Lancaster University

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Lancaster carries out consultation for MOD

11/05/2003 14:43:23

Lancaster University is carrying out important research to get the public’s view on what should happen when the Ministry of Defence decommissions nuclear powered submarines.

Researchers from the University’s Institute for Environment, Philosophy and Public Policy has been gathering the views of people who live around the areas of Coulport, Nigg, Devonport, Rosyth, Sellafield and Dounreay and will present a report and recommendations to the MoD.

This is the second stage of a three stage public consultation which the Ministry of Defence are commissioning to inform their decision on the future management of radioactive wastes from redundant nuclear powered submarines.

The consultation involves a website, discussion groups, two national panels, and local events at the six sites .

The MoD currently has twenty-seven nuclear-powered submarines. Of these eleven have been taken out of service. When the submarines are taken out of service the spent nuclear fuel is removed from their reactors leaving some radioactive materials and other toxic substances in the submarine.

The eleven submarines that have been taken out of service to date are currently being stored afloat at Rosyth (near Edinburgh) and at Devonport (Plymouth). Afloat storage uses the structure of the submarine and its reactor compartment as a means to contain the radioactive waste and to shield the radiation.

Dr Jane Hunt, from IEPPP explained: “By 2012 more submarines will have come out of service and there will no longer be enough space at the existing berths to store them afloat at these dockyards. By 2040 all 27 of the current UK nuclear-powered submarines will have come out of service. Either more space for afloat storage will have to be provided somewhere, or an alternative means of storing the radioactive wastes will have to be developed.

“The MoD’s Project ISOLUS (Interim Storage of Laid-Up Submarines) is addressing this problem and a report in 1999 recommended that afloat storage should be discontinued and that land-based storage methods should be developed.

“Having discovered the range of views held by the public and by other stakeholders in the Front End consultation, we are now consulting the public on the acceptability of proposals from four industrial contractors for managing the radioactive wastes from the submarines.”