The reactor compartments from retired nuclear submarines could in future be stored on land, the Government said last week. The announcement came with the Ministry of Defence’s launch of a year-long study into land and floating storage of future decommissioned nuclear subs.
‘We would primarily be concentrating on land sites of existing or previous nuclear use,’ the MoD said this week. Existing or previous nuclear site licensing ‘would be part of the consideration,’ it said.
‘Now the Deep Waste Repository is unlikely to become available before 2030, we’ve got a 14-year gap we need to bridge,’ the MoD said. ‘This study is the first move in identifying a means of bridging that gap.’
For land storage the entire reactor compartment would be removed as a single unit. This would comprise only intermediate level radioactive material.
Once nuclear fuel is removed for disposal by British Nuclear Fuels and a reactor is separated, the MoD said ‘we have a hull we would scrap or recycle, or join together for conventional scrapping elsewhere’.
No new sites afloat or on land have yet been identified. The MoD said it was ‘looking at the options available, and this will be a starting point for more detailed thought’.
The processes for afloat storage would be the same as those now used at Devonport and Rosyth dockyards.
The 11 old nuclear subs now at Devonport and Rosyth will stay where they are. There is no proposal to remove them from the two dockyards. ‘We anticipate we have sufficient space there until at least 2016,’ the MoD said.
‘It is perfectly safe to leave the vessels there for an indefinite period.’