Drones reports at UK nuclear sites include a ‘swarm’ and ‘red lights’

Drones seized at UK nuclear bases after 'swarm' and reports of 'red lights'

Unmanned aerial systems have been recovered by security personnel after landing at nuclear bases in the UK, according to logs released by the government (Photo: Getty)

Drones have been seized by nuclear facility security personnel with a report of a ‘swarm’ at a UK installation, recently released files show.

The unmanned aerial systems were either sighted or secured at sites across the country out of concerns about the security threat posed by the technology.

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

There have been multiple other reports of the aircraft near facilities or nuclear objects such as reactors, boats and submarines.

Another of the one-line logs, giving little detail and identifying no locations, reads: ‘Drone landed on site. Logged in.’

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) handled three cases last year. Another report states: ‘Red light over area, sounded like a drone.’

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

A passing detail in another response shows there was a report of a swarm – in which interconnected drones participate in the same operation or attack – at a nuclear-licensed site in the UK.

The incident took place between January 2014 and July 2020, according to the Office of Nuclear Regulations, which gave no further details.

The reports come at a time of heightened tensions between the West and China and Russia, each of which has been linked to joint physical and cyber espionage operations in the UK.

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

The widespread availability of drones has impacted the UK’s critical infrastructure (Photo: Richard Newstead/Getty)

In April, a source told the Sunday People that Chinese spies in the UK have targeted “highly sensitive institutions” such as military bases and nuclear power plants with the antenna 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.

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

“I have received little information back from the Ministry of Defense when I have made WvB requests on this matter and I think there is a clear public interest in making more information public.”

EMBARGO TO 0001 MONDAY JUNE 01 The nuclear reactor on Unit 1 of Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Plant near Bridgwater, Somerset, Europe's largest construction site, where they complete a concrete pour into the base of Unit 2 nuclear reactor. PA photo.  Photo Date: Thursday, May 28, 2020. See PA Story INDUSTRY Hinkley.  Photo credit must read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

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

A general view of the Sellafield Nuclear Power Plant on February 4, 2013 in Seascale, England.  A report from the Public Accounts Committee states that the cost of cleaning up the Sellafield nuclear waste site in Cumbria has reached GBP 67.5 billion and that the cost of treating the tons of nuclear waste at the site will continue to rise.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Unmanned aerial vehicles are not allowed to fly in the airspace of nuclear power plants such as Sellafield in Seascale, England (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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

Official reports show that the incidents, involving half a dozen vessels on each occasion at Palo Verde’s Nuclear Generating Station, remained unsolved.

The logs released in the UK don’t make it clear who was flying the drones at the time or if any of the reports led to further investigation, with the Ministry of Defense rejecting attempts to get more details through Freedom of Information Act requests. .

The government is currently undertaking work to improve the UK’s response to the threats posed by increasingly sophisticated and widely used air systems at home and abroad.

This includes through the Defense and Security Accelerator, a project to find innovative ways to reduce hostile use of the systems, and the RAF project Synergia, which has provided counter-drone technology.

Cyber ​​crime, a hacker who uses a virus to attack software

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

Mr Burt said: “There are many issues with nuclear security and it is reasonable that the Department of Defense and nuclear operators want to keep their sites as safe as possible.

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

‘If they can’t handle it properly, that raises the question of whether we should consider alternative ways of generating power.’

Drones, along with any type of unmanned aerial vehicle, are prohibited from flying in the airspace of nuclear installations under the Air Navigation Order 2016.

The Ministry of Defense declined to release further details of the reported incidents, citing national security exceptions, stating that disclosing the information would “damage the UK’s defences”.

A spokesman said: “We have put in place robust security measures at all defense sites, including nuclear bases, to respond to all such 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 anti-drone technology.”

Do you have a story you want to share? Contact josh.layton@metro.co.uk

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