Nuclear subs to be stored afloat

The Ministry of Defence last week decided to store its decommissioned nuclear submarines afloat, postponing a difficult decision on which land storage option to choose for the used reactors in the longer term.

The cheapest land storage option, used by the US Navy, is to store the whole reactor compartment on land. The other options involve storing either packaged or unpackaged nuclear waste after it has been removed from the reactor compartment, reducing the amount of radioactive waste stored.

Some defence industry experts have suggested that the government is likely to go for the cheaper US option. But defence minister Lewis Moonie said the decision would not be made on the basis of cost.

`Safety remains of paramount importance,’ he said. `We are seeking a safe and practical option, not a cheap option.’

John Coles, chief executive of the Ships Support Agency, said the US option was a comparative basis against which future studies are taking place.

There are 11 decommissioned nuclear submarines, four at Devonport and seven at Rosyth. Float storage space exists for three more at Devonport, while Rosyth is full.

The land storage decision will have to be made by 2012, when three more subs are due to arrive.

Babcock Rosyth Defence, the owner of Rosyth dockyard, has separately received MoD approval to start feasibility and planning work on its proposal to dismantle the reactor compartment of the decommissioned Polaris submarine HMS Renown, and store the components on land at Rosyth.

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