City leaders have called for the Ministry of Defence to remove nuclear submarines from the Firth of Forth and dismantle them in the south of England.
The MoD is holding a consultation on its options for the seven nuclear submarines that it stores at Rosyth Dockyard. And the city council is to submit a response urging the UK Government to move them to Devonport in Plymouth – where other vessels are stored – and start the process of dismantling them there.
Concerns have been raised about the potential danger of the nuclear decontamination process and the negative impact on the Firth of Forth’s image if the subs remain at Rosyth. There are also fears that Rosyth could see a repeat of the nuclear contamination at Dalgety Bay in Fife, which is thought to have been caused by dumped Second World War aircraft.
But political opponents said the council’s preferred option, which will now be formally submitted to the MoD, would mean the Edinburgh area missing out on vital jobs.
Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city’s environment leader, said: “The report from the MoD shows little sign of urgency and in our view the Firth of Forth is an area of outstanding value.
“We have seen the MoD’s action – or lack of action – at Dalgety Bay and it is not in the best interests of Edinburgh that seven rusty nuclear subs lie at Rosyth with the possibility, however minimal, of nuclear contamination.
“It is important for the whole image of the Firth of Forth for action to be taken rather than the subs to lie there for five, ten or 15 years. The longer they are left, the more likely it is something will go wrong.”
The MoD has said it will run out of room to store its old nuclear submarines in 2020 and it is seeking public opinion on how and where the submarines should be broken up, and what should happen to the radioactive material on board. Rosyth and Devonport are the two preferred sites being considered as locations for removing the radioactive material from the vessels.
Seven nuclear submarines have been stored at Rosyth since the 1990s, while ten more are berthed at Devonport, with others due to come out of active service in the future.
But Tory councillor Mark McInes said: “These seven subs are already at Rosyth so it is more environmentally friendly to dismantle them there rather than take them to Devonport and it is more environmentally dangerous to remove them.
“Also, in the current economic climate, to turn down jobs at Rosyth is crazy because this is a 60-year programme and it could provide jobs for all over Edinburgh and the Lothians.”