NIS Update: July – August 2013

Staff shortages, organisational change, and ageing equipment – the main challenges to defence nuclear safety

A shortage of nuclear-skilled personnel and the rapid pace of organisational change within the Ministry of Defence pose the greatest challenges to the safety of the UK's nuclear weapons and nuclear powered submarine programmes, according to the latest annual report of the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator.  Read more.


Trident Alternatives Review sets out options to 'like-for-like' replacement

The long-awaited Trident Alternatives Review, published by the Cabinet Office, has concluded that there are credible alternatives to replacing the UK's current Trident nuclear weapons system although these would cost more and might not guarantee the same “degree of resilience” as the government's preferred 'like-for-like' replacement option.  Read more.


'Misunderstandings' led to breach of nuclear reactor compartment during refit work on Trident submarine

Errors during maintenance work resulted in a breach in the primary containment of the reactor compartment for HMS Vengeance, one of the submarines that carry the Royal Navy's Trident nuclear weapons, during refit work last year at Devonport dockyard.  Read more.


Scotland left to fend for itself during nuclear weapons accident exercise

Delays and mistakes made during a major accident exercise involving a nuclear weapon would have resulted in Scotland being left to fend for itself by Whitehall government departments during a critical period in the handling of the emergency, according to an official report.  Read more and see our blog article.


Independent Scotland could face choice between Trident or Nato

An independent Scotland might face a tough battle to become a member of Nato if it insists on removing Trident nuclear weapons, according to a report by the Scotland Institute.  Read more.


Permission given for structural repair work to commence at Atomic Weapons Establishment uranium facility

Repair work on corroded structural columns in the A45 facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston has begun after the facility was closed last year for failing to meet nuclear safety standards.  Read more.


Warning letter for Atomic Weapons Establishment over carbon emissions reporting

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has been issued with a formal warning letter by the Environment Agency for failing to report accurate information about its carbon emissions.

Large emitters of greenhouse gases in the European Union are required to monitor and report their emissions under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.  AWE, as a major industrial site, falls within the scope of the scheme, which is regulated in the UK by the Environment Agency.

AWE informed the Environment Agency that they had over-reported emissions for 201 and under-reported emissions for 2011 as a result of taking a meter reading at the wrong time, in breach of their emissions permit.  AWE described the matter as a “minor discrepancy”, but according to the Environment Agency the fault was “easily avoidable” and tighter controls should have been used to ensure accurate reporting.

AWE was served with a warning letter in accordance with the Environment Agency's enforcement policy for failing to accurately submit information to the regulator, and the company has improved reporting procedures to prevent the problem from happening again.


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