Private companies hired to work at the Clyde nuclear bomb bases are being given a multi-million pound get-out by Westminster so they won’t have to pay compensation or clean-up costs after “potentially catastrophic” accidents.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is planning to sign agreements with contractors at Faslane and Coulport that limit their financial liability in case of injuries, deaths, explosions, fires and radiation leaks to no more than £100,000. This will leave the vast majority of any costs – which could run into many millions of pounds - to be met by taxpayers.
The revelation has shocked politicians, experts and campaigners, who attacked the MoD for trying to hide what they were planning. “Nuclear operations are uninsurable,” said the Labour MP Paul Flynn, who has lodged a motion in the House of Commons opposing the MoD’s move. “Commerce reaps the profits and the public purse is looted to pay immeasurable costs.”
Faslane, on Gareloch near Helensburgh, is home to the UK’s four nuclear-powered submarines armed with Trident nuclear missiles, as well as a fleet of nuclear-powered and conventionally armed “hunter-killer” submarines. Coulport, nearby on Loch Long, is where around 200 nuclear warheads are kept.
According to the defence minister, Andrew Murrison, the Treasury has agreed to relieve contractors at the Clyde bases of the liability for accidents. Otherwise, he said, the contracts would become “untenable” because of the high costs involved.