MoD counts cost of sea-dump decision

Commitment on waste brings problems with nuclear fleet

The Government’s decision this week to rule out sea dumping of nuclear waste could cost the Ministry of Defence an extra £500m to dispose of its redundant atomic-powered submarines.

At a meeting of the signatory countries to the Oslo and London conventions on sea dumping in Brussels on Tuesday, Environment Department officials told their foreign counterparts the UK would surrender its opt-out from the ban on sea disposal of low and intermediate-level nuclear waste.

The MoD will have to prepare its 22 nuclear submarines – 12 of which have already been retired from service – for disposal on land.

John Large, a nuclear consultant, said the change in policy would cost the ministry at least £500m.

He said that land disposal would mean cutting the 1,000-1,200 tonne reactor compartments out of the vessels, cutting them up into smaller packages for burial and building interim storage facilities.

‘I can’t see that topping and tailing a submarine could be done for less than £20m, and then you’ve got to build the warehouses and the slipways,’ he said.

A Navy spokesman at the Faslane submarine base at Gare Loch said that the defunct vessels would remain moored to the quaysides at the Rosyth and Devonport dockyards until a national waste repository had been built.

The British Government also agreed to stop sea dumping of other types of hazardous wastes by 2010 and to limit the sea disposal of redundant oil and gas platforms to those that were too difficult or dangerous to bring ashore.