Nuclear safety concern after power loss at Devonport Dockyard
A Westcountry MP is to seek safety assurances from Devonport Dockyard bosses and ministers after a nuclear ring at Devonport Dockyard lost power for 90 minutes.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation has issued an improvement notice on the dockyard after a report revealed concerns over some “events” at the dockyard which raised nuclear concerns.
MP Oliver Colvile said he will be looking for answers from Babcock International Group which are responsible for running the site.
According to the annual 2012 site report by the Ministry of Defence into safety practices at Devonport, a nuclear ring at the base “experienced a complete loss of supplies for over 90 minutes.”
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The report added that this loss of power, which happened on July 29 last year at 7pm, had “potential nuclear implications.”
Power is essential at the dockyard to ensure reactors on the nuclear submarines are kept cool.
The incident was described as the “most significant” of the 50 “events” which were reported in 2012.
An “event”, according to the report, covers any occurrence on the Naval base site, which may affect, or have the potential to affect, nuclear or radiological safety.
The number of events had gone up by 10 compared with 2011.
An international investigation by Babcock discovered that the power blackout was caused by a defect on a nuclear switchboard.
The report raised a number of issues of concern including that Babcock had failed “to learn from previous incidents and to implement the recommendations from previous reports.”
It also said there was “the potential for hidden defects in the switchboard gear.”
MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, Mr Colvile, said he would be meeting with Babcock officials and ministers this week.
He said: “We are all very supportive of the dockyard and Babcock but what does need to happen is they need to explain how this came about and give us a reassurance that this isn’t going to happen again.
“We want to make sure we are living in a city that is safe while having this work going on around us.
“I will be speaking to Babcock on Monday morning to find out exactly what the circumstances were and what happened. I’m concerned and I will be talking to Ministers about this.”
A spokeswoman for the MoD said an improvement programme had been drawn up.
She said: “The MoD is aware that the Office of Nuclear Regulation has issued an improvement notice to Devonport Royal Dockyard Limited, as the site licensee to Devonport Dockyard.
“We understand that Babcock Marine (the parent company of DRDL) has agreed with the ONR an improvement programme that will enable the identified issues to be addressed in a timely manner.
“We take all safety concerns extremely seriously, but note that the ONR has confirmed that there is no immediate safety impact.
“We will continue to work with Babcock Marine and safety regulators to ensure that safety is managed effectively across the wider Devonport site.”
A spokesman for the Office of Nuclear Regulation said: “ONR served DRDL with the improvement notice after being made aware of a number of incidents at the site in which operations were not carried out in accordance with DRDL’s own operating rules and instructions.
“Subsequent inspections by ONR found that DRDL had not made adequate management arrangements to ensure that their operating rules and instructions were implemented.”
They have given Babcock until March 31, 2014 to make the necessary improvements.
Babcock was unavailable for comment.