Sailor makes claims about a lack of safety, security and up-to-date equipment on nuclear submarines
AN INVESTIGATION has been launched by the Royal Navy into claims by an on-the-run engineer that the Trident nuclear missiles are “a disaster waiting to happen”.
The sailor, William McNeilly, has published an 18 page document called ‘The Secret Nuclear Threat’, in which he claimed some of the nuclear boats were in poor condition, that there was lapse safety with fires in missile quarters, and that security was minimal and vulnerable to a terrorist threat.
A Royal Navy spokesperson confirmed that McNeilly was in the naval service as a nuclear weapons systems engineer, and said that the navy is working with civilian police to find him.
The navy spokesperson said that it had launched an investigation into McNeilly’s claims, but said that the navy “completely disagreed” with its substance, adding that it “contains a number of subjective and unsubstantiated personal views, made by a very junior sailor.”
The spokesperson said: “The Royal Navy takes security and nuclear safety extremely seriously and we are fully investigating both the issue of the unauthorised release of this document and its contents.
“The naval service operates its submarine fleet under the most stringent safety regime and submarines do not go to sea unless they are completely safe to do so.”
McNeilly tables a number of concerns in the document, and said that he had tried to take it through the chain of command, but to no avail. Some of these concerns are:
– Lapse security to get in to what should be highly protected parts of the Faslane site: “If airport security and nuclear weapon security were both compared to prisons, the airport would be Alcatraz and (Faslane) base security would be house arrest.”
– The poor condition of HMS Vanguard, one of the nuclear submarine boats: “Countless times it tried to sail but had to come back in; forcing the other boats to do extended patrols. In one of the lessons the instructor mentioned they found a problem with one of the nuclear reactors on one of the boats.”
– Alarms being turned off for convenience: “I later found out that I would’ve been hearing them [the alarms] more frequently if they didn’t mute the console; just to avoid listening to the alarms. This is the position that monitors the condition of the missiles, and they muted the alarms.”
– Fires in the submarine from a lack of concern for flammable toilet roll, rubbish and belts in the fan room: “The Warrant Officer had experienced multiple fires. A few times he mentioned how the belts in the fan room are just waiting for a fire. He said we’ll all shit ourselves when the submarine fills with smoke in a matter of seconds.”
– Out of date equipment: “A good communication system is said to be the most important thing onboard. Yet we have an old speaker system that no one understands most of the time. Take into consideration that during most emergences they talk through a breathing mask and you have a disaster waiting to happen.”
McNeilly made an appeal to the prime minister to pardon him for releasing “only selected information” that he argued was no threat to UK security, and concluded: “I strongly believe that the prime minister and most people that defended Trident had no idea about how dire the situation is. This is not the time to judge on what they did when they didn’t know; it’s about what they do now that they know.”
Responding to the release of the document, SNP defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said that, if true, it reads as “a nightmare catalogue of serious safety breaches aboard and alongside these nuclear armed submarines.” He said the MoD should make public the results of its investigation.
“Failure to follow standard safety procedures is unacceptable in any workplace but on a Vanguard submarine on patrol it could result in extreme tragedy not just for those on board but indeed for the entire planet,” he added.
It was reported in The National that McNeilly plans to turn himself in to the police “in a few days”.
Picture courtesy of William McNeilly