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UK’s embarrassing, expensive, intractable trouble with dead nuclear submarines

The Royal Navy Is Having Real Trouble Disposing Of Its Old Nuclear Submarines. It’s expensive. National Interest , by Michael Peck.  24 Nov 19,

Key point: Britain isn’t the only nation that has problems disposing of nuclear warships. When you need to dispose of an old car, you can take it to a junkyard.

But what do you do with a nuclear submarine whose reactor can make people glow in a most unpleasant way?

Britain has retired twenty nuclear submarines since 1980. None have been disposed of, and nine still contain radioactive fuel in their reactors, according to an audit by Britain’s National Audit Office. These subs spent an average of twenty-six years on active service—and nineteen years out of service.

“Because of this, the Department [Ministry of Defense] now stores twice as many submarines as it operates, with seven of them having been in storage for longer than they were in service,” the audit states.

Even worse is the price tag. Britain has spent 500 million pounds ($646.4 million) maintaining those decommissioned subs between 1980 and 2017. Full disposal of a nuclear sub would cost 96 million pounds ($112.1 million). As a result, the total cost for disposing of the Royal Navy’s ten active subs and twenty retired vessels would be 7.5 billion pounds ($9.7 billion), NAO calculated…….

The plan is to begin defueling subs, beginning with HMS Swiftsure, in 2023. But even then, the Ministry of Defense will have to deal with different subs that have different disposal requirements. “At present, the Department does not have a fully developed plan to dispose of Vanguard, Astute and Dreadnought-class submarines, which have different types of nuclear reactor,” NAO pointed out. “For the Vanguard and Astute-class it has identified suitable dock space which, if used, will need to be maintained.”

Interestingly, the British military gets an exemption when it comes to nuclear waste. “Within the civil nuclear sector, organizations must consider nuclear waste disposal during the design stage of power stations and nuclear infrastructure. The Department does not have a similar obligation.”

Britain isn’t the only nation that has problems disposing of nuclear warships. The Soviet Union sank nineteen nuclear vessels, and fourteen shipborne nuclear reactors, at sea, sparking fears of an environmental catastrophe. Even the U.S. Navy is struggling with how to dispose of nuclear subs and aircraft carriers, such as the decommissioned carrier USS Enterprise.

November 25, 2019 - Posted by | UK, wastes, weapons and war

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