The exercise exposed a series of errors that would have resulted in avoidable deaths. The scenario involved a heavy goods vehicle crashing into an armored truck transporting Trident nuclear warheads.
The MoD report says “The control operator was unfamiliar with the procedures” and numerous communication problems were highlighted. The police force failed to invite the convoy commander to briefings and missed vital technical knowledge.
A breakdown of communication was consolidated by inadequate equipment: “The Police Scotland control room staff reported that it was impossible to understand what was being transmitted by Airwaves from the convoy commander due to him wearing a respirator”.
‘First responders’ were severely endangered in the exercise: they wore paper masks which the report says would not provide protection from radiation emitted by a damaged nuclear warhead.
A failure to inform emergency services of the extent of the risk they faced was attributed to human error, eerily reminiscent of the Chernobyl accident. The convoy’s commander stated that the necessary information was contained within an issued pack but attention had not been drawn to it.
The Ministry of Defence said “the purpose of these exercises is to allow all parties, including local authorities and emergency services, to test their response plans and make any necessary changes to guarantee public safety.” However, anti-nuclear activists have highlighted that the MoD is failing to learn from mistakes highlighted in previous reports.
The Scottish coordinator of Nukewatch, Jane Tallents, stated that “the MoD itself realises that a robust test of emergency procedures would always show that the public would be put at risk. Therefore they have moved to an annual box ticking exercise with the minimum of information being released to the public.”
Convoys of twenty or more military vehicles are due to transport nuclear warheads six times a year between Royal Naval Armaments Depot near Glasgow and the Aldermaston nuclear bomb factory in Berkshire. These have been incapable of maintaining secrecy, with videos consistently surfacing on social media,. This is partly due to the route’s proximity to major UK cities, adding to a generous catalogue of failings.
It’s clear the UK is ill-equipped to manage its nuclear capabilities. Prompt action must be taken to remedy the present danger.