ARGYLL and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara admitted he is “deeply worried” over a new report which claims that a skills shortage in the Trident nuclear weapons programme at Faslane is posing a threat to safety.
Mr O’Hara spoke of his concerns after the publication, from the Ministry of Defence’s internal watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR),warned that a continuous ‘brain drain’ of qualified and experienced nuclear engineers was “the principle threat to the delivery of nuclear safety.”
Now Mr O’Hara is to question the MoD in an attempt to get to the root of the problem.
He told The Advertiser: “This new report from the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator should give us all great cause for concern as it is another piece of evidence that says that there are extremely serious problems in both the recruitment and the retention of suitably qualified and experienced personnel to work in the nuclear defence industry at key locations across the UK, including Faslane.
“That the DNSR itself describes the shortage of experienced staff as “the principal threat to the delivery of nuclear safety” a “key strategic issue” is deeply worrying.
“My great fear is that in order to plug the gaps, people who do not have either the required level of experience or who are not appropriately qualified, will be pushed into these senior roles before they are ready.
“That is completely unacceptable and the safety of the people of Helensburgh and Lomond cannot be compromised by doing this.”
The MoD has reaffirmed its commitment recruit the right people for the job but Mr O’Hara insisted that the people of Helensburgh and the surrounding area “must have confidence that everything is being done to minimise the risk to the area.”
He said: “Nuclear safety is something I have been concerned about for some time and I have raised the issue on the floor of the House of Commons on a number of occasions.
“I and the SNP have never hidden from the fact that we want to see the use of the Faslane base changed from being a nuclear base to being a state-of-the-art conventional naval base for use by us and our NATO allies.
“But while nuclear missiles are there and nuclear material is being routinely used at Faslane, our community must have confidence that absolutely everything is being done to minimise the risk to the local population.”
He added: “Based on this report from the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator, I will be lodging a series of questions with the MoD to try and ascertain the extent of the problems and to seek to find out what immediate action they propose taking in order to sort them.”
A spokesman for the MoD said this week: “The national skills shortage in nuclear trained personnel affects industry and government alike, including the MOD. “There are a number of measures in place to address the issue and since publication of the Nuclear Industrial Strategy in 2013, the sector has made good progress on skills development.”