Ministry of Defence outlines state of play on Trident replacement programme
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has published its first annual report on progress with the Trident replacement programme. The report, promised by former Defence Secretary Liam Fox when the 'Initial Gate' decision for the programme was announced in May 2011, outlines the work which has been done since Initial Gate on the proposed new submarines intended to replace the current Vanguard fleet, and summarises how much has been spent to date on the programme. Read more.
Inquiry identifies alternatives to Trident for Barrow
An independent inquiry into the implications of the Government’s Trident Alternatives Review for the economy of Barrow-in-Furness – the location of the BAE Systems shipyard where new submarines to replace the current Trident submarines would be built – has concluded that the town is not facing a ‘Trident or nothing’ choice for protecting local jobs. The inquiry, conducted by the Nuclear Education Trust, found that options short of ‘like-for-like’ replacement of Trident would be expected to lead to a step down in employment at the Barrow shipyard, but would not result in its closure. Read more.
Trident submarine forced to dock in the USA with rudder failure
HMS Vigilant, one of the UK's Trident nuclear missile submarines, has been forced to dock for repairs at a US naval base having damaged its rudder in the Atlantic Ocean. Problems occurred as the submarine was returning to its home berth at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde after conducting a test-firing of a Trident missile off the coast of Florida on 23 October. Read more.
Design and construction failures afflict HMS Astute
HMS Astute, the flagship for the Royal Navy's newest class of nuclear powered submarines, is reportedly too slow to carry out some of its duties, is subject to leaking and is beginning to corrode in places. The submarine – acclaimed by the Navy as being the most capable and sophisticated British submarine ever to enter service – has been plagued with a catalogue of design problems and construction faults which are affecting its safety and performance, according to reports in the Guardian newspaper. Read more.
£2.7 billion contracts awarded for Astute class submarines
The Ministry of Defence has awarded £2.7 billion worth of contracts to BAE Systems for construction of its planned fleet of Astute-class attack submarines, despite cost overruns, severe delays, and concerns over quality of work on the vessels. Read more.
Ministry of Defence seeks commercial sites for storage of radioactive waste from submarines
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a search to find commercially owned sites for the storage of radioactive waste from its fleet of redundant nuclear powered submarines. Read more.
Expert review of MoD disarmament verification programme recommends publication of research findings
A review of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) research programme on the verification of nuclear weapon disarmament conducted by independent experts from the British Pugwash Group has concluded that the programme is appropriately focused and has achieved useful results in some areas, but has made disappointing progress in publishing research results and is working with “seriously insufficient” resources. Read more.
Atomic Weapons Establishment fire court case adjourned again
A prosecution of the Atomic Weapons Establishment following a fire in August 2010 has been adjourned for a second time following a decision to transfer the case from Reading Magistrates Court to Reading Crown Court. Read more.
Production buildings at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at risk from structural degradation
Managers at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) have informed the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) that corrosion has been discovered on structural steelwork in one of its older manufacturing facilities.
A series of inspections has since identified further degradation of some of the structural components in the building, and non-essential operations in the building have been halted whilst further investigations are conducted. According to ONR, appropriate remedial works will be conducted before normal operations resume in the building and work is underway to establish if broader lessons can be learnt regarding on-going maintenance of older facilities across AWE sites.
Energy Bill proposes independence for Office for Nuclear Regulation
The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is to be set up as an independent statutory body under provisions included in the Energy Bill which is currently passing through Parliament.
Although the bulk of the Energy Bill relates to energy market reforms – including changes aimed at paving the way for construction of a new fleet of nuclear power stations in the UK – the government is also taking the opportunity to introduce legislation to give ONR increased independence as a regulator for the nuclear industry. ONR currently operates as a non-statutory agency within the Health and Safety Executive.
The government intends the new agency to be “a modern independent regulator based on the better regulation principles of transparency, accountability, proportionality and consistency”, with the role of protecting people and society from the hazards of the nuclear industry. ONR will be responsible for regulating nuclear safety, nuclear security, nuclear safeguards, the transport of radioactive material, and health and safety on nuclear sites.
The new legislation is intended to create “an organisation which is open and transparent about its decision making, so that it may clearly demonstrate to stakeholders its effective independence from bodies or organisations concerned with the promotion or utilisation of nuclear energy”. By giving ONR more control over its financial and employment arrangements it will also help the agency recruit and retain suitably experienced inspectors at competitive salaries.
In contrast, there are no plans to give the new agency jurisdiction over military nuclear sites or operations. The Secretary of State for Defence will continue to be responsible for nuclear safety and security at defence related sites and the transport of radioactive materials in relation to defence activities, with regulation of Ministry of Defence nuclear activities undertaken within the Ministry itself by the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator.