Submarine Waste Fiasco













  • MEDIA RELEASE 5th March 2009

Nuclear Submarine Waste Fiasco

Set up to monitor the Ministry of Defence storage solution for redundant nuclear submarine hulks, the Nuclear Submarine Forum (NSubF) is a national group opposed to nuclear power and weapons. NSubF is appalled at the news from Devonport.

Thanks to CANSAR, the South West's radiation watchdog, the Campaign Against Nuclear Storage and Radiation, we find that the MoD has gone ahead and secretly ordered the cutting up of a submarine's nuclear reactor without waiting the recommended 30 years decay time and while the debate is still raging over the safest way to deal with it. The assessment is not resolved between cutting the highly radioactive nuclear reactor into pieces or keeping it in one piece, thus not running the risks associated with cutting it up.

"It appears that the reactor from the Trident submarine, Vanguard, removed during a 2005 refit in the heart of Plymouth, has had its top cut off using the diamond rope method. To start the very process that the 2003 Public Consultation rejected does not give much confidence for the future value of a consultation.

Ian Avent, CANSAR

"It is not true to say there is no danger to the public. And if the Herald is correct that this is the first time this process has been tried on a reactor, why do it in Plymouth with its population of 250,000 without any warning or information for local people in the South West." Dr. Alexander Matthews, Chair, NsubF

"The MoD has found itself incapable of conducting an ethical consultation on submarine nuclear waste, consequently undermining the consultation process and abandoning its commitment to storing submarine reactors whole, or at least until radiation levels have decayed for 30 years.

Peter Lanyon, NSubF

The MoD's ISOLUS Project on the Interim Storage Of Laid Up Submarines promised wide consultations on how to deal with radioactive waste from decommissioned submarines currently stored afloat in Devonport and Rosyth Dockyards. The Public Consultation in 2003 did not recommend ‘cutting up' the reactor and neither has the MoD's current Advisory Group come to a decision. Even an ISOLUS Technical Options Study facilitated by Fraser Nash Consultancy Ltd reported in 2008 that 'cutting up' was not proved to be safest option.

According to the MoD's website:

"Project ISOLUS is committed to the timely development and implementation of a solution for the dismantling of the UK's defuelled nuclear powered submarines which inspires public confidence, is safe, environmentally responsible, secure and cost effective."

Key to public acceptability is transparency of decisions, and consultation with a wide range of nuclear regulators, academics, industrial advisors, non-governmental organisations and the general public.

"I am very disappointed that the MoD seem to be ignoring the results of the consultations that we carried out for them, and that they are ignoring their Advisory Group. ISOLUS initially seemed to offer the promise of a more open way of working by the MoD – it now appears that secrecy and contempt for the opinions of others are prevailing."

Dr. Jane Hunt, ISOLUS Consultation Steering Group 2001/5, University of Lancaster

"If a significant part of the Vanguard reactor head has been cut up this has far-reaching implications, and seems to curtail any real democratic involvement in the decommissioning of the UK nuclear submarine fleet."

Dr Paul Dorfman, ISOLUS Independent Advisory Group member

The 30-strong ISOLUS Advisory Group is due to meet at an open meeting on 11th March at the NoVotel in Reading where the public are welcome – they may see some sparks fly. Or will this meeting prove to be a waste of taxpayers' money on a charade consultation process that the MoD has already decided to ignore?

Ian Avent 01752 511274
Jane Tallents 07778 267833
Peter Lanyon 01603 722898
Di McDonald 02380 554434



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