Tag Archives: MoD

Nuclear submarine to get new core after test reactor problem

HMS Vanguard (file pic) HMS Vanguard makes up part of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system

Low levels of radioactivity have been discovered in the cooling waters of a nuclear submarine test reactor at Dounreay, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

Mr Hammond told MPs that no leak had occurred and said there were no safety implications for staff working on the site, or risks to the environment.

But, as a result, HMS Vanguard is to be refuelled with a new nuclear core at a cost of £120m.

The problem was discovered in 2012.

Labour criticised the government for not announcing the information earlier, calling it a matter of “national importance”.

‘Below scale’

Although the news is only being made public now, the Ministry of Defence says the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the defence nuclear inspectorate were kept informed.

Mr Hammond said the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment ran at higher levels of intensity than those on Britain’s fleet of nuclear submarines and was designed to pre-empt any similar problems with the reactors on board those vessels.

The defence secretary said: “These low levels of radioactivity are a normal product of a nuclear reaction that takes place within the fuel but they would not normally enter the cooling water.

“This water is contained within the sealed reactor circuit and I can reassure the House there has been no detectable radiation leak from that sealed circuit.

“Indeed, against the International Atomic Energy Agency’s measurement scale for nuclear-related events this issue is classed Level 0, described as ‘below scale – no safety significance’.”

The refuelling of HMS Vanguard – the UK’s oldest nuclear submarine – will take place during its next scheduled “deep maintenance period”, due to last three and a half years from 2015.

‘National security’

Mr Hammond said: “This is the responsible option: replacing the core on a precautionary basis at the next opportunity, rather than waiting to see if the core needs to be replaced at a later date which would mean returning Vanguard for a period of unscheduled deep maintenance, potentially putting at risk the resilience of our ballistic missile submarine operations.”

Mr Hammond said a decision on refuelling the next-oldest submarine, HMS Victorious, would not need to be taken until 2018.

New submarines for the Trident replacement programme, known as the Successor submarines, will not be affected by the problem, he added.

For Labour, shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker said the government should have told the Commons earlier about the fault.

He added: “There must be public confidence in the government to be open and transparent on these matters.

“A fault, however small, that develops in a nuclear reactor is something that the British people and this House should have been told about. This is an issue of national security and national importance.”

Source – BBC News

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UK – Nuclear submarines banned on two lochs following safety failures

DEFENCE watchdogs took action after Navy exercises at Loch Goil and Loch Ewe showed up inadequate plans in the event of accidents.

HMS Ambush
HMS Ambush
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NUCLEAR submarines have been banned from two lochs over safety fears.

Three Royal Navy exercises to test responses to simulated submarine accidents in March and April failed assessments by Government safety regulators.

And the MoD’s internal watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR), have responded by imposing the ban.

It prohibits nuclear subs from berthing in Loch Goil, near the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, and in Loch Ewe in Wester Ross.

Nuclear subs have been banned from Loch Goil

Loch Goil

 Loch Goil is used for testing the noise range of the Navy’s 11 nuclear subs to ensure they can navigate oceans undetected.

But the DNSR are demanding a satisfactory rerun of Exercise Strathport, which was staged last month, before the subs are allowed in the loch again.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation, who work with the DNSR, said: “Exercise Strathport was deemed an inadequate demonstration as their plan was considered inadequate.

“This needs to be revised and reissued, after which the DNSR and ONR will reinspect as a basis for providing consent to use Loch Goil on a case-by-case basis.”

Nuclear subs have been banned from Loch Ewe

Loch Ewe

Emergency exercises at Loch Ewe have been plagued with problems for years, prompting the DNSR to secretly ban submarines from the loch in 2008.

An exercise late last year failed “due to an inadequate plan, communications and facilities”, said the ONR spokesman.

The DNSR have also ordered an emergency exercise at the nuclear weapons depot at Coulport, near Faslane, to be rerun.

The specifics of the exercises are classified so it is not known what failures were recorded. But in past exercises, there have been communication breakdowns, radiation exposure risks and
failures to properly account for the number of casualties.

John Ainslie, of Scottish CND, said: “We cannot sleep easily in our beds so long as these floating Chernobyls remain in our lochs. The MoD has been given a red card by its own internal regulator. It is clearly not ready to respond to a nuclear accident at Coulport, Loch Goil or Loch Ewe.”

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson promised to raise questions in Parliament.

He said: “Any suggestion that there are inadequate safety plans in place will be deeply disturbing to the local communities and to Scotland as a whole.”

The MoD last night declined to say what impact the loch bans might have on their submarine operations.

A spokesman said: “The MoD takes its nuclear safety responsibilities seriously and conducts regular training to maintain high standards.

“We are taking steps to address issues raised by regulators following recent exercises but there is no risk of harm to the public or to the environment. The Royal Navy continues to operate submarines safely out of HM Naval Base Clyde.”

Source – Daily Record

Fears over Rosyth nuclear submarine waste

The issue of storing retired nuclear submarine at Rosyth has been a source of anger.

SCOTLAND has been chosen for the pilot project to break up some of Britain’s old nuclear submarines, prompting fears it could become a dumping ground for radioactive waste.

 

Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials will test the removal of reactors in Rosyth, but politicians and anti-nuclear campaigners have hit out at the plans, fearing nuclear waste will be dumped in the area.

A total of 27 submarines are to be dismantled at UK naval bases, with one at Rosyth the first to be cut up.

The Fife yard has been home to the old vessels for years, but concerns have been raised that the site could become a toxic dump after the MoD ordered the “demonstration of the radioactive waste removal process”.

However, the pilot will not go ahead until a storage facility for the waste is identified and further consultation is undertaken, expected to start next year.

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP said: “The Ministry of Defence’s approach to nuclear safety in Scotland clearly leaves a lot to be desired.

“Instead of experimenting with cutting up these submarines and worrying about the consequences later, the MoD needs to put a credible plan in place for what to do with the radioactive parts of these subs before it begins work.”

The Nuclear Submarine Forum, a coalition of pressure groups, has called for an end to building such vessels until a proper way of dealing with the resulting waste is found.

Jane Tallents of the forum, said: “Communities and local councils close to the Rosyth and Devonport have said clearly that the dockyards are not suitable sites for the storage of radio- active waste from submarine dismantling. We will be watching the MoD to ensure they stick to their promise that no radioactive waste will be removed from submarines until a storage solution has been agreed.”

There are seven retired vessels understood to be at Rosyth: Britain’s first nuclear submarine, HMS Dreadnought, HMS Churchill, HMS Resolution, HMS Repulse, HMS Renown, HMS Revenge and HMS Swiftsure. Another eight are in Devonport, in south-west England, including the Churchill-class HMS Conqueror, which sank the Belgrano during the Falklands War in 1982.

More vessels are due for decommissioning, bringing the total to at least 27.

Minister of state for defence equipment, support and technology, Philip Dunne, said the most radioactive part of a submarine – the 70-tonne reactor pressure vessel – will be removed intact and stored whole.

He added that an interim storage site for “intermediate level waste” – the classification for the fuel that once powered the nuclear vessels – could be found in any “UK nuclear licensed and authorised sites that might be suitable”.

More than 1200 people were consulted before the MoD made the decision, said a spokeswoman.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) regulates the disposal of nuclear waste in Scotland, as laid out under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993. The MoD is largely exempt from the act, but insisted it would work with Sepa on the pilot at Rosyth.

A Sepa spokeswoman said: “Now that Rosyth has been selected, we will require any radioactive waste generated at Rosyth to be properly disposed of.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government declined to comment, directing The Scotsman instead to the SNP.

Source – Scotsman

 

Thales sonar for new British submarines

Thales UK is to supply its Sonar 2076 fully integrated search-and-attack  submarine sonar system to BAE Systems for use on new British vessels.

The submarines, the sixth and seventh Astute class vessels of the British  navy, are being built by BAE Systems Maritime-Submarines in Cumbria.

“Thales is proud to be supplying Sonar 2076 for all seven Astute class  submarines,” said Phil Naybour, head of Thales UK’s naval business.

“This successful program reflects the skill and dedication of our teams …  and also the close support and cooperation we have received from BAE Systems and  the Ministry of Defense.”

The sonar system to be supplied will include both inboard and outboard bow,  fin, intercept and flank arrays and inboard processing equipment.

“BAE Systems is pleased to award Thales UK these important contracts for the  sonar systems for the sixth and seventh Astute class submarines,” said Ian  Hawkes, head of Combat Systems, BAE Systems Maritime-Submarines.

“Placing these contracts not only continues a well-established and enduring  relationship with Thales UK, it also helps the submarine enterprise to meet the  submarine program affordability challenge by obtaining economy of scale through  batch procuring the sonar.”

Thales said its involvement with the Astute class building program is not  limited to sonar gear. It also supplies two non-hull penetrating CM010 optronic  masts, electronic support systems and communications and emergency buoys.

Source – UPI.com

UK – Rolls-Royce secures £800m MoD contract

Engineering giant Rolls-Royce has struck an £800m deal with the Ministry of Defence, cementing its place as supplier of nuclear propulsion technology to the military for the next decade.

HMS Vanguard

In a written statement to MPs, Defence Minister Philip Dunne said the contract covered the overhead, running and business costs at Rolls-Royce Submarines sites. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

 

In a deal which the MoD says will save the public purse £200m and sustain 2,000 British jobs, the government has committed to covering Rolls’ overhead costs for the next 10 years.

The contract follows on from an agreement made in June last year, when Rolls secured £1.1bn from the government to revamp its Derby production plant.

It consolidates around 100 existing contracts between the manufacturer and the MoD and is the first of three deals the Ministry is expected to sign.

In a written statement to MPs, Defence Minister Philip Dunne said the contract covered the overhead, running and business costs at Rolls-Royce Submarines sites.

He said the new deal consolidated costs, focussed on efficiency and secured future terms and conditions between the firm and the MoD.

Jason Smith, Rolls-Royce chief operating officer and head of its submarines unit said: “I am pleased that we have agreed this enabling contract with the MoD which delivers significant savings to them over the next ten years and provides us with the stability to deliver these activities efficiently.

“It further reinforces the commitment to the submarine programme.”

The deal was struck weeks before Chancellor George Osborne unveils his 2013 budget, which is widely expected to feature further defence spending cuts, after the MoD absorbed around a fifth of total savings announced in the Autumn statement.

Britain’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) set the course for future UK defence spending, in which the government said it would cut spending by 8pc up to 2015.

Source – The Telegraph

UK – Amec appeal refused over £94m costs on submarine job

 Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 07.55.42

Amec’s legal battle to reduce the amount it must pay of a £93.6m cost overrun on a nuclear submarine jetty contract at Faslane has failed.

Now Amec and partners Morgan Sindall face a huge bill as they hammer out with the Ministry of Defence what proportion of cost overruns were properly incurred on the troubled project.

A costly legal battle has been running as both firms struggled to finish the Faslane SSN Berthing Project, first revealed in the Enquirer, more than four years late and at an expected final cost of £235.7m.

When the project was first awarded Amec was sole contractor for the jetty. But after Morgan Sindall acquired Amec’s construction arm for £26m back in 2007, the job became a 50:50 joint venture between the two firms.

Under the terms of the contract, the contractors are liable to pay the first £50m of overruns on the agreed maximum target price for the job, which has itself already risen from £89m to £142m.

This element was not challenged in the latest legal contest, but Amec held that the remaining £43.6m cost overrun should be split between client and contractor, with Amec due any costs howsoever incurred.

An arbitration panel rejected this saying the only costs payable were the actual costs reasonably and properly incurred within the contract.

A High Court judge has now refused Amec’s attempt to appeal this decision in a written ruling this week upholding the arbitration decision.

Source – Construction Enquirer

UK – Ruling on submarine facility costs

Faslane Naval Base (Scotland)

The cost of creating a nuclear submarine support facility at a Royal Navy base could be £145 million more than the initial estimate, a High Court judge has said.

Experts originally quoted an £89 million target figure for the facility at the Faslane base in Argyll and Bute, said Mr Justice Coulson.

The current “agreed maximum price” was around £140 million, said the judge. But engineers thought that the “ultimate cost” could be as much as £235.7 million.

Details emerged after lawyers debated terms of a contract, drawn up when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) engaged engineering firm Amec in 2000, at the High Court in London.

Mr Justice Coulson said the MoD and Amec could not agree on who should foot the “extensive overrun” bill.

The judge said a difficulty had arisen out of “badly worded” contract provisions.

He decided that the MoD should pay a “reasonable” amount but not costs incurred as a consequence of Amec’s contract breaches.

His ruling did not specify exactly how much of the overspend would be footed by the MoD and how much by Amec.

He had heard legal argument at a hearing in December and published a written judgment.

Source – Paisley Daily Express