contractor.

However, in response to a Parliamentary Question from Baroness Jones, Defence Minister Lord Astor stated  that the government intended to proceed with the Contingent Liability arrangements despite opposition “as this work is an essential enabler in allowing the Ministry of Defence to deliver its projects and estate maintenance requirements on estates where nuclear assets are sited”.

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