Select Committee on Defence First Special Report


Memorandum from the Ministry of Defence concerning storage of decommissioned nuclear submarines (11 May 2000)

  In March 1998, George Robertson, the then Secretary of State for Defence, announced a study into options for the storage of decommissioned nuclear submarines. You will wish to be aware that I plan to announce the outcome of the first phase of the study this afternoon, in answer to a Parliamentary Question.

  Until now it has been our policy that decommissioned nuclear submarines should be stored afloat at Devonport and Rosyth, pending availability of a national facility for the long-term storage of intermediate level radioactive waste. It became evident, however, that such a facility would not be available by 2012, the date by which our existing storage facilities are expected to reach full capacity, and that a study would be needed to address alternative options for the storage of the submarines. The value of considering the options has been further underlined by the Government's decision to carry out a wide-ranging consultation exercise before coming to any conclusions on the most appropriate method for the management of radioactive waste.

  Now that the first phase of the study has been completed, I plan to announce that afloat storage would remain a safe option, if suitable alternative venues could be identified, but that land storage offers the best overall solution in the long term. Further work will now be undertaken to determine which land storage option should be adopted. I shall also refer to an unsolicited, commercial proposal from Babcock Rosyth Defence Limited, the owners of Rosyth Royal Dockyard, to dismantle HMS Renown's reactor compartment and store the components in the purpose-built intermediate level radioactive waste store at Rosyth.

  I believe the change of policy from afloat storage to land storage reflects the Department's commitment to a robust radioactive waste management policy.

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