QUESTIONS are hanging over the safety of Britain’s nuclear arsenal after it was revealed there were 58 radiation leaks at Trident facilities in Scotland this year so far.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has revealed there were 15 recorded radiation leaks at Coulport and a further 43 at Faslane in 2023 as of April – but said none were considered “serious”.

Alba MP Neale Hanvey is putting pressure on the UK Government to come clean about the safety of Britain’s nuclear weapons.

He has received a number of answers to questions he put to the Government, after saying he had been contacted by a whistleblower at the Coulport armaments depot who claimed there was an emergency evacuation at the site because of a radiation leak.

The MoD has denied this and said the evacuated had actually been planned to allow the Defence Infrastructure Organisation - part of the ministry - to move in.

Hanvey criticised the UK Government’s approach to answering questions on its nuclear arms as telling the public “as much as they have to and as little as they want to”.

What constitutes 'serious'? 

Asked by The National to confirm the level of radiation at which the Government would consider a radiation leak to be “serious”, the MoD referred to the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, which does not specify the level of radiation released into an environment is considered to be “serious”.

The scale is drawn up by the International Atomic Energy Agency and rates events on the impact on “people and the environment”, “radiological barriers and control” and on “defence in depth”.

In an answer to a question tabled by Hanvey, the MoD said: “The Ministry of Defence is responsible for the assessment and categorisation of radiological safety events. The categorisation of events at HM Naval Base Clyde is aligned to the guidance issued by the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

“The radiological consequences of an event would be considered serious if it resulted in an unplanned radiation exposure exceeding a statutory dose limit or a release of radioactive material which exceeds the notification value in the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017.”

The dates of the recorded breaches have also not been revealed.

Hanvey said: “The MoD has failed to confirm the date on which the staff at Coulport building 201 were first informed that they were being relocated to building 41 and have told me that ‘there was no requirement for a public announcement of the relocation of staff from one building to another’.

“However, the MoD has confirmed ‘there have been historical events with minor radiological consequences’ at HM Naval Base Clyde and the RNAD Coulport but maintain ‘these events have not resulted in significant radiation exposure or impact on the environment’.

“It seems that getting answers out of the MoD is like trying to get blood out of a stone. When it comes to weapons of mass destruction in Scotland, it is clear that the UK Government will tell us as much as they have to and as little as they want to.

“These answers continue to prompt further concerning questions. If the MoD will only make public ‘significant radiation exposure’, how many radiation leaks are there into the air or into Loch Long and the Gare Loch each year that the MoD are failing to tell the public about?

“I will be going back to the MoD to ask for the dates on which these ‘historical events’ took place.”

He added: “As the MoD has confirmed that they are ‘responsible for the assessment and categorisation of radiological safety events’ without any apparent independent oversight of these decisions, how then are we to ensure both full transparency and public safety over these vital decisions about what constitutes a risk to the public?”

Safety significance at 'lowest level' 

An MoD spokesperson said: “We have robust safety measures in place at all MoD nuclear sites and we take safety incidents very seriously. Our nuclear programmes are subject to regular independent regulation, scrutiny and reviews.

“The safety significance of all reported events at these sites remains at the lowest level of the seven-point internationally-recognised scale.”