Saturday, 20 July 2013

In another article – "Danger Beneath The Waves" I stressed the fact that every nuclear powered submarine poses the risk of a mini-Chernobyl, and with the closure of more Z-berths (where a stricken nuclear submarine could tie up to save money) the commander of each submarine is now left for himself to work out the best and nearest shoreline where he can evacuate the crew.  In such a scenario, I wonder if the Westminster Government has ever thought of the possibility of Glasgow or Edinburgh requiring to be evacuated, or that sufficient iodine tablets exist to be rushed to the scene of such an accident? 

With the UK Government having decided to station all 7 of its new Asute class submarines on the Clyde, eventually bringing to 14 the total number of nuclear reactors so close to our major city, could it be the case that the lives of Scots came cheaper?  The first of the Navy's 7 new nuclear submarines HMS Astute (which is not nuclear armed but nuclear powered) ran into a category of problems in the first 9 months of its existence.  Its embarrassing grounding off Skye was followed shortly afterwards with a sailor running amok during a short visit to Southampton and killing a senior officer. When sea trials were resumed, serious faults were found in its hydraulic system, and according to a report in the Sunday Herald, the captain has lost confidence in his vessel.

Even more serious problems have come to light, following a document, released by accident, revealing that there are major failings in the PWR2 reactor design.  These are not just the type of reactors on Vanguard Class (Trident) submarines, but also on HMS Astute, and despite this, the MOD is determined to use exactly the same PWR2 reactors, on all further six submarines in this class, now in various stages of construction.  Following a Freedom of Information request the Defence Safety Regulator disclosed that PWR2 reactors are "substandard" and "below benchmark good practice".  In contrast, American submarines have all got "high reliability" reactors brought in use following the loss of USS Thresher with all hands off Cape Cod many years ago. 

The further serious failing is that all British submarines, unlike those of the Americans, are susceptible to "Loss of Coolant" accidents.  This is what happened at Fukishima.  I thought I was imagining hearing things, when on Newsnight Scotland, Labour's Jackie Bailie, MSP, said that she was well aware of several dangerous leakages of radioactive coolant from Trafalgar, Superb and Torbay nuclear submarines into the Clyde Firth over many years!  Why may I ask did she not give wide publicity to this and report the matter to the MOD as the lives of her Dunbartonshire constituents could be at risk?

Are these losses of coolant accidents another reason why Westminster/MOD are so keen to transfer all nuclear powered submarines to the Clyde?

Could I again pose the question – "Do lives of Scots come cheaper"

See also:  More blogs by John Jappy