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Nuclear Submarines

Volume 129: debated on Wednesday 9 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what specific arrangements are made to safeguard the public against the effects of incidents involving British nuclear submarines which could lead to the release of radioactive material when any visit is undertaken to the port of Cardiff;(2) what steps are taken to ensure the safety of the general public when incidents occur which could involve

the release of radioactive material from British nuclear submarines

(a) at any time, (b) during entry or leaving port and (c) while in port.

Safety schemes, detailing procedures and protective measures to be implemented in the unlikely event of an accidental release of radioactive material from a submarine are drawn up to cover the areas of all naval bases and other berths used by such vessels in the United Kingdom. These are produced in consultation with the appropriate local authorities, emergency services and other civilian agencies with a direct involvement, all of whom hold copies. The combined Barry and Cardiff special safety scheme covers the arrangements for Cardiff.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many incidents involving British nuclear submarines have resulted in the release of radioactive material since 1978; and whether any of these occurred in Cardiff or in the Bristol channel;(2) how many incidents involving nuclear submarines and their reactors have occurred since 1978; and how many fell into each of the categories of mechanical problems, operator error or electrical faults;(3) how many incidents involving the reactors which power Britain's nuclear submarines occurred between 1962 and 1978 in Cardiff or within 10 miles of Cardiff;(4) how many incidents involving the release of radioactive materials from British nuclear submarines occurred in Cardiff or the Bristol channel, between 1962 and 1978.

It is not our general policy to discuss matters affecting the operation of Her Majesty's submarines. However, maintenance, operating and safety standards are exacting, and, as a consequence, there has never been an incident involving such submarines where there was any radiological hazard to service men, base personnel or members of the public.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many port visits in the United Kingdom have been made (a) by British nuclear submarines and (b) other nations' nuclear submarines in each year since 1962; and how many of these have been to Cardiff in each year.

Visits of United Kingdom nuclear powered submarines to non-naval ports since 1970, when records have been kept, are as follows:

PortVisits (total)
Hull (to 1981)8
Barry (to 1978)4
Liverpool29
Southampton5
Cardiff14
The visits to Cardiff have taken place as follows: 1970; 1971; 1972; 1975; 1976; 1977; 1981; 1983 (2 visits); 1985; 1986 (2 visits); 1988 (2 visits).In 1986 there were 17 visits of non-United Kingdom nuclear powered submarines to United Kingdom naval bases and in 1987 there were 12. There were no such visits in these years to non-naval ports, including Cardiff.The other figures are unobtainable except at disproporationate cost.