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article imageTrident nuclear subs 'accident waiting to happen' — Whistleblower

By Megan Hamilton     May 18, 2015 in World
The HMS Victorious, a Trident nuclear-armed submarine is insecure and unsafe, with a huge list of frightening equipment failures, says a man who's now a whistleblower on the run from military police.
William McNeilly, 25, was an engineering technician from Belfast who went absent without leave (AWOL), and after he did that, he posted an 18-page report on the Internet, The Independent reports. Entitled "The Secret Nuclear Threat," and subtitled "Do you have any idea how close we are to a nuclear disaster every single minute?" the report raises serious concerns on numerous problems ranging from food hygiene to faulty hydraulics that prevented a sub from carrying out a test to see if it was able to launch a missile.
Security checks were so lax, he alleged, that it was "harder to get into most nightclubs" than it was to enter sensitive parts of the Faslane submarine base, located on the Clyde river in Scotland.
With what he found out, McNeilly decided he wanted to go public, so he contacted WikiLeaks earlier this month, telling the organization that he's been gathering the information for more than a year.
"This document will enlighten you to the shockingly extreme conditions that our nuclear weapons system is in right now, and has been in the past," McNeilly wrote. "it describes different threats and events that have happened and are threats that are highly likely to happen; each one individually should raise maximum concern. I need you to publish this document or send it to someone who will; please, for the safety of the people."
William McNeilly  as pictured on his Royal Navy identity card.
William McNeilly, as pictured on his Royal Navy identity card.
McNeilly, who is now on the run from military police, says he was on patrol with the HMS Victorious from January through April of this year, The Daily Record reports.
During his time on patrol, he alleges he found 30 safety and security flaws on Trident submarines that were based at Faslane, and this included failures in testing whether missiles could be launched safely, burning rolls of toilet paper that started a fire in a missile compartment, and security passes and bags not being checked.
Following is a mere sampling of the problems that McNeilly alleges, but you can download his entire report here. The information presented here has been gathered from The Centre for Research on Globalization.
What he alleges
During his first time on board a Trident submarine, several trainees were taken into the control room and told not to touch anything. A crew member responded, saying “it doesn’t matter, none of it works anyway, you can touch what you want.”
“Everyone laughed,” he wrote.
Another Trident submarine, the HMS Vanguard allegedly failed to pass two critical tests that were intended to confirm whether it could perform a successful Trident missile launch while on patrol. However, seawater entered the submarine's hydraulic system, thus preventing a test to ensure that the sub's missile hatches would open correctly and a 'missile compensation test' failed three out of three times.
"Billions upon billions of tax payer's money" is being spent on a system "so broken it can't even do the tests that prove it works," he wrote, per the Centre for Global Research.
During one patrol, a control room panel operator accidentally activated a firefighting fog spray in a weapon stowage compartment. "None of the electrical isolations that are required to be made were made," and this, McNeilly writes, created "a high risk of fire in a compartment which contains torpedoes." Water was sprayed over everything in the compartment, including torpedoes, lights, the torpedo monitoring panel, and the compartment was flooded.
While the sub was on its initial dive, a "loud continuous bang" at the front of the submarine was "heard by everyone," but McNeilly alleges it was ignored, even though there were suspicions that it may have meant a problem with the submarine's fore-planes. These play a crucial function in allowing the vessel to dive and ascend. He noted that when a sub isn't on nuclear patrol, they are required to remain on the surface. This is for safety reasons in case the planes are defective, but, he writes that on this occasion "the safety concerns were as always, dismissed."
Trash was also stored in unsuitable places, creating creating a potential fire hazard, he alleges. This occurred despite the fact that there was a previous fire which had erupted when toilet rolls were stored beside electrical cabling.
"In numerous compartments on the boat you'll find plastic bags filled with rubbish sitting on top, underneath and beside electrical cables and equipment that generates heat," he writes. The Centre for Global Research notes that the pressure in gas bottles that contained nitrogen gas, which used to extinguish fires in the submarine missile compartment fell below the specified pressure that's necessary to safeguard the fire-fighting function. McNeilly writes that his superiors told him "there's nothing we can do whilst we're on the on-patrol SSBN."
McNeilly alleges he has raised concerns about the safety and security of the Trident weapon system throughout the chain of command on numerous occasions, but "not once did someone even attempt to make a change."
The Scottish National Party (SNP) had campaigned during the recent election to scrap Trident, and party members were alarmed when word broke out regarding McNeilly's assertions, The Independent reports. Angus Robertson, leader of the party's Westminster branch, said the report read like "a nightmare catalogue of serious safety breaches" and he's calling for the Ministry of Defence to make public the results of its investigation.
"Failure to follow standard safety procedures is unacceptable in any workplace but on a Vanguard submarine on patrol it could result in extreme tragedy not just for those on board but indeed for the entire planet."
The Royal Navy says it is looking at the claims in McNeilly's dossier, as well as his unauthorized publication of it.
"There are some things that are immediately and transparently obvious as being untrue – although we do take it seriously and will be looking at it."
A Navy spokesperson said in an official statement that "the document contains a number of subjective and unsubstantiated personal views, made by a very junior sailor, with which the naval service completely disagrees.
The spokesperson continued:
"Whilst it is right that the contents of this document are considered in detail, we can be clear that in itself it does not pose any security risk to our personnel or operations.
"The Royal Navy takes security and nuclear safety extremely seriously. The naval service operates its submarine fleet under the most stringent safety regime and submarines do not go to sea unless they are completely safe to do so."
The spokesperson also said that the Navy is "concerned for the whereabouts and well-being of Able Seaman McNeilly and is working closely with civilian police to locate him."
The Centre for Global Research reports that it's believed that McNeilly is somewhere outside of the U.K.
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