THE Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been accused of a “cover-up” for not releasing annual safety assessments of nuclear weapons on the Clyde.

Annual reports from the MoD’s internal watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR), were released for 10 years before stopping in 2017. An appeal to a UK tribunal to force the MoD to release the reports again was rejected in 2021.

The MoD is refusing to give reasons for its refusal to release the reports and rejected a freedom of information request by The Ferret asking for documents that explain why they are not revealing the assessments.

Former MoD employee Chris McEleny, who is now general secretary for the Alba Party, is now urging the UK Government to “come clean”, insisting weapons on the Clyde have had their life extended “well beyond a safe level”.

He said the MoD must provide full disclosure of all nuclear incidents at HMNB Clyde over the past decade.

The Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) said it was not surprised by the "arrogance" shown by the UK Government in withholding the information.

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'Nothing short of a cover-up'

McEleny told The National: “This is nothing short of a cover up by the MoD to disguise what is likely a catalogue of incidents that they don’t want the public to find out about.

“The Trident fleet and weapons systems are over 30 years old and have had their life extended well beyond a safe level. 

“In 2004, radioactive effluent was discharged from the nuclear sub HMS Trafalgar. 

“On August 24, 2007, radioactive liquid from HMS Superb leaked into the Firth of Clyde - the very water that seafood is caught from and Gourock outdoor pool is filled from - because a valve was wrongly left open. 

%image('16657684', type="article-full", alt="Chris McEleny with Alba leader Alex Salmond")

“And on February 20, 2008, radioactive waste overflowed into the water from a tank on a barge while effluent was being transferred from HMS Torbay.

“The MoD was late to notify SEPA about these incidents.

“If the UK Government has nothing to hide then why is it blocking the publication of a catalogue of Radiological Incidents over the past few years? The UK Government must provide full disclosure of all nuclear incidents at HMNB Clyde over the past 10 years. 

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“We can rid Scotland of weapons of mass destruction on day one of independence and that’s just one reason Alba Party are campaigning for independence as an immediate priority.”

McEleny was stationed at RNAD Coulport for more than a decade, and took the MoD to court in 2019 after claiming he had been discriminated against for his political views.

The former Inverclyde councillor was suspended and had his security clearance revoked after announcing his candidacy for the SNP’s deputy leadership post in 2016. The employment tribunal ruled his belief in Scottish independence was “philosophical” and should be protected under the Equality Act 2016.

The Scottish Government called for Westminster to be "open and transparent in its actions around the handling of nuclear materials in Scotland". 

The Ferret previously revealed the reports for 2005 to 2015 highlighted “regulatory risks” 86 times, including 13 rated as high priority.

Janet Fenton, vice co-chair of the Scottish CND, said: "There is no real surprise in the arrogance shown by the UK Government in withholding this information that directly impacts on the Scottish Government’s capacity to fulfil its responsibilities for keeping the Scottish people safe.

"There is no great surprise in the cynicism displayed in taking every step that the UK can take to avoid the possibility of an independent Scotland joining the UN Treaty that Prohibits Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

"If that happens, because there is no credible site elsewhere in the UK for them, no to nuclear weapons or on the Clyde would end the UK's current nuclear policy.

"Our hope is the Scottish Government will ensure it is as proactive as possible in sharing what information it does have, for example around the nuclear weapons convoys, and resisting nuclear skills acquisition through nuclear power in Scotland."

The MoD said it had used an exemption under freedom of information law aimed at preventing damage to relations between UK administrations. The exemption had been applied to information “which relates to the basing of the nuclear deterrent in Scotland”, it explained in a letter to a campaigner in January 2023.

It said that “the balance of public interest” was in favour of withholding the information “as its release would prejudice relations between the UK and Scottish governments.”

An MoD spokesperson said: “We have robust safety measures in place at all our nuclear sites and we take safety incidents incredibly seriously.

“Our nuclear programmes are subject to regular independent scrutiny and reviews. The release of information on nuclear safety must strike a balance between recognising public interest in nuclear safety matters and protecting information about our nuclear systems.”