16 November 2000 Edition

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Defective nuclear subs returned to duty

The Chief Minister of the government of the Isle of Man is to raise the issue of the nuclear submarines recall which occurred last month with his British opposite number.

The Celtic League had written to the Manx and Dublin governments pointing out that British nuclear submarines continued to operate in the Irish sea despite the identification of a generic fault on a submarine berthed in Gibraltar and deemed to unsafe to move. The issue was also raised with the Scottish and Welsh authorities, who have referred it to the Ministry of Defence for answer.

The British nuclear submarine force operates extensively in the waters off the west of the British Isles and also in the comparatively confined areas of the Irish and Celtic sea. In the days prior to the recall of the entire Swiftsure class, there were reports of operations by the type in the submarine exercise area to the south of the Isle of Man, off the County Louth coast.

The defect discovered in the submarine tied up in Gibraltar is now admitted to be prevalent throughout the fleet. Once they are docked with reactors shut down, the problem is containable. However, on vessels at sea it could trigger a ``catastrophic failure'' in the reactor followed by a radioactive leak. Since the recall, several of the type have returned to operational duties. There is a suspicion that Britain had to bend safety rules as its entire fleet was decommissioned. Embarrasingly, in the last week of October the only operational British patrol submarine was a vessel on charter from the German navy!

Paradoxically, as the vessels return to operations in the Irish and Celtic sea, the EU has raised concerns about the safety implications of the type.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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