Royal Navy conducts test firing of Trident missile
HMS Vigilant, one of the Royal Navy's Trident nuclear weapon submarines, has conducted the first UK test firing of an unarmed Trident D5 ballistic missile for three years in the Atlantic Ocean following post-refit sea trials. Read more.
Scottish Affairs Committee reports on Trident and Scottish independence
Scottish independence could result in nuclear disarmament being imposed upon the United Kingdom for an indeterminate period, according to a report published by the UK Parliament's Scottish Affairs Committee. Read more.
Nuclear safety regulator: more work to do in completing post-Fukushima improvements
A report on progress made in implementing recommendations to upgrade the safety of the British nuclear industry in the wake of the Fukushima accident has concluded that more than 400 improvement actions have yet to be completed. Read more.
Further ￡350m on contracts for Successor submarines
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced a further ￡350 million worth of funding for the next stage of design work on the 'Successor' submarines which the government hopes will replace the current Vanguard class Trident submarines. Read more.
Ministry of Defence reveals just 520 Faslane jobs depend on Trident
Claims that Scotland would lose thousands of jobs if the Trident nuclear weapons system is taken out of service or moved elsewhere have been thrown into question following an admission by the Ministry of Defence that only 520 civilian jobs at HM Naval Base Clyde are dependent on Trident. Read more.
BAE Systems – EADS merger plan fails
The proposed corporate merger between BAE Systems and EADS has collapsed as a result of the failure of the governments involved in the deal – Germany, France and the United Kingdom – to reach agreement on operating arrangements for the new merged company. Read more.
US nuclear submarine in collision with cruiser
A United States Navy nuclear powered submarine collided with a cruiser during training exercises off the east coast of the USA on Saturday 13 October 2012.
The USS Montpelier, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, collided with the Aegis guided missile cruiser USS San Jacinto whilst the submarine was at periscope depth. The collision resulted in damage to the cruiser's sonar dome, located beneath the waterline on the bows of the ship.
The US navy said that no one was injured and that the submarine's nuclear propulsion plant was unaffected by the collision. Both vessels were able to return to port under their own power, with the Montpelier arriving at the Kings Bay submarine base in Georgia the day after the collision.
An investigation will inquire into the cause of the collision and determine the responsibility for any fault, and a separate safety investigation board has been set up to identify hazards and the causal factors for the collision.
New version of Southampton submarine emergency plan
Southampton City Council has undertaken a limited consultation on a revised version of the Port of Southampton Off-site Reactor Emergency Plan, which outlines emergency management arrangements in the event of a nuclear accident on board a submarine visiting Southampton.
Preparation of the plan, generally referred to as 'Sotonsafe', is a requirement of the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001, which require nuclear emergency planning arrangements to be reviewed and updated every three years. Updates in the new version of the Sotonsafe plan “reflect changes in organisational structures, terminology, and additional information on the response by individual agencies” and do not impact upon local communities, according to the Council.
Consultation on the revised plan was largely limited to local council members and agencies which would play a role in responding to a radiation emergency on board a submarine berthed at Southampton. The Council intends to publish the new Sotonsafe plan in December 2012.
Royal Navy nuclear powered submarines visit Southampton on a roughly annual basis on public relations trips, most recently with a visit from HMS Tireless in March 2012. In April 2011 a visit by HMS Astute to Southampton was marked by an on-board shooting incident in which one of the submarine's officers was killed by a crew member.
UK sponsors UN statement on elimination of nuclear weapons
The United Kingdom has supported a resolution calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons at an influential United Nations committee.
The UN General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met at the beginning of November to discuss a number of resolutions relating to arms control and disarmament. For the first time at the Committee, the United Kingdom supported a statement introduced by Japan calling for united action towards the total elimination of all nuclear weapons, which reaffirmed the importance of compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and called for all states not party to the Treaty to accede to it promptly as non-nuclear weapon states.
159 governments voted in support of the declaration. China, India, Pakistan, Syria and eight other nations abstained, while North Korea alone opposed the text.
Despite voting in support of the elimination of nuclear weapons at the First Committee meeting, the UK voted against proposals calling for multinational talks to take place on the abolition of atomic arms, for reduction of the operational status of nuclear weapons systems, a nuclear weapons-free zone in Central Asia, and expressing concern over the continued absence of progress towards multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament issues. The UK also abstained on a call by the Nonaligned Movement states for a special meeting of senior officials on the subject of nuclear disarmament.
The First Committee resolved to refer 59 draft resolutions relating to nuclear weapons and international security to the full UN General Assembly for further consideration early in December.
News from the Atomic Weapons Establishment
Fire service called to acid incident at AWE Aldermaston
A Parliamentary Question asked by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has revealed that the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service was called out to the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston on 16 August 2012 to deal with an incident resulting from an acid experiment. Read more.
AWE's Orion laser set to open in spring 2013
Commissioning work on the Orion nuclear test laser at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) is nearing completion and the laser is scheduled to commence operations by April 2013.
The Orion facility is currently working up towards full performance to demostrate and test its capabilities, and so far all the facility’s twelve laser beamlines have been synchronized and are at 80 per cent of their nominal output
Research experiments are currently being scheduled at the facility ready for when it opens, and although the bulk of the work will be research into the performance of materials in nuclear warheads, six weeks of the laser's research time over the period April 2013 – March 2014 have been allocated for external use by researchers from the civilian sector. External proposals to use Orion are being managed by the UK's Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and two external experiments have been programmed for late in 2013.
Laser shoots are planned to take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with Mondays and Fridays reserved for maintenance. The system is designed to deliver two 12-beam shots per day, or six long-pulse-only shots per day with simple targets. Although Orion will be opening in April 2013, not all of its diagnostic systems will be operational by then.
Orion can use a combination of simultaneous laser shots to replicate the physical environment at the heart of a nuclear detonation transiently, on a minute scale, in an experiment. It has been designed to achieve temperatures around 5 million Kelvin, where the target collapses to twice its solid density. Monitoring of the x-ray, particle, and optical emissions from the target provide data which can be used to model the physical processes which take place during a nuclear explosion.
Demolition work at AWE Aldermaston boiler house
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation has submitted a planning application to West Berkshire Council on behalf of AWE for demolition and clearance of external infrastructure to the former boiler house at AWE Aldermaston. The Council has decided that planning permission is not necessary for this activity, which can therefore go ahead.
The planned works include the removal of large chimney stacks and other ancillary equipment and plant to facilitate the conversion of the building to a new use.
A planning application for installation of a new lightening protection system on a laboratory and office building at AWE Aldermaston has also been submitted to the Council.
AWE surrenders permit for handling of non-radioactive wastes
AWE has recently applied to the Environment Agency to surrender its permit for handling non-radioactive wastes at the Aldermaston site.
The permit was originally issued when AWE Burghfield transferred its non-radioactive wastes to AWE Aldermaston for onward disposal. This arrangement is no longer in place and the permit is no longer required. As part of the surrender process, AWE was required to demonstrate to the Environment Agency that pollution had been avoided over the period when the permit was in force and the site was in a satisfactory environmental condition. Surrender of the permit was accepted by the Environment Agency on 17 August 2012.
Non-radioactive wastes from both AWE sites are now managed by a contractor and disposed of at permitted waste disposal sites.