Serious nuclear safety incidents are on the rise at Britain’s nuclear weapons base in Scotland, raising concerns of radioactive impacts on the environment. 

Information released by the Ministry of Defence to the Ferretfound that a total of 158 safety incidents occurred at Royal Navy bases in Faslane and Coulport in 2023. One of these incidents was marked Category A, the worst type of risk rating. It’s the first time such an incident has happened since 2008. 

Under MoD definitions, Category A is defined as having an “actual or high potential for radioactive release to the environment” in breach of safety limits. The 2008 incident involved a spillage into the river Clyde from a barge transporting radioactive waste. 

Another four incidents in 2023 were marked Category B, the second worst rating – and the highest recorded  since 2006. So far in 2024, there has been one Category B out of the  21 incidents recorded.

Category B incidents are defined as having “actual or high potential for a contained release”, or an “actual or potential for radioactive release to the environment.”

The Ferret’s investigation comes amid a series of safety incidents reported onboard Britain’s nuclear-armed Vanguard fleet. Last year, one submarine narrowly averted disaster after a depth gauge almost sent the crew to crush depth. In 2022, a submarine had to resurface and return to port following an electrical fire. 

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: 

“It’s very alarming that serious safety incidents are on the rise, both onboard Britain’s nuclear fleet and at Royal Navy bases. We urgently need more transparency from the MoD on these incidents, which consistently downplays their seriousness. There are always risks with possessing nuclear weapons and Britain’s nuclear infrastructure is crumbling. We need to scrap them now before a major catastrophe happens.”

Photo credit: Royal Navy