Community Council requested to consult local authority on damage compensation and monitoring of radioactive emissions

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RNAD Coulport

At Ardentinny Community Council’s April meeting a local resident requested the following action from the Community Council as part of its remit “to help make public bodies aware of the opinions and needs of the community it represents.

The request was made in the context of past events at HMNB Clyde and RNAD Coulport. For example, the MOD officially recorded 105 ‘nuclear safety events’ in the Coulport and Faslane bases in 2013-14, and in March 2014 Ardentinny residents experienced damaging impact from blasts at Coulport.

Therefore, the request was made to consult with Argyll and Bute Council “as to where compensation would be obtained should there be any damage to residents’ homes and livestock, e.g., horses; and ‘what emergency procedures have been put in place and how satisfactory are they?”  The Clyde Off-site Emergency Plan has recently been updated and can be found here. The Council has been advised that the population of Ardentinny is in excess of 50, as published in the plan.

With regard to radioactive emissions, it was requested that “the community council consult the local authority on how to ensure that there is consistent and local, independent monitoring of the safety of the beach at Ardentinny and that the results are made public.” Levels of emissions can be found in the RIFE-19 Report on Radioactivity in Food and the Environment (Dec. 2014) which is compiled by the Environment Agency; Food Standards Agency; Natural Resources Wales; Northern Ireland Environment Agency; and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Faslane and Coulport are specifically covered in pages 168-169 and Appendix 2, p.249 & p.254.

According to SEPA, the radioactive waste currently being discharged from Faslane and Coulport is below the current agreed limits and there are plans to agree new limits to better reflect actual discharges together with continuing conditions which require the amount of discharged waste to be minimised.

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MoD: Divide and rule or Rule and divide?

Manoeuvres off RNAD Coulport

One could be forgiven for thinking that either or both strategies were in play in the Ministry of Defence’s handling of a request to attend a community meeting in Ardentinny. The request was the outcome of a Community Council meeting held on 1 April, 2014 during which the alarming blasts, which took place in Coulport in March, were discussed at length along with other issues of concern regarding the RNAD base at Coulport.

During the week of these very disturbing explosions residents telephoned the MoD regularly to enquire and to complain, and by the Thursday Ardentinny.org was informed that RNAD Coulport would now only deal with the MoD-approved community ‘conduit’ , i.e., Ardentinny Community Council’s Convener. Therefore, it was she who, on behalf of the community, made the request for a representative from the MoD to attend a community meeting in which residents could pose their questions.

It was reported at the June Community Council meeting that, said Convener, in an email to the MoD, stated she was ‘exceptionally disappointed, dismayed and unbelieving’ that the MoD had reneged on a verbal agreement made to attend such a meeting during a conversation which took place on the 2nd April. Instead, in their correspondence in response to the Convener’s of the 21 and 28 April, the MoD said it would not be possible to accept her invitation to send representatives to a public meeting, but offered her the opportunity to raise concerns at the annual Clyde Local Liaison Committee (CLLC) meeting on 28 May 2014.

Only one resident (a Community Councillor) submitted questions to the Convener for this purpose. This may have been because others had no questions and/or those who did, wished to pose them directly at a public meeting, as they had requested. The questions conveyed to the CLLC are as follows, along with the responses from person/s unknown (to us):

Q. Recent reports in the press have stated that Coulport MoD Base has asked for approval to increase the amount of radioactive waste discharged into Loch Long; can we have a figure for the amount of such waste presently discharged, showing the frequency of such discharges, at what time of day or month or year this is carried out and what levels of radioactivity are involved?

A. There is nothing discharged into Loch Long.

Q. A very recent report refers to staff shortages at this base; a Ministerial response has revealed that the MoD has vacancies for 97 posts categorised as ‘safety critical’. How many of these posts are at MoD Coulport and how many of these are for qualified nuclear engineers and for other qualified personnel who deal with nuclear armaments or radioactive material; for how long have such posts been vacant and how soon may they be expected to be filled?

A. There are no naval vacancies at Coulport.

Q. If none of such posts is related to nuclear operations how many are described as ‘safety critical’ for other reasons?

A. None.

Q. How often is the testing of Loch Long waters for radioactivity, in the vicinity of Coulport and Ardentinny carried out, at what intervals and where are such test results displayed?

A. Testing is done regularly and everywhere. The Convener was unsure where the results were displayed but it was thought that they may be published on the SEPA website.

Q. We have seen other reports of accidents occurring at Coulport base but the nature of such incidents are not reported; can descriptions of accidents happened during the past year be given to this Community Council so that public apprehension might be lessened?

A. The Convener reported that there had been a long presentation about safety and that they (MoD) dealt with it by ensuring that every incident, however unimportant, was recorded and by controlling such minor incidents in this way it enabled them to control anything more major. She also reported that she had found an open paper on the Internet, the source of which she could not remember, which said that survey results showed there was no radioactive hazard in Loch Long.

Q. Present Scottish Government policy is for the dismantling and ceasing of all operations at Coulport in the event of the September Referendum resulting in a vote for independence; have any timetables and other plans for this eventuality been drawn up and, if so, can such plans be announced to give local communities the opportunity to prepare their own plans for the future environmental and other uses of this area?

A. The British Government in Westminster has not made any plans.

Community Councillor Dennis Gower expressed his disappointment at the responses to his questions, stating that they seemed to be largely opinion rather than fact. On the question of safety, Bill Williamson asked if the MoD had mentioned the emission of radioactive tritium gas from Coulport in their safety presentation. Quoting from a report he said that emissions of the gas have doubled between 2008 and 2012 and are expected to rise further with upgraded warhead designs. Both councillors concluded that the feedback from the CLLC meeting was insufficient and unacceptable.

Argyll & Bute Councillor Gordon Blair then interjected saying that he was very sorry that the Convener had been put in this position by the manipulation of the MoD who had created this situation through their lack of customer service. He reported that when he called to request their attendance at a community meeting he was dealt with rather tersely by the first point of contact. He was quick to point out that they are public servants and it is we who pay their salaries and that he felt they had short-changed us. He said he would be taking it further up the tree politically, but he expressed his regret that the Convener was on the receiving end of the wrath of others due to the MoD not being as customer-focussed as they should be.

The Convener then went on to read aloud correspondence between her and the MoD with the final instruction that if anyone was dissatisfied with this outcome or had any other questions or concerns they were to write to MoD Ministerial Correspondence Unit, 5th Floor, Zone A, Main Building, Whitehall, London SW1A 2HB or email ParliBranch-Treat-Official@mod.uk. However they will not respond by email. Therefore a postal address will need to be provided if you wish to receive a reply.

Related links:

Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) Quarterly Site Report for HM Naval Base Clyde 1 Jan 2014 – 31 March 2014

Office for Nuclear Regulation: Quarterly Local Liaison Committee / Site Stakeholder group reports

Safety fears after nuclear bomb store avoids independent inspections

SEPA – HMNB Clyde

 

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Communication from Coulport

The following was posted on Ardentinny village notice board.

communication

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Mysterious Coulport bangs explained

This afternoon villagers may have heard a series of loud bangs emanating from the direction of Coulport. On enquiring with the MOD Press Office, a spokesperson told Ardentinny.org that there was nothing to worry about and that Coulport had confirmed it was testing security which involved the setting off of some things like pyrotechnics.

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HMS Dauntless passes Coulport earlier today

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Community Council adopts new format for meetings and Forestry criticised for no warning of military manoeuvres

Perhaps in an attempt to encourage more community participation, Ardentinny Community Council announced a more succinct approach to its meetings in the future, with any business not concluded by 21.30 being carried over to the next meeting. Also, with the introduction of prior ‘business meetings’, it was proposed that matters arising from the minutes would take a much shorter time and that other items on the agenda could be addressed more quickly. Why not come along to the next meeting and support those who work on our behalf.

The meeting of the 4th December brought to light some interesting issues:

One of two portable toilets (with cautionary notice) temporarily installed at the Baron MacInturner Forest near Ardentinny for use by the visiting armed forces. [Click to enlarge]

The MOD has promised to supply a written response to the concerns raised recently by the Community Council. A member of the Community Council also raised concern that the MOD had undertaken manoeuvres in the surrounding area during November with no forewarning to residents.

David Robertson of the Forestry Commission apologised for not having informed the community in advance but explained that it had been a last minute request for approximately forty troops in training to camp at the beach area and that it seems that they had not informed FCS of the intention to do any more than just camp for one night. He said he would get in touch with the MOD in this regard and report back at the next meeting.

The deteriorating condition of the roads and the lack of gritting and/or signage on the Larach once again predominated discussion with the Community Council promising to write immediately to the Council’s Roads department.

The subject of the proposed windfarm at Cove was raised. It was agreed that Ardentinny Community Council would circulate all residents with outline information on the proposal together with details of the next presentation to be made by the Roseneath Peninsula West Development Trust in the Queen’s Hall , Dunoon on Monday 10 December at 19.00hrs.

Finally, it was agreed to put the question of a local emergency action plan on the agenda for the next Community Council business meeting.

Proposed Cove Windfarm letter to residents from Community Council (PDF).

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Clyde bases plagued by nuclear safety flaws, says the MoD.

HMS Illustrious passes Coulport earlier this month

The Clyde bases that host Britain’s nuclear bombs and submarines are plagued by widespread safety flaws, according to an internal Ministry of Defence (MoD) report obtained by the Sunday Herald.

Critics fear that the problems could trigger a major nuclear accident at Faslane or Coulport that would contaminate Glasgow with radioactivity. They say this would be “unspeakable” and are demanding an urgent investigation.

The MoD’s latest annual review of safety reveals that 11 of the bases’ 13 activities have been officially declared unsatisfactory after assessments by site managers and regulators. The review was released last week in response to a request under freedom of information legislation.

Nine safety activities were colour-coded yellow because they were “below standard” and suffered “some specific weaknesses”. These included categories headed “weapons safety”, “safety culture”, “maintenance”, “safety performance indicators”, “site safety case”, “nuclear safety event reporting” and “conventional health and safety including fire safety”.

Two activities were coded orange because they were “significantly below standard” with “flawed” practices or procedures. They were headed “organisational change” and “operator experience feedback”.

No further details about the precise nature of the safety weaknesses were given in the review, or by the MoD. On nuclear weapons safety the review just said there had been “shortfalls in specific areas or delays in progressing projects”.

The revelations were “of grave concern”, according to the SNP’s defence spokesman in Westminster, Angus Robertson MP. “They point to serious systemic failures which could clearly put lives at risk,” he said. Continued…

Reproduced by permission of Sunday Herald environment correspondent  Rob Edwards.

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