Secret information inadvertently released by the Ministry of Defence reveals that the reactors powering the UK's nuclear submarine fleet are twice as likely to suffer a catastrophic accident as civil nuclear reactors and reactors on US Navy submarines.
An official Ministry of Defence report states that “current UK practice falls significantly short of benchmarked relevant good practice” in two areas of nuclear safety: 'loss of coolant accidents', which would result from cracking of the reactor's cooling circuit, and measures to enable the submarine to recover from a reactor accident deep underwater.
A censored version of the report was issued following a request made by Scottish CND under the Freedom of Information Act, but a subsequent version was published on the UK Parliament website in a format which allowed blocked out text to be easily read. Nuclear Information Service has obtained a copy of the uncensored report and, together with a number of other organisations, has taken the decision to publish it in the interests of public safety (available for download below).
NIS Director Peter Burt said “Despite some of the scare stories being put around, a reading of the report makes it quite clear that it does not contain any information which will put the security of the nation or the safety of submarine crews on operational duties at risk.
“It does, however, contain significant new information about poor nuclear safety standards on board the Royal Navy's submarines – including the newest Astute class submarines that will be in service for the next thirty years. For this reason, the report deserves to be in the public domain despite the embarrassment it will cause in the Ministry of Defence.
“NIS has written to the Health and Safety Executive requesting that the review of the nuclear industry which is taking place following the Fukushima accident should include the Royal Navy's nuclear power programme. The inadvertent release of this information provides further evidence to show that nuclear powered submarines pose a far greater safety threat to the public than civil nuclear reactors.”
Read the secret report from the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator on submarine reactor safety here: