UK navy looks to land for old nuclear reactors

Lack of harbour space for redundant submarines forces search for land disposal

The UK defence ministry yesterday launched a three-year consultation aimed at finding suitable land storage sites for nuclear reactors from redundant submarines. Two harbours where submarines are currently stored afloat would be full by 2012, the ministry said, meaning that storing radioactive components on land would provide "the best overall solution in the longer term".

Eleven disused British nuclear submarines are presently in floating storage in docks at Rosyth in eastern Scotland and Devonport in south-west England. Each still contains its nuclear reactor, though not the fuel rods. A further three submarines are expected to be decommissioned by 2012, which would fill the last remaining spaces available at Devonport.

According to a report in today's Financial Times newspaper, the ministry has been forced to look for on-land storage of submarine reactors due to the lack of a final disposal site in the UK for nuclear waste. The most recent attempt foundered shortly before the last election when nuclear waste company Nirex were refused permission to test deep storage options close to the Sellafield nuclear plant in north-west England (ENDS Daily 18 March 1997).

Follow Up:
UK defence ministry, tel: +44 20 72 18 70 00, and press release. See also Financial Times article.

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