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Navy hunt for Belfast Trident whistle-blower William McNeilly

Sailor says nuclear subs 'a disaster waiting to happen'

By Nevin Farrell

Published 18/05/2015

Internet post: William McNeilly
Internet post: William McNeilly

A hunt was on last night for a man from Belfast who posted dramatic claims on the internet about the safety of the UK's Trident nuclear submarines.

Able Seaman William McNeilly (25) claimed the Trident programme was a "disaster waiting to happen".

The development sparked a manhunt for Mr McNeilly, with the Navy saying it was concerned for his wellbeing. And a top-level Government probe was launched into his claims.

As police forces including the PSNI were urged to be on the look-out for Mr McNeilly, the Royal Navy confirmed it is to investigate Mr McNeilly's claims that security and safety procedures around the Trident nuclear submarines are inadequate.

Submariner McNeilly alleged the Trident programme was a "disaster waiting to happen" but the Royal Navy said that the submarine fleet operated "under the most stringent safety regime".

In an internet post, Mr McNeilly said he was an Engineering Technician Submariner who was on patrol with HMS Victorious this year.

He has written an 18-page report, called The Secret Nuclear Threat, detailing what he claims are serious security and safety breaches on board the vessel.

The Royal Navy confirmed that Mr McNeilly was a member of the naval service and that it was concerned for his wellbeing and working closely with civilian police to locate him.

A Navy spokesman said: "The Royal Navy takes security and nuclear safety extremely seriously and we are fully investigating both the issue of the unauthorised release of this document and its contents."

The spokesman also said the Navy "completely disagreed" with Mr McNeilly's report, claiming that it "contains a number of subjective and unsubstantiated personal views, made by a very junior sailor."

Mr McNeilly has said his aim was "to break down the false images of a perfect system that most people envisage exists".

Incidents he included in his report varied from complaints about food hygiene to failures in testing whether missiles could safely be launched or not.

He described security passes and bags going unchecked at the Faslane submarine base in Scotland; alarms being muted "to avoid listening" to them: and stories of fires starting in missile compartments.

He insisted that he has been careful about the information he had chosen to release so as to avoid prejudicing security.

Peter Burt, of Nuclear Information Service - which says it works to promote public awareness of the UK's military nuclear programme - praised Mr McNeilly, saying: "William McNeilly is a brave young man who has done the whole nation a service by exposing the risks that submariners face because of cost-cutting, staff shortages and lax management.

"This nuclear programme operates to far lower safety standards than the civil nuclear sector because independent regulators are not allowed to scrutinise its activities."


The UK currently has four Trident submarines which can carry nuclear missiles. The Royal Navy says the subs "form the UK's strategic nuclear deterrent force. Each of the four boats are armed with Trident 2 D5 nuclear missiles". The submarines are called Vanguard, Vengeance, Victorious and Vigilant.

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