MINISTRY OF DEFENCE 058/97 March 4, 1998 STORAGE OPTIONS FOR DECOMMISSIONED NUCLEAR SUBMARINES The Ministry of Defence is investigating alternative options to storage afloat for the safe storage of decommissioned submarines. In answer to a Parliamentary Question from Barry Gardiner MP (Brent North), George Robertson, Secretary of State for Defence, said; "Afloat storage is not time limited and is safe. However, space at Devonport Naval Base and at Rosyth Royal Dockyard is finite and is expected to reach its capacity some years before any Deep Waste Repository may become available. As a result, my Department is now investigating other options, including interim land storage and other sites for storage afloat. Safety to the public and to the environment will be of paramount importance when considering the way forward." NOTES TO EDITORS - Decommissioned nuclear submarines are currently stored at Devonport Naval Base and Rosyth Royal Dockyard. The submarines are regularly maintained and inspected, and can be stored indefinitely without risk. MOD policy remains that Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) will be disposed of in the long term in a Deep Waste Repository (DWR) which is planned to be built in the next century. The MOD is looking at other options, including interim land storage and other sites for storage afloat until the DWR becomes available. - Neither land nor afloat storage pose any threat to the surrounding environment. When nuclear powered submarines are taken out of service, their reactors are defuelled and any non-essential equipment is removed. Used reactor cores are removed to Sellafield for long-term storage. The remaining radioactivity is contained by the reactor plant and the pressure hull. This robust shielding ensures that the external radiation level is so small that it is not measurable. - Interim land storage would involve cutting out the entire reactor compartment and storing it. The rest of the submarine would be cut up and recycled. The cut out reactor compartments would take up much less space than the complete submarines, and there would be no leakage of radioactivity. Sites would be protected against unauthorised access.