Chapelcross could become graveyard for nuclear subs

The Ministry of Defence has named Chapelcross in Dumfriesshire in a shortlist of ­potential sites at which to store waste from its ­redundant nuclear-powered submarines.

Chapelcross is on a shortlist of storage sites for nuclear waste. Picture: PA

The facilities also ­include Atomic Weapons ­Establishment sites at ­Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire; Sellafield in West Cumbria; and ­Capenhurst in Cheshire.

One of the sites will be chosen as the place that stores radioactive waste from decommissioned submarines until the 2040s, when a planned permanent disposal facility is up and running.

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Until then, the MoD is looking for sites to store the reactor components – categorised as radioactive waste – from its submarines that are no longer in service.

Chapelcross, near Annan, was Scotland’s first commercial nuclear power station when it opened in 1959 on the site of a former Second World War training airfield. The site was decommissioned in 2004.

Some 18 former Royal Navy nuclear submarines are currently stored afloat in Devonport, Plymouth, and Rosyth, Fife, but cannot be completely dismantled until the reactor components have been safely ­removed.

They include one Dreadnought class, five Valiant and Courageous class, four Resolution class, six Swiftsure class and two Trafalgar class submarines.

As part of the MoD’s Submarine Dismantling Project, a further nine submarines that are currently still in service – five Trafalgar class and four Vanguard class – will also be ­dismantled.

The first dismantling will be at Rosyth, with future dismantling taking place both there and at Devonport.

The MoD said it has identified five nuclear facilities across the UK as potential sites to store the waste from the submarines.

The sites, owned by either the MoD, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) or ­industry, already hold radioactive materials.

The Atomic Weapons Establishment sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield are owned by the MoD and run by AWE Plc; Sellafield and Chapelcross are owned by the NDA; and Capenhurst is run by Capenhurst Nuclear Services.

A public consultation will take place in late this year, and no decisions will be made until then.

The location chosen will be used as an interim storage site for reactor components for at least 26 years, by which time the UK’s ­Geological Disposal Facility – a deep geological site for the permanent disposal of spent fuel and nuclear waste – is planned to come into ­operation.

Philip Dunne, minister for defence equipment support and technology, 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.”