The Royal Navy’s fleet of nuclear submarines has been banned from using berths in two of Scotland’s lochs because of official doubts over whether the public and sailors would be safe in the event of an accident.
We can reveal that three exercises to test emergency responses to simulated submarine accidents in March and April failed assessments by government safety regulators because of a series of “inadequate” preparations.
As a result the Ministry of Defence’s internal watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR), has prohibited nuclear submarines from berthing in Loch Goil, near the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, and in Loch Ewe, off Poolewe in Easter Ross.
DNSR has also ordered an emergency exercise at the nuclear weapons depot at Coulport on Loch Long to be rerun as part of a “get well plan” for the site. Exercise Sheetband on 21 March is said to have “failed in a broad range of areas” and now must be “redemonstrated”.
The Royal Navy currently has 11 nuclear submarines, including four Vanguard-class boats carrying Trident nuclear missiles and two new Astute-class nuclear-powered submarines operating out of Faslane. They have designated berths in eight locations around the UK, concentrated at Faslane and naval bases in the south of England.