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Nuclear Submarines

Volume 167: debated on Monday 12 February 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the average length of time taken for a precautionary inspection of a nuclear submarine's reactor facility; and what is the average cost.

Planned inspections take place during scheduled refits and maintenance periods. With regard to the programme of inspections currently under way, the time taken will vary from one submarine to another. The additional costs of carrying out these inspections are likely to be small, but have not been separately identified.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the meaning of the term "come alongside" when the decision is taken as a precautionary measure to inspect the reactor of a nuclear submarine.

In this context the term "come alongside" means to berth in a naval harbour.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether his Department has found it necessary to revise its risk estimates of a nuclear submarine reactor accident either at sea or in dock as a result of faults reported in one of Britain's nuclear-powered submarines;(2) if he has any plans to revise the current risk estimates for the likelihood of a maximum design accident as a primary containment failure of a nuclear submarine in dock; and if he will make a statement with special reference to the spread of radiation emitted in the course of an accident in dock into the atmosphere.

We continue to be guided by the advice of our independent safety advisers on the operation, in accordance with rigorous safety standards, of our nuclear-powered submarines. Submarines alongside have reactors closed down and present no hazard to the public.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if it is necessary for a nuclear submarine to enter a refit berth in order for an inspection to be carried out;(2) how many refit berths there are for nuclear submarines; and whether there is sufficient refit berth capacity to make inspections of the nuclear submarine fleet without unnecessary delay.

It is not our practice to release details of our nuclear refit capacity. However, a refit berth is not required for the current inspections being carried out on our nuclear submarines.