the Bomb Store
© Press TVConstruction of the Bomb Store on Thetford Heath, known as RAF Barnham began in 1953 or 1954 and was completed by 1955.
A nuclear safety watchdog says UK nuclear weapons sites pose great public and environmental risks, amid complications caused by the government's spending review.

The Ministry of Defense's nuclear safety watchdog said in a report that there are 11 bomb-making sites and ports housing nuclear submarines across the UK that pose potentially significant risks, the daily Guardian reported.

Budget cuts and staff shortages were already hurting nuclear safety before the new government began slashing government spending, the report added.

The reports warns that efforts to reduce radioactive risks have been "weak", safety analyses "inconsistent" and attempts to cope with change "poor."

The danger zones include nuclear weapons sites and the two places where nuclear submarines no longer in use are docked, nine at Devonport in Plymouth and seven at Rosyth on the Firth of Forth in Scotland, said the report.

The report also reveals that there is "no funded plan" for the decommissioning of Britain's 16 defunct nuclear submarines.

The report by Rear Adm. Nigel Guild, chairman of the defense nuclear environment and safety board, is restricted, but the newspaper said it had been allowed to look at Ministry of Defense documents.

Guild said no money has been allocated to decommission the nuclear submarines. The report, which covers 2006 and 2007, identified 11 sites, including Devonport and Rosyth, where there are "potentially serious risks" -- as well as Aldermaston and Burghfield, the nuclear weapons factories, and nuclear submarines near Glasgow.

A 10 percent shortage of suitably qualified staff was "one of the greatest challenges to the sustainable future of the defense nuclear program," he said.

According to the documents seen by the Guardian, funding cuts have already been hampering the MoD's ability to ensure good safety performance at nuclear weapons sites even before the coalition government began imposing the spending squeeze.

"Often, in government, the management approach is to first impose a reduction in resource, and only then to assess its implications," added Guild.

"Fulfilling the legal requirement to reduce radiation exposure to as low as reasonably practical was often weakened by excessive cost estimates and delays", he said.

Guild described the MoD's response to major organizational changes as "generally poor and significantly below best practice in the civil nuclear programs".

The control of potentially hazardous activities was also said to be "below best practice" at several sites, with particular problems highlighted at Devonport in 2006.

Arrangements for the transport of warheads and other nuclear materials were "inconsistent" and emergency plans "have not accorded with standard UK practice".

According to one former MoD official, nuclear safety had been compromised.

Fred Dawson, who worked for the MoD for 31 years and was head of its radiation protection policy team before he retired in 2009, described the absence of funds for decommissioning nuclear submarines as "particularly damning".

"It suggests that the need to make cost savings is being put ahead of the need to meet regulatory safety and environmental standards", he said.