There was mixed reaction on Thursday night when it was disclosed that Rosyth could be set to be the chosen base for dismantling nuclear submarines.
The move would see the west Fife site remove medium-level reactor contaminationcompartments from what it is believed to be around 27 submarines.
MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Murdo Fraser gave his support to the possible move and said it would be “fantastic news” for Fife — but local politicians Councillor Bill Walker and Ian Chisholm both expressed concern at what may happen with the contaminated waste.
Devonport in Plymouth won the contract to refit the Trident submarine fleet in 1993.
Seven decommissioned submarines are currently at Rosyth and The Courier previously revealed that two of them sprang leaks in their outer hulls. The leaks were subsequently plugged.
It has been estimated that it costs the Ministry of Defence (MoD) around £1 million to store the submarines at Rosyth and now it has emerged that the Submarine Dismantling Project (SDP) has proposed Rosyth and Devonport as possible sites for dismantling additional nuclear submarines. Rosyth has a licensed store on its site.
The purpose of the SDP is to develop a solution for the disposal of the UK’s nuclear submarines after they have left service with the Royal Navy.
A statement issued by the SDP says, “The Submarine Dismantling Project is consulting certain government bodies on a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) that identifies and considers any potentially significant environmental effects of submarine dismantling activities.
“This second stage of statutory consultation will consider the detailed scope of the SEA including the names of potential candidate sites for the removal of the radioactive elements of the submarine — a process called ‘initial dismantling.’ These sites are Devonport and Rosyth royal dockyards.
“A further period of environmental assessment and analysis of the various options for submarine dismantling will follow statutory consultation to confirm the candidate sites for initial dismantling. This work will form the basis for public consultation which we are currently planning to undertake in the second half of 2011.
“Decisions on the project will only be taken once the MoD has completed its analysis, taking into account the SEA and public consultation responses.”
Mr Fraser said he believed it would be a massive boost to Fife if the contract came to Rosyth and stressed he has lodged a parliamentary motion backing Rosyth as the chosen base.
“It would be fantastic news for the Fife economy and the workforce based at the Rosyth dockyard if Rosyth was awarded the Submarine Dismantling Project,” he told The Courier. “This is a massive project and the MoD has identified either Rosyth or Devonport in England as the two potential sites.
“If Rosyth was awarded this project then it would be another boost to the area after retaining the aircraft carrier contract.
“As outlined in my parliamentary motion, Rosyth is home to one of the most highly skilled workforces for this type of work. We have a proud history in Fife working with the Royal Navy and I will continue to stand up for the local area and the local economy.”
Mr Fraser’s parliamentary motion reads: “That the Parliament notes that the Ministry of Defence has named Rosyth Royal Dockyard as one of the two potential sites for the Submarine Dismantling Project, along with Devonport Royal Dockyard; notes that the project has been established to dismantle 27 de-fuelled nuclear submarines after they have left service with the Royal Navy; believes that, should Rosyth be awarded the contract, it would bring a massive economic boost to Rosyth, Fife and Scotland; further believes that Rosyth is home to one of the most highly skilled workforces suited for this type of work and that there is a proud history and connection in Fife to the Royal Navy, and hopes that Rosyth is successful in winning the Submarine Dismantling Project.”
However, the move was not welcomed by some local politicians, with Councillor Bill Walker, one of the representatives for the West Fife and coastal villages ward, saying he felt the submarines should be “towed away safely” to another area.
“I am not happy with this at all,” he said. “The existing subs at Rosyth are part of the UK Royal Navy and until such time as we know where they will bury this medium-level contamination, I will not be content with this.
“The term ‘dismantling’ is misleading as it’s not about breaking up the subs. It is about taking out medium-level radioactive contamination – the kind you get at hospitals and power stations.
“But you have the horrible possibility that the contamination could be buried around Rosyth and that would be a whole new problem as it could be dangerous. The contamination could be kept here for thousands of years, which is not good news at all for Rosyth.
“The SNP group on Fife Council are putting together a paper on this and it will be put to committee stage next month.”
Councillor Ian Chisholm, the SNP prospective parliamentary candidate for the Cowdenbeathward, which includes Rosyth, said something had to be done about the submarines, describing them as an “eyesore.”
“We have to do something with these hulks and we cannot continue to stick our heads in the sand,” he said. “I would not be against the irradiated parts of the hull being dismantled here in Rosyth, which could provide much-needed jobs.
“However, I am totally opposed to these parts being stored locally and would need reassurances that the longer-term storage of these parts would be at the facility in Cumbria.
“I would also want the hulls themselves to be towed away for breaking up at one of the commercial breakers’ yards. They have been an eyesore and a potential threat for far too long here and, considering they were never serviced here, brought little benefit to the local economy.”