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Nuclear Waste

Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 25 November 2009

4. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister and Ministry of Defence officials on the storage of nuclear waste from the decommissioned nuclear submarines moored at Rosyth; and if he will make a statement. (300127)

Our Office is in frequent contact with the Ministry of Defence, and the MOD is in regular contact with Scottish Government officials regarding this issue. No decisions on siting have yet been taken either for submarine dismantling or for waste storage.

The hazardous life of some forms of plutonium exceeds a quarter of a million years, so thousands of generations of people in Ayrshire, Fife and Caithness may have to live with the presence of a toxic nuclear dump on their doorstep. Do these intolerable risks not show that the Trident programme should be abandoned, not salami-sliced, and the £100 billion saved invested in more socially useful projects in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the MOD is committed to a safe, secure and cost-effective solution regarding dismantling submarines. The radiological risk to the general public is assessed as extremely low and it will remain so—but we are committed to ensuring that there is a full public consultation at national level with all areas that may be identified as potential sites.

The patience of people in West Fife is wearing thin, because we have had these submarines for 25 years and we lost the Trident refuelling contract in the ’90s. We want rid of these submarines, and we want rid of them now. Will the Minister tell the Defence Secretary that when she next meets him?

I think it important to say to the hon. Gentleman that we must take care to have a full assessment of and full consultation on the various options for dismantling and storage. We are committed to carrying this out during 2010, and the MOD will take notice of any concerns raised by local communities.

In advance of the Scottish National party’s publication of its independence White Paper next week, we should acknowledge the contribution to the Scottish economy made by the British submarine base at Faslane. Does the Minister agree that an independent Scotland would have a minimal defence capability and that the 3,000 jobs linked to that base would be put immediately at risk?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will have heard the recent comments of Mr. Jim Sillars regarding current SNP defence policy. It is clear that the cost of independence to Scotland in jobs would be extremely high, and that many skills would be lost as a result.