Nuclear powered decommissioning

» We’ll take submarine hulks, say Russians

By: Laura Cummings



NUCLEAR WASTES: The submarine hulks at Rosyth.
 Pic Credit: Dunfermline Press

THE NUCLEAR submarines stored at Rosyth Dockyard could be transferred to a shipyard in Russia to be dismantled.

Dunfermline and West Fife MP Willie Rennie has received a letter from a government official in the Arkhangelsk Region inviting him to the shipyard for a tour of the submarine dismantling facilities this summer.

The letter was accompanied by another from an engineering plant, Zvezdochka – responsible for the dismantling of nuclear submarines – also inviting the MP to the shipyard.

The seven submarines at Rosyth are among 11 decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines left in the UK which are no longer in naval service. The remaining four are based at Devonport.

Mr Rennie told the Press, “It was quite enterprising of the Russians and I am tempted to go over and have a look but there are some problems to do with international treaties about the sharing of nuclear submarines between two different countries.

“There’s also the Trident situation with America so there’s an awful lot of international issues to consider before we would go down that route.

“Environmental groups have also raised concerns about work in Russia on their own submarines and the dismantling of the subs not being of a sufficient standard in terms of health and safety.”

The letter states that the Russian shipyard has now safely dismantled 31 nuclear submarines and that the UK funded the dismantlement of two of these submarines at the shipyard in 2004.

SNP parliamentary candidate Len Woods welcomed the letter and the possibility of removing the submarines from Rosyth.

He said, “I would have to welcome any move that is going to take what could be potentially lethal remnant or waste away from Rosyth.”

However, Mr Woods added, “It would have to be properly done because the Russians are not the best in the world for environmental practices.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence told the Press that ISOLUS – an MoD project on how to safely and temporarily store reactor compartments from old nuclear subs – was put on hold because of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM).

The CoRWM was set up in November 2000 as an independent body to recommend a strategy for all radioactive UK waste. The CoRWM published a final report in July 2006, the key recommendation of which was to have a geological disposal facility ie, underground. This will take some time to develop and in the meantime a safe and secure long-term interim storage solution is needed.

“This aligns exactly with the work that has been done by the MoD on ISOLUS and paves the way for the ISOLUS project team to continue its work,” said the spokeswoman.

“The team is now developing a ‘siting’ strategy for the processing of waste from submarines plus the interim storage of the waste.”
With regard to the possibility of dismantling the subs in Russia, she added, “The MoD welcomes all views and ideas in relation to Project ISOLUS. There are environmental, safety and ethical issues in pursuing an overseas option, and it would not adhere to the UK nuclear waste management policy emerging from the work done by CoRWM.

“The seven submarines stored currently at Rosyth Dockyard are very well maintained and monitored by Babcock. They are in excellent condition and perfectly safe, but it is recognised that a longer-term storage solution must be developed. That is why the MoD has set up ISOLUS and is devoting time and expertise to this complicated project.

“Our strategic capacity will run out by 2020 as more nuclear submarines are being decommissioned.”

The MoD has been storing decommissioned nuclear submarines at Rosyth Dockyard for around 20 years.


» Story Published in Dunfermline Press : Thursday 12 April 2007





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