• November 27, 2014


The Celtic League has once again raised the issue of fire safety at nuclear installations with the Office of the Nuclear Regulator.

The latest concern follows news about a fire in part of Dounreay’s Prototype Fast Reactor last month which resulted in a release of radiation. The fire led to the sites operators being served with an improvement notice by nuclear regulators.

The Celtic League has raised the issue of fire safety at nuclear plants on a number of occasions over the past decade.

Also during early October a transport of radioactive waste material being taken by the MV Parida from Dounreay to Belgium caused an alert when the ship caught fire and drifted off the Moray Firth this major safety incident caused a nearby oil platform to be evacuated. Eventually the MV Parida (registered in Denmark) was taken in tow by a commercial tug. The Celtic League will be writing to the International Maritime Organisation and the IAEA about this matter.

“Mike Weightman
HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations
and Director, Nuclear Directorate
4N.2 Redgrave Court
Merton Road
L20 7HS


Dear Mr Weightman,

I refer to our earlier correspondence concerning fire safety at nuclear plants which I sent to you in June 2013 the text of this is set out below:

“In correspondence to the Celtic League in July 2009 David Simister HMI (Nuclear Installations) advised that “any occurrence of fire on a nuclear site has the potential for serious consequences”.

Given that fire safety appears to be paramount in relation to nuclear site safety it is disturbing that a fire occurred at Heysham nuclear plant in May of this year and another occurred at Hartlepool the previous month. Given these successive incidents can we ask if you believe fire safety precautions at UK nuclear plants are fit for purpose?

Given that an investigation in 2012 revealed “ a number of shortfalls” in the capability of Sellafield Fire and Rescue and that other allegations about fire safety risks at Hunterston were articulated that year by a former fire safety officer are fire safety problems ay UK nuclear facilities endemic?

Surely a rash of fires at nuclear plants coming hard on the heels of the Sellafield revelations indicates a culture of complacency?

For information can you advise how many fire alarms and fire safety failures have been identified at UK plants over the past decade?”

I did subsequently receive a response from Kevin McGrath ONR – Principal Fire Safety Officer and although he went into some detail about the seriousness with which ONR views this issue and stressed that the industry also “treats fire safety very seriously and invests significant resources to ensure the current high standards are maintained”.

He did not supply a list of “alarms and fire safety failures over the past decade” which I sought.

I appreciate that there is a finite level of resource to ONR but I would have thought that statistical data of the type I sought would be available in easily recoverable form.

My renewed query is prompted by the fact that I understand there have been other fire safety alerts at plants including a fire which resulted in a release of radiation at Dounreay.

I do trust that on this occasion your Office can be more helpful I feel sure that you will agree a culture of openness will ensure that misconceptions about nuclear safety regulation are not heightened.

For convenience a reply can be forwarded to me by email at:


Yours sincerely,

J B Moffatt (Mr)”

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)
The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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