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Nuclear Weapons

Volume 281: debated on Tuesday 16 July 1996

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the impact of the International Court of Justice's recent decision on nuclear weapons on the position of the commanding officer of a naval SSBN—strategic submarine ballistic nuclear. [37345]

We do not believe the court's advisory opinions will have any implications for the commanding officers of our SSBNs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if an additional review has been made of the paper on the distribution of uranium 235 and plutonium 239 around the air force base at Greenham Common, referred to in his answer to the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) of 3 July 1995, Official Report, column 93; and if he will make a statement on the prospects for the public release of this report. [37739]

This report has been reviewed and arrangements are being made to release it to the Public Record Office as soon as possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many accidents involving nuclear weapons have taken place in the United Kingdom, or its dependent territories, since 1966. [37514]

[holding answer 15 July 1996]: A nuclear weapon accident is defined as

"any unplanned occurrence involving the destruction of, or damage or suspected damage to, a nuclear weapon, which has resulted in actual, or potential hazard to life, or property, or which may have impaired nuclear safety".
This definition is subdivided into two categories: category 1—where there has not been a release of radioactive material; category 2—where a release of radioactive material has been detected, or (in the early stages) the possibility of a release cannot be excluded. There has never been a category 2 accident, but seven category 1 accidents have been reported since 1966. Without exception these occurrences caused absolutely no hazard either to public safety or that of MoD personnel.