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Nuclear Weapons: Transport

Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN 217319, tabled on 5 December 2014

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what reports his Department's Nuclear Accident and Response Organisation has produced on accidents involving the (a) road transport, (b) air transport and (c) sea shipment of nuclear weapons within, into and from the UK in the last 30 years; and if he will publish those reports on his Department's website.

Answered on

15 December 2014

Definitions of the term accident have evolved over time but the term is not currently used by the MOD for nuclear weapons transportation. The nearest current equivalent is 'a Safety Alert', which is defined (in the Joint Services Publication 471) as "An abnormal event which poses a potential threat to, or causes serious concern for reactor plant, nuclear weapon, or special nuclear material safety."

Based on the definitions used since 1984, there has been one accident involving a nuclear weapon during a movement by road. This involved a WE177 weapon and occurred in 1987.

The reports on this accident are already in the public domain having been released following a Freedom of Information request in 2007. These can be found on the version of the MOD website archived for preservation by The National Archives via the following links:

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121026065214/http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FreedomOfInformation/DisclosureLog/SearchDisclosureLog/VariousIncidentsInvolvingNuclearWeaponsJanuary1987InWiltshire.htm

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20070905140554/http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/CorporatePublications/BoardsOfInquiry/BoardOfInquiryIntoTheWestDeanIncident.htm

There have been no air transport or sea shipment accidents.

In 1987 responsibility for the transportation of nuclear weapons resided with the RAF which produced the reports, rather than the DE&S Strategic Weapons Project Team's Nuclear Accident Response Organisation (now called the Nuclear Emergency Organisation).