The UK’s Submarine Dismantling Project hopes to dismantle 27 of the UK’s de-fuelled, nuclear powered submarines after they have left service with the Royal Navy, but what’s the status of the project?
Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement, said:
“As set out in the United Kingdom’s future nuclear deterrent: the 2020 update to Parliament, we continue to develop the submarine dismantling techniques necessary to meet all safety and sustainability standards and establish the long-term solution that provides best value for the taxpayer. Our commitment to the safe, secure, environmentally sound and cost-effective defueling and dismantling of all our decommissioned nuclear submarines as soon as practicably possible remains undiminished.
A demonstrator submarine is being used to define and refine the dismantling process. At Rosyth, initial dismantling, through the removal of low-level radioactive waste from the first two submarines, Swiftsure and Resolution, has been successfully and safely completed. As the unique approach is developed, work continues with the removal of low-level radioactive waste from a third submarine, Revenge. We expect to have a fully developed process for steady state submarine dismantling ready by 2026. As the demonstrator programme progresses, the outcomes will provide more certainty in the future costs to dismantle the Devonport-based submarines. It is not MoD policy to pre-announce the funding of its projects for reasons of protecting commercial interests.”
How are the Ministry of Defence undertaking the dismantling?
UK submarines are powered by nuclear reactors. During submarine operations, nuclear reactions cause radioactive substances to be generated in the pipework and components within the reactor compartment. This requires managing after the submarine leaves service. While our submarines are being stored, waiting to be defueled and then dismantled, they pose no additional safety risk to workers or members of the public.
“They undergo an annual survey and maintenance programme and a more in-depth survey and maintenance regime in nuclear-licensed docks, to preserve and test the systems as well as ensure submarine hull integrity. Once the nuclear fuel is removed and transported to Sellafield for storage the submarine can formally enter the SDP.”