THE Ministry of Defence has confirmed that old nuclear submarines will be cut up in Devonport.
But fears that Plymouth could become the UK’s nuclear graveyard have been eased.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne said yesterday that submarine dismantling would be put to the test in Rosyth in Scotland. If the process works, the remainder of the UK’s retired nuclear fleet will be cut up in both Plymouth and Rosyth.
But he announced a further consultation on where intermediate-level nuclear waste would be stored, widening the choice to include commercial and other defence sites.
The consultation will start next year, and the Rosyth pilot will not go ahead until a storage site has been identified.
Fears were raised at the start of the initial consultation that intermediate-level nuclear waste could be stored in Plymouth for many years waiting for a disposal site to be chosen.
There are thought to be about seven redundant nuclear submarines now stored in Devonport. Their nuclear reactors have been removed.
Oliver Colvile, the MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said: “I would have some concerns if it was going to be stored in Plymouth. The best place to go would be Sellafield.”
Mr Colvile said the dismantling project reinforced the case to keep Devonport as one of the UK’s strategic naval bases. “To maintain the skills base in between dismantling, the Royal Navy has to make sure surface ship refitting happens here.
“Plymouth without the Royal Navy would be a shame. About 25,000 people in the city’s travel to work area depend on defence industries in some way.”
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said the news made it less likely that the city would be seen as the country’s nuclear graveyard.
“The fact that they are widening the scope for an intermediate-level waste site suggests that they are not looking at Plymouth. But they are pushing the project into the long grass to save money. The time scale is very long.
“I do think it’s a good thing that the pilot is being done in Rosyth to make sure the process is right.”
But she said the dismantling process was “really quite tidy and clean”.
A Plymouth City Council spokesman said: “We anticipated that Devonport would be one of the locations for the dismantling of decommissioned submarines given its highly skilled and experienced workforce.
“The council’s response to the consultation was clear that Devonport is not a suitable location for the storage of intermediate level waste and this remains our position.
“The MoD’s statement says no radioactive waste will be removed from the submarines until a storage solution is agreed and we will want to ensure this remains the case.
“This is a very important issue for Plymouth and the MoD need to be open and transparent about its plans and it needs to consult fully at every stage.”
Source – This is Plymouth