The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a search to find commercially owned sites for the storage of radioactive waste from its fleet of redundant nuclear powered submarines.
During its Submarine Dismantling Consultation in 2011, MoD indicated that intermediate level radioactive waste from dismantled submarines would need to be placed in interim storage before being consigned for storage in the proposed national radioactive waste repository which the government intends to open later this century. Although it was then suggested that the waste would probably be stored on an existing nuclear legacy site owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), MoD is also looking at its own sites and commercially owned sites as potential sites for storage of the waste.
MoD has published a Request for Information in the Defence Contracts Bulletin and the Official Journal of the European Union seeking responses from private owners of nuclear licensed sites in the UK that may, subject to a comprehensive and publicly transparent site selection process, be able to meet its intermediate level waste storage requirements.
Babcock Marine, owners of the Rosyth and Devonport dockyards which are being considered as candidate sites for dismantling of the redundant submarines, has been asked whether areas of these sites would be suitable for storage of intact submarine reactor compartments if a decision is made to store the reactor compartments intact before eventually dismantling them for transfer to the national repository.
Any commercial sites identified and short-listed in response to the Request for Information would then be assessed alongside potential NDA or MoD owned sites for their suitability as storage sites for submarine waste. MoD civil servants emphasise that the site selection process will be a comprehensive and publicly transparent process which would engage local communities in the area of the candidate sites in coming to a decision on the choice of a suitable site.
Declaration of interest: Di McDonald, Chair of the Nuclear Information Service Board of Directors, is a member of the Ministry of Defence Submarine Dismantling Project Advisory Group.