Friday, October 22, 2010
Reports Cite British Nuclear Weapons Safety Issues
After a week I've finally adjusted to the Tokyo Madison time change and have stumbled across further evidence of the on going threat of nuke possession, this time in the U.K.:
"Years-old reports made public last week cite "poor" safety processes at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, which manufactures and maintains British nuclear warheads; potentially hazardous "crew fatigue" by personnel involved in the ground transport of nuclear weapons; and failure by commanders of the nation's nuclear-armed submarines to follow safety rules.
An August blaze at Aldermaston's high-explosives facility highlighted safety worries, according to the newspaper. It took firefighters nearly nine hours to quell the fire, records indicate (see GSN, Aug. 4).
A 2005 report identified eight "issues and regulatory risks." Defense Ministry nuclear arsenal regulator Andy Moore noted "slow progress in implementing the regulation framework for the nuclear weapons program."
He also addressed "inconsistent arrangements for managing transport activities," meaning that safety procedures for the transit of plutonium or other sensitive substances might "not meet departmental standards."
A mishap in a transport operation could result in radioactive tritium escaping from warheads, Moore stated. That could create a "potential impact on work force and public protection" (Rob Edwards, London Observer, Oct. 17).
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Interestingly, the UK's new National Security Strategy identifies as a threat to the UK the release of a large radioactive discharge following an accident at a nuclear installation.
Do nuclear weapons really increase the UK's security, or do they actually place the public at greater risk?
Interesting observation especially in light of the incident with the HMS Astute.
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