Radioactive leaks at Scottish military base

From British daily The Morning Star:

MoD scandal fuels Trident rows

Monday 27 April 2009

by Paddy McGuffin

The Ministry of Defence faces accusations of attempting to cover up repeated radioactive leaks at Faslane nuclear submarine base in Scotland.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, obtained by Channel Four News on Monday, contain damning evidence of safety breaches and management failures at the highly contentious Trident base near Glasgow.

The worst breaches include three leaks of radioactive coolant from nuclear submarines in 2004, 2007 and 2008 into the Firth of Clyde.

Last year, a radioactive waste plant manager was replaced when it emerged that he had no qualifications in radioactive waste management.

MPs and campaigners condemned last night the MoD for its perceived cover-up and also renewed pressure on the government to scrap its Trident Replacement scheme.

CND chairwoman Kate Hudson said: “This situation is a complete disgrace. As we have now discovered, the nuclear leaks at the base have been covered up for years and have only been disclosed thanks to a media FoI request.

“If this had been at a nuclear power station, there would have been a full public inquiry but, as it is the MoD, it has been passed over.

“This is a serious security and health and safety risk and it should have been made public immediately.

“It further adds to the argument that the UK should not be pursuing a new generation of nuclear weapons.”

Scottish National Party Westminster leader and defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said: “This utterly damning disclosure reveals repeated and serious nuclear safety breaches and the MoD cannot be above the law.

“We are not talking about a one-off incident but a whole catalogue of serious and frankly shocking failures.

“It is not good enough to say the MoD is exempt from radioactive safety regulations and ministers must be held to account.

“We need an immediate and top-level investigation into this scandal.”

Labour MP and member of the parliamentary CND group Ann Cryer said: “I shall be writing to the Secretary of State for Defence to express my deep concern on this matter.

“The MoD is saying the contamination was negligible. Well John Hutton needs to ask himself, would he feel like going swimming in those waters?

“The MoD seem to be in a protected position from any form of repercussions,” said Ms Cryer.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency stated that it does not have formal regulatory powers regarding radioactive material in, or radioactive releases from MoD premises.

A spokesperson said: “It is not possible to make a direct comparison between a civilian and a military site because the MoD has an exemption from the 1993 Radioactive Substances Act.

“At a civilian installation, we could be considering suspending certain activities until improvements have been made in the essential equipment, operating procedures and training to prevent a recurrence of an unauthorised release.”

THE Tory Party on Friday night denied that there was a rift in the party over whether or not to scrap the Trident missile system if and when they come into power: here.

THE public will have to fork out an extra £100 million to replace US-made missiles for the government’s Trident nuclear weapons system because they were “the wrong size,” it was revealed on Sunday: here.

Around 1,000 servicemen who blame their ill-health on involvement in Britain’s 1950s nuclear tests have won their High Court bid for the right to sue the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for compensation: here.

9 thoughts on “Radioactive leaks at Scottish military base

  1. General has some wise words

    The Trident replacement should be cancelled and the existing system decommissioned immediately, General Sir Hugh Beach told a conference in Glasgow on Saturday.

    The former deputy commander-in-chief of British land forces was speaking at the Crunch time for Trident conference organised by Scottish CND and hosted by Labour Lord Provost Bob Winter of Glasgow City Council.

    “It is time to reflect on how thin the justification for Trident really is and to evaluate it fairly and rigorously against the costs,” Beach said. “It would be better to cancel the Trident replacement programme now and better still to decommission the existing Trident boats forthwith.”


  2. Hanford digs up radioactive wasp nests


    By SHANNON DININNY / Associated Press

    Workers at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site are conducting a sting operation to dig up radioactive wasp nests that could number in the thousands.

    Mud dauber wasps built the nests, which are largely inactive now, at south-central Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation in 2003. That’s when workers finished covering cleaned-up waste sites with fresh topsoil, native plants and straw to help the plants grow — creating perfect ground cover for the insects to build their nests.

    Fortunately for the wasps, nearby cleanup work also provided a steady supply of mud. Today, the nests are “fairly highly contaminated” with radioactive isotopes, such as cesium and cobalt, but don’t pose a significant threat to workers digging them up.

    The wasps, not radioactive, are long gone. They don’t reuse their nests when they colonize each spring.

    “This is just an example of the issues we deal with in digging up burial grounds,” said Todd Nelson, spokesman for Washington Closure Hanford, the contractor hired to clean up the area under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Energy. “You don’t know what you’re going to run into, and this is probably one of the more unusual situations.”

    The federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. The site produced plutonium for the first atomic blast and for the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of World War II, and plutonium production continued through the Cold War.

    The work left a mess of radioactive and hazardous waste to be cleaned up next to the region’s largest waterway, the Columbia River. The effort is expected to last decades and cost more than $50 billion.

    Part of the cleanup involves tearing down the outer shells and ancillary buildings of nine nuclear reactors to “cocoon” them safely for 75 years, and digging up solid reactor waste that was buried in trenches decades ago.

    The black wasps collect small pieces of mud to build nests for their eggs. In this case, they built their nests in a 75-acre area around H reactor, pulling the mud from the bottom of a storage basin that once held irradiated nuclear fuel.

    The reactor operated from October 1949 to April 1965.

    The steady cleanup work in the area also provided a steady supply of mud for the wasps, said Scott Parnell, Washington Closure’s project manager for work near H Reactor. In one 6-acre area, the nests are so congested that workers can barely walk without stepping on one. They could number in the thousands.

    “You can’t separate one from the other very well,” he said. “So in that area, we’re going in and just digging up that entire area up to a foot deep.”

    Workers started using excavators three weeks ago to dig up the area, including vegetation that had already been replanted. Because they are in enclosed cabs on the excavators, no protective clothing is required.

    The material is then placed in a container and taken to the onsite landfill for slightly radioactive wastes, said Dave Martin, the company’s radiological engineer. He said the work should be completed by the end of June.

    Nelson said workers will eventually replant vegetation in the area, at a cost of about $25,000.

    John Price, project manager for environmental restoration for the Washington Department of Ecology, called the nest removal a “loose end” for cleanup in the H Reactor area.

    It also shows the workers do a good job of controlling radiation, because technicians discovered the radiation during their monitoring, he said.

    “They said, ‘Oh, we have some radiation where it doesn’t belong,’ and they told us about it,” he said. “Now, they’ll just keep digging up the stuff until all the radioactivity is gone.”


  3. Britain, Jordan sign nuclear pact

    Module body

    Mon Jun 22, 12:25 PM

    LONDON (AFP) – Britain and Jordan signed a nuclear cooperation pact here Monday, with Foreign Secretary David Miliband hailing the country’s “transparent” approach to developing nuclear energy.

    Miliband inked the deal with Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh in the sidelines of a visit by King Abdullah II, saying Britain was committed to helping the energy-poor Arab country develop its civil nuclear programme.

    “If we are to move the world to a low-carbon economy, then nuclear power needs to be an important part of the energy mix,” Miliband said after the signing, while Prime Minister Gordon Brown met the Jordanian monarch.

    “But it needs to be developed in a safe and secure way… Jordan?s nuclear power programme is fully transparent making it a model for countries considering developing their own civil nuclear programmes,” he added.

    Jordan, which imports 95 percent of its energy needs, and several other Arab countries have announced plans for nuclear power programmes, faced with Shiite Iran’s controversial atomic drive.

    In February Iraq’s Electricity Minister Electricity Minister Karim Wahid invited France to help his country build a nuclear plant.

    In March Jordan said four international firms have proposed to build a nuclear plant in the kingdom to help generate power and desalinate water.

    Jordan’s 1.2 billion tonnes of phosphate reserves are estimated to contain 130,000 tonnes of uranium, whose enriched form provides fuel for nuclear plants.


  4. Karen Silkwood: an inspiration to fighters for environmental justice
    and workers’ rights

    By Sharyn Jenkins
    Thirty-five years ago, on November 13, 1974, US anti-nuclear activist
    and trade unionist Karen Silkwood was killed in a car crash many suspect
    was deliberately caused. Karen Silkwood will be remembered as someone
    who fought an uphill and often unpopular battle against the ruthless
    nuclear industry. She is an inspiration to all who believe in
    environmental justice and workers’ rights.

    * Read more


  5. Pingback: Tony Blair at Iraq inquiry, 29 January | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  7. Pingback: British nuclear weapons radiation scandal | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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