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Britain’s nuke-armed submarine fleet dockyard suffers serious malfunction

Press TV – October 6, 2013

A new report says Britain’s Royal Navy submarine fleet has narrowly averted a major nuclear incident, which has been compared with the Fukushima Daiichi power-station meltdown in Japan in 2011.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s Site Event Report Committee (Serc) disclosed in a heavily redacted report the failure of both the primary and secondary power sources of coolant for nuclear reactors at the Devonport dockyard in Plymouth on 29 July last year, reported The Independent on Sunday.

The naval base, which is operated by the MoD and government engineering contractors Babcock Marine, had ignored warnings in previous years of just such a situation, the report said.

According to the report both the electric-power source for coolant to nuclear reactors and then the diesel back-up generators had failed to operate properly.

“Once a submarine arrives at the Devon base’s specially designed Tidal X-Berths, it must be connected to coolant supplies to prevent its nuclear reactor overheating. But last July a series of what were described as “unidentified defects” triggered the failures which meant that for more than 90 minutes, submarines were left without their main sources of coolant”, the report said.

“It is unbelievable that this happened. It could have been very serious. Things like this shouldn’t happen. It is a fundamental that these fail-safe requirements work. It had all the seriousness of a major meltdown – a major radioactive release”, said John Large, an independent nuclear adviser.

An internal probe carried out by Babcock after the incident blamed the complete loss of power on a defect in the central nuclear switchboard, which had resulted in an “event with potential nuclear implications”.

The Base Nuclear Safety Organisation also conducted a review which revealed the “unsuccessful connection of diesel generators” and questioned the “effectiveness of the maintenance methodology and its management”, while advising Babcock to “address the shortfalls in their current maintenance regime”.

“It’s deeply worrying that a technical fault resulted in an event with potential nuclear implications. As long as we continue our obsession with nuclear – both in our defence system and in energy generation – there are going to be safety issues like this”, said Caroline Lucas, the Green MP.

Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: “Accidents such as the one highlighted in this report again show that a city-centre location is no place for nuclear submarines”.

October 6, 2013 - Posted by | Militarism, Nuclear Power |

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