The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) calls today for an independent inquiry to be urgently held on the serious allegations (published in the ‘Sunday Herald’) by Able Seaman William McNeilly of security lapses and key breaches of health and safety on Trident submarines based at Faslane. (1)
As reported in the Sunday Herald, Able Seaman McNeilly was on patrol with the Trident submarine HMS Victorious from January – April 2015. He also learned of critical safety issues during training on HMS Vanguard, a second Trident submarine. His concerns of safety and security lapses on board the submarines – which are armed with Trident nuclear weapons – are so profound that he is risking a spell in prison in order to tell the world about them. NFLA believes his courage in making these allegations means that only an independent inquiry can protect his liberty and rather put the Ministry of Defence in the dock, should the allegations prove to be accurate.
Able Seaman McNeilly argues the safety and security lapses are such that it is a “disaster waiting to happen” and the submarines are vulnerable to a dangerous terrorist attack.
Amongst the allegations made in McNeilly’s 18 page report are:
- The aged submarine was dogged by equipment failures throughout the January – April patrol.
- 30 safety and security flaws occurred during this four month patrol.
- Safety procedures were disregarded, security procedures were casual and secret information was available to unauthorised personnel.
- HMS Vanguard failed to pass two critical tests intended to confirm whether it could have performed a successful Trident missile launch while on patrol.
- Problems caused by seawater entering the submarine’s hydraulic system prevented a test to ensure that the submarine’s missile hatches would open correctly and a ‘missile compensation test’ was failed three out of three times.
- “Billions upon billions of tax papers money is being spent on a system so broke it can’t even do the tests that prove it works.”
- The faults are so severe to question the UK’s ability to successfully launch a Trident nuclear weapon strike.
- Lax security on the Faslane site – “it is easier to get into some nightclubs than it is to get into the Green Area (which controls access to Trident submarines).
- Regular problems with the submarine’s atmosphere, drinking water and electrical equipment.
- Alarms that went off on the ‘Control and Monitoring Position’ were regularly ignored or muted.
- There was high risk of fire in a compartment which contains torpedoes.
- At other times the compartment was flooded.
- Rubbish was stored in unsuitable locations, creating a serious fire hazard.
McNeilly argued many of these failings are due to a chronic shortage of skilled and suitable manpower. McNeilly also witnessed quite serious and disturbing personality traits amongst many staff on board, including threats of violence and over aggressive mannerisms.
McNeilly claims he has raised concerns about the safety and security of the Trident weapon system through the chain of command on “multiple occasions” but “not once did someone even attempt to make a change.” As such, he feels the only choice open to him is to make these concerns public and risk the severe threats that this would entail, which include a lengthy period of imprisonment.
NFLA find these allegations to be chilling in their implications and, if right, outline fundamental safety and security weaknesses with the UK nuclear weapon armed submarines. Given the serious nature of these allegations, only an independent inquiry can verify the nature of these lapses and blunders. The Defence Secretary should not just seek an investigation of these claims, but bring in an independent figure to ensure no stone is unturned in verifying the accuracy of the allegations made.
NFLA Chair Councillor Mark Hackett said:
I am shocked, but not surprised, at the seriousness of the claims of safety and security lapses on Trident submarines made by Able Seaman McNeilly. Given the seriousness of the punishment he is likely to receive by making such allegations then I can only commend him on his courage should they turn out to be true. If they are, it is the clearest evidence of a ramshackle and quite dangerous UK nuclear weapons programme. The NFLA have raised concerns about acute staff shortages in the defence nuclear sector for some time, and now we have clear proof it could be even worse than we could have ever have known. Only an independent inquiry will ensure these serious allegations are dealt with in an open and transparent manner. I call on Defence Minister Michael Fallon to ensure such an inquiry is organised, and forthwith. It further shows the real dangers with the possession of such weapons of mass destruction and why we should not even consider like-for-like replacement.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 0161 234 3244 or 07771 930196.
Notes for editors:
(1) Sunday Herald 17th May 2015
Further information on:
RobEdwards.com 17th May 2015