OVER 440 safety incidents have been recorded at Scotland’s nuclear bases over the last three years, with events becoming increasingly more frequent.

More than 80% of the incidents occurred at HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane, where most of the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet is located.

A number of safety incidents were also recorded at the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport, home to the nuclear warheads.

SNP MP Deirdre Brock, who obtained the figures, told The Scotsman: “This is an appalling safety record and it just should not be tolerated. Scotland has an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction sitting just a few miles from our biggest city.

“An error on the Clyde could result in utter devastation for Scotland, with enormous numbers of casualties and effects lasting long beyond the lifetimes of anyone living in Scotland today. That makes these ongoing – and increasing – nuclear safety events terrifying.

"It's not just the threat of nuclear explosions though. No-one knows what the aggregate effects of these safety lapses are on the people who work on the bases and the people who live nearby. We don't know, either, what the effects on the environment are – no-one does.”

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In total, 443 nuclear site event reports (NSER) took place between 2018 and 2020, three of which were classed as category B – the second most severe level on the scale.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) defines category B incidents as “actual or high potential for radioactive release to the environment of quantities below IRR99 [Ionising Radiations Regulations]”.

The figures also show a rise in the frequency of NSERs in recent years – between 2006 and 2017 there was an annual average of around 66, however this now stands at approximately 148 incidents a year.

The National: Nuclear site event reports have risen significantly. Credit: PANuclear site event reports have risen significantly. Credit: PA

Brock, the SNP’s environment spokeswoman at Westminster, continued:  "The increasing number of these safety incidents is the biggest concern.”

“We haven't seen the predicted increase in employment at the bases, so is it a recruitment problem? Is the MoD struggling to find the specialised personnel to work at Faslane and Coulport?

“The other possibility – that the MoD just isn't taking enough care at the bases – is, hopefully, beyond belief.

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"We need rid of these weapons, but it looks like we will have to wait for independence to get that done. In the meantime, though, UK defence ministers must take some fast and effective action to address the safety record.

“They owe that to the people they employ, but they also have a responsibility to safeguard the health and wellbeing of communities and to protect the environment,” she added.

UK Defence Minister, Jeremy Quin, responded: “In line with industry good practice, and in common with other defence and civil nuclear sites, HM Naval Base Clyde has a well-established system for raising NSERs and investigating and categorising them according to their safety significance, whether equipment failures, human error, procedural failings, documentation shortcomings or near-misses.

“The safety significance of all reported events remains low and they are all below level one, the lowest level of the seven-point International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.

“None of the events caused harm to the health of any member of staff at the naval base or to any member of the public, and no event resulted in any unauthorised discharge of radioactive waste to the environment.”

The figures highlight 378 safety incidents recorded at Faslane over the three-year period, with 65 incidents at Coulport.

A total of 15 incidents, 12 of them at Faslane, were classed as category C – which is defined by MoD as having “actual radioactive release to the environment where quantity of release is likely to be below detection threshold”.

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Additionally, 100 incidents were deemed category D, yet the vast majority – at 325 –were considered "below scale".

The director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, Dr Richard Dixon, told The Scotsman: “You would think that our nuclear weapons and submarines would be among the most carefully looked after objects in the whole country, yet there have been hundreds of accidents and mishaps in the last few years and the number of incidents seems to be increasing.

"In at least 18 cases radioactivity was almost certainly released to the environment. Clearly something is very wrong at Faslane and Coulport and this cannot be allowed to continue.

"Unlike any big business, the MoD is allowed to regulate itself, but it is time for the Scottish Parliament to take a good look at the dangers posed by the operations at the two bases.”

A spokesperson for MoD commented: “The Royal Navy continues to meet exacting nuclear industry standards. The majority of the incidents listed in the report were low level, but require reporting by the nuclear regulators.

“No harm was caused to any personnel or to the environment.”