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Defence and Security Strategy

Vigilance can report that five nuclear facilities across the UK have been identified as potential sites to store waste from nuclear-powered submarines that have left Naval Service, as part of the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) Submarine Dismantling Project (SDP).

According to a source at the MoD the sites, which are either owned by the MOD, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) or industry, already hold radioactive materials and have been identified as possible locations to store reactor components from the disused submarines.

The MOD has 18 former Royal Naval nuclear submarines currently stored afloat in Devonport and Rosyth but the submarines can only be completely dismantled once the reactor components, which are categorised as radioactive waste, have been safely removed. Nine submarines that are currently still in-service will also be dismantled under the SDP, when they reach the end of their service lives. The initial dismantling process will support up to 60 skilled jobs.

Following an assessment of all the UK’s nuclear sites, five sites were considered suitable and have been placed on a provisional shortlist.

The potential sites are:

the Atomic Weapons Establishment sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, which are owned by the MOD and run by AWE Plc;

Sellafield in West Cumbria, owned by the NDA;

Chapelcross in Dumfriesshire, owned by the NDA;

Capenhurst in Cheshire, which is run by Capenhurst Nuclear Services.

A public consultation on the possible sites will take place in late 2014 and no decisions will be made until this process is completed. Whichever site is selected will be used as an interim storage site for the reactor components until after 2040, when the UK’s Geological Disposal Facility is planned to come into operation.

Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology, Philip Dunne, said: “This is another step towards a safe and sustainable solution for the disposal of radioactive waste from our submarine fleet. All of the potential sites have a proven track record in handling radioactive material in a safe and secure way. We are committed to an open and transparent process and over the next year we will be working closely with local communities near to the potential sites, as part of the consultation before a final decision is made.”