Reports of drones at UK nuclear facilities include a ‘swarm’ and ‘red lights’

Drones seized from UK nuclear bases after 'swarm' and reports of 'red flags'

Unmanned aerial systems were recovered by security after landing at UK nuclear bases, according to records released by the government (Photo: Getty)

Drones were seized by security personnel at nuclear facilities with a report of a ‘swarm’ at a UK facility, newly released files show.

Unmanned aerial systems have been spotted or secured at locations across the country amid concerns about the security threat posed by the technology.

Twenty of these reports between 2020 and last year were released to Metro.co.uk under the Freedom of Information Act. In two cases, the drones landed ‘in the area’ and were protected by personnel.

Several other reports were made of air vehicles near nuclear facilities or objects such as reactors, boats and submarines.

Another one of the one-line logs, which gives little detail and doesn’t identify locations, says: ‘Drone landed on location. Registered.

Three cases were handled by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) last year. Another report states: ‘Red light over area, looked like a drone.’

Sightings made by members of the public were also recorded. A report reads: ‘A member of the public saw a white van and a man, claimed he also observed two lights in the sky and believed they were drones.’

A passing detail in another answer shows that there was a report of a swarm – where interlinked drones participate in the same operation or attack – at a licensed nuclear site in the UK.

The incident took place between January 2014 and July 2020, according to the Office of Nuclear Regulation, which did not elaborate.

The reports come at a time of rising tensions between the West and China and Russia, which are linked to concerted physical and cyber espionage operations in the UK.

Drone or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) with camera and gimbal installed.  Also known as Hexacopter.

Widespread availability of drones had ramifications for the UK’s critical infrastructure (Photo: Richard Newstead/Getty)

In April, a source told the Sunday People that Chinese spies in the UK are targeting “very sensitive establishments”, such as military bases and nuclear plants, with the air systems.

Peter Burt, who has studied the use of drones and is part of the Nukewatch monitoring network, wants UK authorities to provide a more complete picture of the incidents and potential threats presented.

Burt told Metro.co.uk: “There have certainly been cases of coordinated swarms of drones seen flying over nuclear facilities in other countries, for example France and the United States, so this raises questions about the safety of our own nuclear facilities. . I think it’s a legitimate question to ask whether similar incidents have occurred in this country, and if so, who do we think is behind them?

“I received little information from the Ministry of Defense when I submitted Freedom of Information Act requests on this matter and I think there is a clear public interest in more information being released.”

EMBARGO FOR 0001 MONDAY, JUNE 01 The unit 1 nuclear reactor at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant near Bridgwater, Somerset, Europe's largest construction site, where they are completing concreting at the base of the unit 2 nuclear reactor .Photo PA.  Photo date: Thursday, May 28, 2020. See the history of PA INDÚSTRIA Hinkley.  Photo credit must be: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

The nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point C in Somerset is among the UK’s critical infrastructure (Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

An overview of the Sellafield nuclear power plant on February 4, 2013 in Seascale, England.  A report by the Public Accounts Committee stated that the cost of cleaning up the Sellafield nuclear waste site in Cumbria has reached £67.5 billion and that costs will continue to rise to deal with the tons of nuclear waste at the site.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Unmanned aircraft cannot fly in the airspace of nuclear power plants like Sellafield in Seascale, England (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

In July 2020, the potential threat was demonstrated in the US when a swarm was seen over a nuclear reactor in Arizona on two consecutive nights.

Official reports show that the incidents, which would have involved half a dozen spacecraft on each occasion at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, went unresolved.

Records released in the UK do not make it clear who was operating the drones at the time or whether any of the reports resulted in further investigation, with the MoD rejecting attempts to obtain more details through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Work to improve the UK’s response to the threats posed by increasingly sophisticated and widely used air systems at home and abroad is being carried out by the government.

This includes through the Defense and Security Accelerator, a project to find innovative ways to mitigate hostile use of the systems, and the RAF’s Project Synergia, which provided technology against drones.

Cyber ​​crime, a hacker using a virus to attack software

The UK is looking for innovative solutions to deal with the threat from unmanned aerial systems (Photo: Getty Images/Westend61)

Burt said: “There are many issues related to nuclear safety and it is quite reasonable that the Ministry of Defense and nuclear operators would want to keep their sites as safe as possible.

“At the same time, it’s no secret that people are using drones for nefarious purposes all over the world and also in this country, so I think we need to talk about that and how the government is going to solve the problem. .

“If they are unable to deal with it effectively, it raises questions about whether we should consider alternative means of generating energy.”

Drones, along with any type of unmanned aircraft, are prohibited by the 2016 Air Navigation Order from flying in the airspace of nuclear facilities.

Refusing to release further details of the reported incidents, the Ministry of Defense cited national security exemptions, saying that the release of the information “would harm the defense of the United Kingdom”.

A spokesperson said: “We have robust security measures in place at all defense sites, including nuclear bases, to respond to all these incidents.

“While we cannot comment on specific security arrangements or procedures, we continue to invest in a range of measures to address future threats, including drone-fighting technology.”

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