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MoD mislead public over leak

This news post is about 10 years old

​MoD accused of misleading the public over a radioactive leak in Scotland.

Friends of the Earth Scotland claims the public has been misled over a radioactive leak two years ago in Scotland.

Last week, UK defence secretary Philip Hammond revealed details of a small internal leak of radiation at HMS Vulcan, its nuclear submarine reactor test site at Dounreay in January 2012.

He told the House of Commons that low levels of radioactivity had been found in the cooling waters of the test reactor.

Although radioactivity leaked into the reactor's cooling water, it had been contained within a sealed reactor circuit, Hammond said.

Hammond said:"I can reassure the house that there has been no detectable radiation leak from that sealed circuit."

Either the MoD misled him (Hammond) or he misled the House of Commons - Richard Dixon

However, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), discharges of radioactive gases had been increased by the incident.

While still within legally safe limits of radiation, emissions of radioactive gas from Vulcan increased from 4% of the authorised limit in 2011 to 43% in 2012.

Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said Hammond’s account was at odds with the Sepa's analysis and he had “some very serious questions to answer”.

“He categorically stated that no radioactivity was released to the environment, we now know that this is definitely not true,” said Dixon. “Either the MoD misled him or he misled the House of Commons.

“Either way someone should be losing their job.”

It was also revealed there was a nine-month delay in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) informing the Sepa about the leak.

Dixon added the MoD had once again displayed an arrogant disregard for the public by waiting many months before informing their regulators that there was a problem.

“They compounded this by telling those regulators to keep the news a secret.

“It is hard to see how anyone can take assurances about nuclear safety from the MoD seriously when they clearly think it is fine to just keep quiet about the embarrassing bits.”

The MoD denied that there was any wrong-doing on Hammond's part, claiming the increases in emissions were not due to the leak at all.

A spokeswoman said: "It is wholly misleading to confuse a planned and deliberate gaseous discharge that is well within safe levels to monitor cooling water, which the Sepa figures relate to, with a leak.

"The defence secretary has been clear that there was no leak, that workers remain safe and the local community is not at risk."