Nuclear ‘Disaster Waiting to Happen’

My name is William McNeilly. I am an Engineering Technician Weapons Engineer Submariner for UK’s Trident II D5 Strategic Weapons System.

This is document will enlighten you to the shockingly extreme conditions that our nuclear weapons system is in right now, and has been in the past. 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 McNeillyThis will jump between things like food hygiene and a flooded toilets, till describing the complete lack of security, floods, a blazing inferno in the Missile Compartment etc. My aim is to paint an overall picture of what I’ve seen, and to break down the false images of a perfect system that most people envisage exists.

I gathered the information by: Listening to O Group meetings, reading documents, conversation, briefs, listening in to conversations and seeing with my own eyes. O Group meetings are meetings that discuss the incidents onboard and plan all boat evolutions. They are held in the Navigation centre, which is a Top Secret compartment. My Top Secret clearance is only in the pending position. I shouldn’t have been able to gain entrance to that compartment, but part of my job is Strategic Weapon System navigation, so they gave me access for training purposes. At the beginning of patrol I was kicked out of the Navigation centre when O Group were about to begin, but I found away to stay. There’s a computer down the back, that I worked on. Out of sight, out of mind. I could hear everything, and no-one told me to leave when I was there.

Trident II D5 missile
Trident II D5 missile

This contains references to CB8890: The instructions for the safety and security of the Trident II D5 strategic weapon system. I’m sure all the Strategic Weapon System (SWS) personnel are scratching their heads and wondering how I’m writing this on my personnel laptop and referencing a book, which is contained within a safe in the Missile Control Centre (MCC). The MCC is the compartment used to control the launch of the nuclear missiles. It can only be accessed by people on the access list, and no personnel electronics are allowed. I was on the access list but how could I have gotten a copy of every single chapter on to my phone? A hidden camera? No. Smuggled the book out then filmed it? No. What I did was walk into a room were no recording devices are allowed. I sat down; took my Samsung Galaxy SII (white) out of my pocket, and recorded the entire book word for word. I held the phone still, about a foot in front of my face and anyone who looked at the screen or used common sense, would’ve seen I was recording. There were other SWS personnel in the room; in the video you can see a SWS JR about 3 feet in front of me talking to another SWS JR sitting right beside me. You probably think that’s impossible but I’ve got the evidence to prove it. The complete lack of concern for security worries me. The fact is it would’ve been even easier for me to cause a nuclear catastrophe than to gather that information, and gathering that information was actually quite simple, due to the amount of ignorance.

We are at war, with a new kind of enemy. The terrorists have infiltrated every nation on our planet. Our nuclear weapons are a target that’s wide open to attack. You don’t have to be Alexander The Great to see we must adapt our strategies. The cold war is over; are we still in situation were we must invest billions upon billions into a system that puts our citizens at risk? NO! We must adapt to the evolving world in order to survive!

Here’s an example of how little people outside of the Trident Program know about the Trident Program: I was part of a squad that had went through basic training, and had almost finished our phase 2 weapons engineering training before we knew we would be joining the SWS department (Strategic Weapons System). We came into contact with a lot of instructors and there was only one person who knew anything besides the names of the Vanguard class submarines (Trident). The only reason he knew was because he served on them. There is a strict need to know policy for the HMS Vanguard class submarines; Regardless of military rank or political authority.

HMS Vanguard arrives back at HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane, Scotland following a patrol

I had envisioned a system with strict security and safety. I didn’t see how wrong I was until I arrived at HMS Neptune, (Faslane) and started doing the dry phase of the submarine qualification (SMQ Dry). My class sat in a room that overlooked the submarines. We all looked at the defences and contemplated how any enemy might take one out. We thought of multiple ways that one could be taking out but they all required military grade equipment. I still thought it was as safe as it gets; no alarms bells were ringing in my head until the first boat visit.

In the classroom we were told to take all electronic devices out of our pockets, and warned that we might be searched. We headed down to the final access gate to the Green Area; the last security check point. Unless you count the Quarter Masters; (QM) I’ve walked past them so many times without showing ID that I don’t consider them a line of defence. I’ll explain those situations later on. At the gate the guard barely looked at my pass, which was a paper sticker with my face on it; mounted onto a piece cardboard. The whole group throw their passes into the security office without the security officer examining them or even showing an interest in having a look to see if their faces matched the pictures. It’s harder to get into most nightclubs than it is to get into the Green Area. There’s still the pin code system to get through the gate! Oh wait, No there’s not, it’s broke, and anyone standing there that has thrown their security pass in or NOT, will get buzzed through. If you have a Green area pass or any old green card you can just show it to them from about 3 metres away (if the boat’s on the first berths; if not 1 metre) then get Buzzed Through!! That’s the toughest part of the security!! There are some security guards that will expect you to put the pass to the window so they can inspect it, however the vast majority of them don’t.

We approached the QM’s box to get our security brief then headed down the boat. No search at all. It wasn’t because we’re Royal Navy personnel, it was because that’s the standard procedures. 100’s of contractors go down the boat when it’s alongside. Their equipment isn’t searched and they are not pat down. All it takes is someone to bring a bomb onboard to commit the worst terrorist attack the UK and the world has every seen. A perfect example of how pure the security is, is when I first got my Green Area Pass I was assigned to a boat which was in the ship lift. It was a rainy dark winters morning. The bus took us down to the gate and about 10 people were about to gain access to the Green Area at once. We All throw our Green Area North (GAN) passes into a pile in the box; without showing any ID. Then we all got buzzed through. Anyone without an ID or a GAN pass could’ve easily gotten through in the group. This was not a one time occurrence, it happens every morning. Sometimes when it was windy and raining I kept my face looking in the complete opposite direction from the guard so they couldn’t see my face; I was still buzzed through. Anyone can catch that bus from the Yellow Area (normal base area/ area before Red Area). IDs are checked on the way into the Red Area (Area before Green Area) on the bus; by a guy who just walks up and down barely looking. I’ve gotten through a few times by just showing my pale white room key; looks nothing like a Green Area Pass. Also if you just walk into the Red Area from the Yellow area most of the time they will look at in your ID from about 4 metres away then till you to go on through the road part (especially if it’s raining).

At a Base security brief we were told that thousands of Royal Navy IDs go missing every year. A terrorist can use them, or create counterfeits with them and easily gain access down the submarine. Considering most of the guards barely look at them from a few metres (couple of feet if their the rare ones) away the fakes wouldn’t have to be too perfect. I’ve shown a room card or nothing, at least once at every check point.

I had gotten into the Green Area in a cluster of about 10 people and then I found out I needed to go to the boat that’s in the ship lift. I was in a group of six personnel that was going to do BSS on the boat. Which is basically walking around every compartment onboard learning about the boat. We went through the ship lift, past the QM, down to MC (Missile Compartment) 2 deck, set our bags just feet away from the missiles and no-one had stopped us. Keep in mind, this was our first time on the boat. No-one in the crew knew who we were but they still didn’t stop us. I done the same thing every morning, for the next four days . I went through into the Red Area without my ID being checked for facial resemblance, through into the Green Area in a cluster of people, then walked straight down to MC 2 deck and sat my unchecked bag beside the missile. I done it for almost a week before we a QM stopped me to see if I was on the access list. He told me that I should be handing my ID into the QMs box so they know who’s on board if there’s an emergency. One QM for one night done his job, all the whole time I was there. Accessing a boat which isn’t in the ship lift is just as easy. People very rarely get stopped by the QMs unless they’re in groups or look like their lost.

You can carry anything through the security check points without it being checked! When I helped with storing ship; I brought things of all shapes through and none of it was checked. Before sailing I brought my own stuff onboard in a huge grip bad; it wasn’t checked. There were 31 BSQ’s + ships staff + civilians = over 180 people bringing huge unchecked bags onboard.

If you’ve been through airport security after 9/11 you’ll have seen how thorough the security is nowadays. If airport security and Nuclear weapon security were both compared to prisons, the airport would be Alcatraz and Base security would be house arrest.

Jumping back to my first time down the boat (SMQ Dry). I was far from impressed with the security and I was about to be extremely disappointed in the conditions of the equipment. We went to the control room; the instructor said don’t touch anything. A crew member responded by saying “it doesn’t matter none of it works anyway, you can touch what you want.” Everyone laughed. They also complained in the Missile Control Centre (MCC) about how their equipment is “F**KED!”. There were a lot of red tags on equipment in most of the compartments we went into. I highly suspected a lot of them were for defect rectification, rather than standard maintenance Tagouts. Seeing the condition of the security and equipment made me more than concerned, for the safety of the people. It was at that point I realised I needed to gather as much safety and security information as I could. My intentions at that point were to make the changes by reporting through the chain of command.

In SMQ dry I learnt that HMS Vanguard is in the worst of the worst condition. Countless times it tried to sail but had to come back in; forcing the other boats to do extended patrols. In one of the lessons the instructor mentioned they found a problem with one of the nuclear reactors on one of the boats. He said all boats might need to get their reactors replaced. The instructor didn’t give away much information. I knew I had to get assigned to a boat and go on patrol as soon as possible in order to gather this information. Fast Track to a Leading Engineer was the answer. If I got fast tracked I would be on the first available boat after training. I worked hard day and night, and at the end of the 10 week course I had the achieved the highest test result on average out of a 20plus people on the SMQ course. At the end of SMQ dry training No-one received fast track. However the achievement went onto my JPA record. There was just one course left, one last shot.. The Trident Training Facility (TTF). At the end the course I was told I had more SWS (Strategic Weapons System) knowledge than most of the supervisors onboard. It was a nice compliment but I doubt it. I was awarded Fast Track to Leading Engineering Technician and received an award for best student.

Just weeks after passing out of training I had a draft for HMS Victorious. My work mates started calling me a terrorist robot because I remembered everything and I have a Northern Ireland accent. This reputation would have undoubtedly made it difficult for me to gather information. I needed to create distance between them, and create a knew persona; I aimed for mixture of dumbness and eagerness to learn for simple curios reasons. Within days of being on patrol I was no longer the terrorist robot, soaking up all the information for terrorist reasons. Playing dumb came easy for me, I’ve been doing it and been it most of life. It makes people open up and explain a lot more. If someone assumes you know something they might leave that part out of the conversation, meaning you’ve just lost information which might have been valuable. It also helps with getting out of certain situations. I watched a lot of Columbo when I was a kid.

Stores Ship – The crew was getting ready to sail; I was assisting with storing the supplies on the boat. This day gave a good indication as to how the patrol was going to be; disorganised and a risk to health. Nobody took charge of storing ship. Most of the crew that was supposed to be helping us left early, there was food on the ground, food thrown in skip/bin, with wrappers busted and people throwing food at personnel on the casing and a lot of food to still waiting to get brought onboard. We had started in the morning and it wasn’t until the night that the PO came out to take charge. He ordered us to bring onboard the meat which was laying on the floor and in the bin for a good part of the day. There was meat which had dirt on it because the wrapper was busted; it was still brought onboard for us to eat on patrol. The firefighting equipment was brought on broad at the last minute and stowed away in a rush by BSQs (non submarine qualified personnel); most of them didn’t know where to put the gear. If the suits were stored incorrectly it could dramatically affect the response time to an incident. I also don’t like the idea of removing a lot of the firefighting equipment from the submarine whilst in harbour. Their reasoning is, it’s for re-entering the submarine from the casing if there’s a fire. How about having sets onboard and sets at the fire dump for re-entry, so the other PPI Gold teams have the option of getting dressed anywhere onboard or from the casing. I said that to a PO and his response was”it’s a good point, they probably don’t do it for money reasons.” Considering the Billions that’s poured into these submarines, I doubt and hope it’s not for money reasons.

Day one of patrol – It was a dark, rainy and windy morning I made it through the Gate to the Red Area with my helmet on and looking down so the guard couldn’t see my face; he never asked me to look up. I made it through the Green Area checkpoint by keeping my face away from the guards, I didn’t show my ID, and I never handed any ID in. I got buzzed straight through with the others. A roll call was done for the BSQ’s (Basic Submarine Qualification). It turns out there were too many people onboard and a bunch of people weren’t actually supposed to be there. A few of them got asked to leave but they still kept too many. Which meant there would always be two people sharing one bed (Hot Bunking) because they didn’t have the space. They also set up new beds, one of which blocked a major hydraulic isolation and another two blocked the Port & Starboard DC switch boards. Three things that we need to gain access to in an emergency. The risk was recognised after about a week , and two the beds at the switchboards were taken down. There were 31 BSQs on the boat. 31 extra people to get in the way of the damage control teams in an emergency. 31 people to distract watch keepers with their task books.

Initial dive – On the first dive there was loud continuous bang being heard by everyone. It was down the forward starboard side. The next day in the Junior rates mess, I heard people complaining amongst themselves about it being ignored. After all patrol objective No.1 is to remain undetected except by forces allocated in direct support. They suspected it might have been the fore-planes. The fore-planes is a control surface that is used to alter the depth of the submarine. There were jokes about the fore-planes being defective throughout the entire submarine. They joked about getting them stuck in dive mode. The aft-planes on full rise would compensate, if that did happen. However would you feel safe having a plane fly over our cities that had a problem with getting stuck in dive mode? When the boat was on index they shut of from diving and stayed on the surface for safety concerns due to the fore-planes. We need to dive whilst on patrol to remain undetected; the safety concerns were as always, dismissed. We are down to two boats that are available for patrol. Both of which have major defects. Question is what does it take for us to stop the Continuous At Sea Deterrent CASD? CASD forces there to be one submarine at sea on patrol all time.

A problem occurred with the Main Hydraulic Plant. I stood at the laundry where the mechanical engineers (ME’s) hangout; to gather information. Somehow sea water was getting into it. The amount of actual hydraulic oil in the plant had fallen to 35% the rest was sea water. An ET ME SM called the officers plans to deal with the situation “stupid”. Weeks had past and the problem was still there. I then heard a Leading ME say there’s an estimated 4-5 hundred Litres of sea water in the main hydraulic rep tank. The problem was there until the end of the patrol. Hydraulics is used to open the muzzle hatches. This defect stopped them from doing a Battle Readiness Test (BRT) which proves that the muzzle hatches could of opened whilst on patrol, and that if we needed to we could’ve launched.

Throughout the patrol there were constant problems with both distillers. One distiller didn’t work at all; the other one would produce half of the recommended output until it would also stop working, at random times. The distillers are used to turn sea water into freshwater. You would expect one of the “most advanced submarines on the planet” to be able to provide fresh water.

I could sometimes here alarms on the missiles Control and Monitoring Position (CAMP) while laying in bed. I later found out that I would’ve been hearing them more frequently if they didn’t mute the console; just to avoid listening to the alarms This is the position that monitors the condition of the missiles, and they muted the alarms. One of the watch keepers told me and laughed about how they would deal with any issues; they would deviate from set procedures because the procedures can be “long and winding.” He said “sometimes you just know that you can adjust a valve slightly and that would solve the problem. Following the procedures might take you down a long and winding path.” You might think that’s no big deal, just an engineer using his engineering skills; if he was caught doing this kind of action on an American submarine it would cost him his job and possibly his freedom. If you work on the Strategic Weapon System you must follow the procedures, mistakes can be catastrophic.

CAMP for obvious reasons is a position that requires constant manning. This is another rule that isn’t followed. This time it’s not always the CAMP watch keepers fault. During the captains rounds period for example, they’re forced to clean a massive compartment. This draws them away from the monitoring screen and if the alarms have been muted … Most of the time they sit talking in a tea area; the screens aren’t visible from this position. Sometimes the MC patrol and CAMP watch keeper completely disregard the rule of constant manning. I was in the Missile Control Centre when I heard a pipe saying “could the CAMP watch keeper please report to CAMP.” They got caught out that time.

There were 31 BSQs (Unqualified submariners) running around and distracting people that are in these crucial monitoring positions such as the nuclear reactors Main Control Desk (MCD), the nuclear missiles Control and Monitoring Position (CAMP), the control room Panel etc. These are positions which require permanent manning and permanent attention. However those rules aren’t followed. When I was doing my BSQ I could see the lack of attention they were paying. It was only a matter of time before a mistake was made, and of course a mistake was made.

A mistake was made on the Panel in the control room. A small mistake from this position can cause a disaster. The fixed firefighting system Weapon Stowage Compartment (WSC) fog spray was accidentally activated by the control room panel operator. None of the electrical isolations that are required to be made were made; creating a high risk of fire in a compartment which contains torpedoes. It sprayed seawater over everything in the compartment; torpedoes, lights, torpedo monitoring panel; everything. I was called down to help with the clean up by the coxswain; the place was flooded. Lucky there was no fire, this time. The coxswain exclaimed “I wonder why anyone wants to work here, everything is dangerous; one little thing and we’re all f**ked!” He also expressed concern  (about water spraying on electrics. Someone then said “lucky it’s your last patrol then.” We all laughed. The general consensus is there’s no set person for senior survivor. However the coxswain in an emergency sub sunk situation is the expert in escape, and I’ve read documentation that says he is the senior survivor. Hearing those words come from his mouth means a lot. As far as I know the control room panel operator got away with it. People were saying things like “we all make mistakes” and “he’s completely shaken up about it”. It confuses me how someone could make an almost disastrous mistake and get away with it that easily. Anyone who turns up late for a shift gets a MAA and a days wages deducted. Almost kill everyone and it’s aww poor guy he’s shaken up. That wasn’t the only mistake made by the control room panel operator during my patrol. The panel also accidentally shutdown the hydraulic pumps. Momentarily we lost all main hydraulics before the emergency pump kicked in. There may have been all incidents that I didn’t hear about. All it takes is for them press one wrong button in that position to cause a disaster.

Read more…

Originally published: William McNeilly (WikiLeaks)

Informal report by UK Royal Navy submariner William McNeilly on the safety issues surrounding the United Kingdom’s current Trident nuclear weapons system. Notably, the document contains apparent extracts from “CB8890”, the instructions for the safety and security of the “Trident II D5 strategic weapon system”.

Mr McNeilly, who has been in communications with WikiLeaks since the beginning of May, has decided he wants to go public about the detailed nuclear safety problems he says he has been “gathering for over a year”.

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