Navy plans to cut size of nuclear submarine protection zones

Nearly 6000 households in Southampton will be denied tablets which would protect families from radiation in the event of an accident on board a nuclear submarine visiting Southampton docks under new emergency arrangements.

The Royal Navy has asked Southampton City Council to reduce the size of the emergency counter measures zone surrounding Southampton docks from a distance of 2 kilometres from the submarine berth to a distance of 1.5 kilometres – a reduction of more than 40% in area. The request follows a review of the safety case and hazard assessment for submarine reactors by the Ministry of Defence and the Health and Safety Executive. The technical reasons for the request have not been made public and detailed risk assessment documents backing up the decision are said to be classified.

In the event of an accident on board a submarine visiting Southampton docks Naval ratings would race to distribute potassium iodide tablets, which can prevent the body from accumulating radioactive iodine, to households within the emergency zone. Under planned changes to the emergency arrangements over 5,700 households to the east of the River Itchen, in Hythe, and in a band south of the City Centre stretching from Mayflower Park to the Itchen Bridge would no longer be entitled to receive tablets.

The Solent Coalition Against Nuclear Ships (SCANS) has submitted a detailed report to Southampton City Council advising that the size of the emergency counter measures zone should not be reduced. To download the report see the attached file below.

David Hoadley, Chair of SCANS, said: “As the Navy's submarines grow older the risk of failure of their reactors increases dramatically, and the amount of dangerous radioactive iodine in the reactor increases. If anything, the Council should be increasing the size of the emergency zone, not reducing it.

“Not so long ago the Navy were telling Southampon City Council that there were no advances in technical knowledge that would impact upon the emergency plan, but all of a sudden they are saying that the size of the emergency zone can be reduced . It looks like this has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with cost cutting.

“With a major naval dockyard just a few miles down the coast at Portsmouth there is absolutely no operational reason why nuclear submarines need to come to Southampton, bringing a floating nuclear reactor into the heart of the city.”

Read the Southampton Echo's report on the plans here:


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