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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Minister reveals £120m will be spent on nuclear sub’s reactor

BRITAIN’S oldest nuclear submarine, Barrow-built HMS Vanguard, is to have its reactor refuelled at a cost of £120m after a test reactor operating in Scotland was found to have a small internal leak of radiation.

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refuelling Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, inset announced that the nuclear submarine, HMS Vanguard, is to have her nuclear reactor refuelled after a test reactor in Scotland developed a small leak

A further £150m will be spent on equipment to ensure other nuclear submarines can also be refuelled if needed.

The defence secretary, Philip Hammond told the House of Commons that the test nuclear reactor in Dounreay had been run for longer and at higher intensity than the reactors installed on the Vanguard and Astute-class submarines to identify any use or age-related restrictions in the design.

He told MPs yesterday that in January 2012, radiation was found in the cooling water around the test reactor – something which would not normally happen.

A microscopic breach in metal cladding around the test reactor’s core is thought to be to blame but Mr Hammond said it was not clear how this came about.

The refuelling of HMS Vanguard will take place during its next scheduled “deep maintenance period”, due to last three-and-a-half years from 2015.

Mr Hammond told MPs there was no sign that the problem had ever occurred in one of the reactors installed on a British submarine and emphasised the confidence of the Ministry of Defence that such a problem would be immediately detected.

Mr Hammond said a decision on refuelling the next-oldest submarine, HMS Victorious, would not need to be taken until 2018. To keep the option open, £150m will need to be spent to ensure the task can be carried out in Britain.

But Mr Hammond came under fire from Labour’s shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker who questioned what he claimed was a delay in telling parliament the news.

Mr Coaker said in the Commons, following the announcement: “Why now this statement? And why is the House only being told today?

“Do you not think it would have been right to brief the official opposition spokesman on defence then?

“There must be public confidence in the government to be open and transparent on these matters.

“A fault, however small, that develops in a nuclear reactor is something that the British people and this house should have been told about.”

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