A new investigation into the number of near-miss nuclear accidents the UK has recorded shows there to be 110 major alerts, although the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has claimed there to be just 27 incidents in a single report published during 2003.
Carried out by the Nuclear Information Service (NIS), the enquiry focused on incidents like a Mid-Atlantic collision between British and French submarines armed with nuclear weapons back in 2009, the deaths of 116 nuclear workers in the UK from accidents and cancer, and British warships mistakenly carrying nuclear depth charges in the 1982 Falklands War, the Daily Mail reports.
The release of this NIS dossier comes after it was disclosed that a missile, launched by a British Trident submarine, crashed into the Atlantic in 2016 – an incident that was seemingly suppressed as MPs voted to renew the UK’s commitment to independent nuclear deterrents.
The NIS has now called on the government to place the Defence Nuclear Programme under the responsibility of the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which monitors the civil nuclear industry. Currently, the MoD has its own nuclear regulator, which has drawn criticism from some quarters for not being independent and failing to hold those at the top responsible for safety issues.
“Our report shows the MoD’s response to an accident is to downplay it and to hope nobody noticed it. With nuclear weapons, the risks are so large the MoD should not be allowed to continue to regulate itself,” David Cullen, NIS research manager, was quoted by the news source as saying.
However, the MoD commented that the safety of the general public is the organisation’s top priority and in more than 50 years of transporting nuclear material in the country, there has never been an incident where the public or the environment were exposed to any radiation hazards.
It appears that some steps are being taken now, however, to bolster the UK’s nuclear defence security. On February 14th, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy revealed its new Civil Nuclear Cyber Security Strategy that is intended to ensure the civil nuclear sector can defend against, is resilient to and can recover from ever-changing cyber threats.
The document considers threats from sources like terrorists, criminals, foreign intelligence services and hacktivists, with fears surrounding the compromise of sensitive data or the interruption of power generation. Blended attacks are also a concern, where the perpetrator uses a cyber attack to either reinforce or facilitate a physical attack.
Given that the UK is about to build all sorts of new nuclear power plants across the country, it would perhaps be sensible for businesses to review their security practices now and make any necessary changes to strengthen their infrastructure as much as possible.
If you need help with your disaster preparedness & response plans, get in touch with the team here at HFR Solutions CIC.