MoD look for nuclear waste dumps for old submarines






Today the MoD announced that proposals from industry have been received from companies interested in dismantling its old submarines The Nuclear Submarine Forum has serious concerns with the proposals.

Successive governments have made no provision for a site to store nuclear submarine reactor compartments at the end of their life. The ISOLUS project (Interim Storage of Laid-Up Submarines) is a way of preparing public opinion to accept this nuclear waste, yet with no commitment from government to stop building more nuclear subs. and creating more waste. Future generations will have to monitor and guard our mess to prevent a radiation release into the environment.

"The hunt is now on for a site to store 27 of these hulks, each the height of two double-decker buses. This is a Ministry of Defence problem that
should not be hived off to industry."
Peter Lanyon, Treasurer NSubF

The two options at present are to either cut out the reactor compartments (RC) and store them whole, or to cut up the compartments and package them in containers that will have less visual impact on their surroundings. NSubF supports the first option on safety grounds. Workers will not be put at risk of a high radiation dose and the intact hull provides the best shield to prevent radiation leak during years of storage. No doubt it will be harder for industry to "sell" submarine hulks to a community than innocuous looking drums, but that is also the MoD's problem and the key issue in the consultation process. Who wants this monolithic waste in their back yard?

ISOLUS Project's first consultation in 2001 was quite clear:

Recommendation 3
"[there is a] strength of feeling against building further nuclear powered submarines, especially in relation to the absence of a final disposal route for the radioactive wastes".

Recommendation 39
[There is a} strength of feeling against privatisation and the problems of trust and confidence in contractors".

"Storing submarine nuclear waste has to be faced because the problem is
not going to go away. The first common-sense thing is to stop producing any more, but government policy is to build more submarines and let the next generation worry about what to do with them when they are obsolete". Di McDonald, Secretary, NSubF

The second consultation (Consultation Into Outline Proposals) starting now will consider Industry's proposals. The storage sites need a port facility if the RCs are to be stored intact, and industry's best option is for it also to be close to the breakers yard. Such sites are far from the decision-makers in London but already have enough nuclear industry putting the local population at risk

"If these hulks are so safe, why was a storage site in London at  Greenwich or Chatham Docks not earmarked for them instead  of cleaning those sites to ensure waste could not be stored there?"
Dr Alexander Matthews, Chair NSubF


Notes for Editors

The NSubF formed in 2000, bringing together national and local campaign groups already concerned about this nuclear waste. As more local groups joined the common Forum to avoid being played off against one another, we were invited onto the ISOLUS Steering Group to ensure the consultation was conducted fairly and to voice our general concerns. Peter Lanyon, NSubF representative on the Steering Group, reports to Forum members what stage has been reached in the Consultation, but cannot speak for local groups. The real impact of these waste stores will be faced by lobby groups and individuals at local and regional stakeholder workshops.

With the reactor removed, and the reactor compartment section of the hull intact, this nuclear waste is probably better protected than most.

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