UK – Minister insists leak in reactor of nuclear submarine was ‘very small’

A MINISTER has insisted a leak in the reactor compartment of Devonport-based nuclear-powered submarine HMS Tireless was “very small”.

MP Philip Dunne made the statement as campaigners accused the Royal Navy of a “cover-up”, suggesting the leak was more serious than first indicated.

Ian Avent, chairman of the Plymouth residents’ group Community Awareness Nuclear Storage and Radiation, has called on Plymouth Moor View Labour MP Alison Seabeck to press the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for answers about safety concerns.

As previously reported in The Herald, HMS Tireless is undergoing repair in Devonport Dockyard after returning to Faslane Naval Base at the beginning February with the leak.

Mr Avent said: “A leak in the cooling system of a nuclear reactor is a far from trivial occurrence, and some very serious questions need to be asked about just how this incident occurred, what risks it poses, and what steps have been taken to provide protection to the public, dockyard personnel, and submarine crew members.

“We appreciate that submarine operations are a sensitive topic for the Navy, but this has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with safety.  To date the Navy has said nothing to reassure residents about the problems on board the submarine, fuelling fears that a significant incident is being covered up.

“There are very obvious risks in keeping ageing submarines in service beyond their design life, and the MoD must under no circumstances be allowed to relax submarine safety standards to compensate for delays in bringing new Astute class submarines into service”.

Responding, Mr Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, said: “The recent coolant leak onboard HMS Tireless was a very small quantity and was caused by a very small defect in a system within the sealed reactor compartment of the submarine. There was no risk to the public, environment or the crew.”

He said it was too early to confirm the cost or timescale of repairs.

“The impact of this defect on other submarines has been fully considered and, accordingly, it is not deemed necessary to carry out additional maintenance or inspections,” he said.

An MoD spokesman added: “The MoD stresses that there was no and there is no risk to the public, environment or the crew.”

Source – The Plymouth Herald

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