Tag Archives: Nuclear

Nuclear Sub Protection Plan For Rolls-Royce

Nuclear Sub Protection Plan For Rolls-Royce

The financial woes at Rolls-Royce could result in the nationalisation of its nuclear submarine division, under contingency plans.

13:49, UK,Monday 14 December 2015

HMS Vengeance

HMS Vengeance is part of UK’s Trident fleet – powered by Rolls-Royce

Plans to protect the UK’s interests if the company powering the country’s nuclear deterrent runs into deeper trouble have been reportedly drawn up by the Government.

Rolls-Royce’s nuclear submarine business – which maintains the nuclear reactor propulsion systems aboard the Navy’s four Trident-fitted submarines – could even be nationalised under the contingency plans, according to the Financial Times.

It said several options had been drawn up to cover various scenarios, including the possibility of a takeover bid for the group by a foreign firm.

While there are existing safeguards to ensure the Government must approve any such deal, investors would perhaps be forgiven for considering any interest, given the fact the Rolls-Royce share price has lost a third of its value this year alone.

The company has issued a string of profit warnings – its problems exacerbated by weaker defence spending and lower demand for its services in the oil and gas industry following the collapse in commodity prices.

The company outlined the initial phase of its turnaround strategy under new chief executive, Warren East, a fortnight ago.

It involved hundreds of senior managers losing their jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds being slashed from the company’s annual cost base.

Its biggest shareholder, the American activist fund, ValueAct, has attracted particular attention.

It is pressing Rolls to go further and sell off its marine engine division – a move Mr East has signalled he is reluctant to do.

ValueAct is also seeking a place on the board.

Sky News reported last week that Value Act’s stake in Rolls-Royce – which remains one of the Government’s most important suppliers and engineering contractors – was said to have attracted increasing attention from senior Whitehall officials.

Representatives of both firms were expected to meet in Derby this week.

A Rolls-Royce spokesperson said on Monday: “We are in contact with Government as a matter of routine and regularly keep them updated on our performance and progress.”

The defence procurement minister Philip Dunne told the FT last week the Government was “concerned” Rolls-Royce was able to maintain its nuclear obligations and would “take a view in the event there was corporate activity.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said today: “Rolls-Royce is a major contributor to our economy. It’s an important supplier to the government. We will continue to work closely with them. I’m not going to get into specifics about the company’s future.”

Link – Sky News story
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‘People were going to die’: submarine crew trapped in searing heat after catastrophic systems failure

Dozens of crew members were trapped on a Royal Navy nuclear submarine in 60C heat after the air conditioning system failed, forcing HMS Turbulent to dive to 200m to cool down

HMS Turbulent

Temperatures on HMS Turbulent soared to more than 140F (60C) with 100 per cent humidity Photo: SWNS

Dozens of sailors were overcome by heat exhaustion when temperatures soared on board a British nuclear submarine after a “catastrophic” air-conditioning failure, it has been disclosed.

Eight submariners were left in a “life-threatening condition” as temperatures on HMS Turbulent rose to more than 140F (60C) with 100 per cent humidity, while engineers battled to fix the fault.

The previously undisclosed incident in the Indian Ocean has come to light three years later, after the commanding officer at the time gave a dramatic account of the crisis and revealed the situation was so critical he thought crew members were going to die.


Commander Ryan Ramsey (SWNS)

Cdr Ryan Ramsey, the submarine’s commanding officer, said: “I genuinely thought there was going to be a loss of life on board.

The 44-year-old, who recently retired from the Royal Navy, said the extreme temperatures left crew “just collapsing everywhere, many at their work stations”.

The hunter killer submarine was only three hours from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on May 26, 2011, when the incident took place.

The boat had surfaced and Cdr Ramsey was on the bridge when engineers told him the air conditioning plants had “catastrophically” failed.

As he went below he was met by an “incredible blast of heat,” and the first casualties soon began to be taken ill.

Within hours many areas of the 275ft submarine had become makeshift sick bays, as 26 of the crew were taken casualty, he said.

“We had casualties in the control room, the engine room, the bridge, the wardroom, cabins, and the toilets and showers. It was absolutely terrifying, and I’m not afraid to say I was scared.

“Walking around the boat I saw true fear in my crew’s eyes.

“I saw genuine concern because we simply did not know how we were going to get through it.

“I felt like the world was against us.

“I was looking up and asking ‘when are you going to give me a break to gain the upper hand here?’

“People were crying, and it was all about survival.”

Cdr Ramsey said it was the first time such a malfunction had been reported on a vessel of this type – and the crew didn’t understand the exact cause of the problem. The heat meant the crew couldn’t reach the problem areas because the equipment was too hot to touch.

A decision was made that it was impossible to return to Fujairah with a “broken” nuclear submarine because of the political fallout. The crew opened two of the submarines hatches to release some of the heat and put some of the casualties outside, but with temperatures on the surface reaching 108F (42C) there was little respite.

The air conditioning system was used to cool sensitive equipment on board, which began to shut down.

A decision was made to dive to cooler water to reduce the heat.

“It was touch and go before we dived as to what might happen to us and the submarine,” he said.

“We couldn’t do anything. I could have radioed for help but it would have taken hours for anyone to reach us. In that time people would have died.

“We were alone in our steel tube. There really was no-one to call.”

Diving to a depth of more than 200 metres, the temperatures finally began to drop and within 24 hours systems had returned to normal and the crew were recovering. HMS Turbulent, based in Devonport, resumed her deployment.

Cdr Ramsey told the Plymouth Herald: “There’s not a day that goes by that I do not think about what happened. The pain of seeing my crew like that.

“But when I think back to that time I quickly remember how fantastic they all were in dealing with the situation.

“We recovered from it. They did exactly what they had to do, and looked after the team.”

Cdr Ramsey left the Royal Navy in March after 25 years’ service and said he had chosen to reveal the incident to highlight how “incredible” the secretive submarine service is.

He said: “The medical team was made up of one Petty Officer medic, another medic, and six or seven first-aiders and they did an unbelievable job under intense pressure.”

“That particular experience brought out some amazing actions from people who are rarely recognised, if ever, for what they do.”

HMS Turbulent, a Trafalgar Class submarine, was decommissioned in July 2012 at the end of a career of nearly 30 years.

A Royal Navy spokesman said the submarine’s nuclear reactor had never been at risk.

He said: “In 2011, a technical issue in HMS Turbulent resulted in a temporary rise in temperature on board the submarine.

“The problem, which caused no damage to the submarine or its reactor systems, was resolved by the crew after a few hours using standard operating procedures.

“A number of personnel who showed signs of heat related symptoms were treated by the submarine’s medical team.

“All recommendations resulting from the investigation into the incident have been fully implemented.”

Source – The Daily Telegraph

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

HMS Artful – Quay concerns delay launch of navy submarine

Nuclear safety watchdog bars launch of reactor-driven HMS Artful due to doubts about structural integrity of Barrow quay

HMS Astute

HMS Artful’s sister submarine Astute at the BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness.

The nuclear safety watchdog has blocked the launch of the Royal Navy’s newest reactor-driven submarine because of a risk that a dockside could collapse.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has barred the launch of HMS Artful, the third of Britain’s Astute-class hunter-killer submarines, because of doubts about the structural integrity of the wet dock quay at Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

The submarine’s manufacturer, BAE Systems, had previously planned for a launch this year but now says it will be early next year. It said the problem with the dock would not cause further delays.

ONR raised its concerns in its quarterly report on the Barrow shipyard covering April to June 2013. It has ordered BAE Systems, as the site licensee, to investigate and report back on whether the dock was safe to use. “ONR placed a hold point on the launch of the next Astute-class submarine which will only be removed once the licensee can address and justify the continued use of the aging wet dock quay,” the report says.

According to ONR, the quay is used to help commission the Astute-class submarines. “Recent surveys have indicated that there may be some deterioration in its structure,” said an ONR spokeswoman. “As a result, the safety justification for use of this facility is being reviewed by BAE Systems to ensure that it remains valid. Until BAE Systems’ investigations have been completed, ONR cannot say whether there will need to be a major programme of work. However, in the interim, ONR has placed a hold on launch of the next submarine so that we will have to be satisfied that the structure remains fit for purpose.”

In a report about a visit to the Barrow yard by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April, BAE Systems said Artful was due for launch this year. The first two submarines in the much-delayed £9.75bn fleet, HMS Astute and HMS Ambush, are at sea and another four are still being built.

A spokesperson for BAE Systems said: “We do not expect this to delay the launch of the next Astute-class submarine, which is scheduled for early next year. As always, if any work is required to the wet dock quay, safety will be a priority.”

Peter Burt, of the Nuclear Information Service, which monitors military activities, pointed out that much of Britain’s nuclear infrastructure was decades old. “It’s showing its age,” he said. “Hundreds of millions of pounds are being spent in secret each year as the Ministry of Defence struggles to bring ageing facilities up to modern safety standards, adding even more to the already enormous costs of the Trident replacement and Astute submarine programmes.”

Source –The Guardian