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Sub Design Flaw Vindicates Critics Of NZ Enquiry

PRESS RELEASE: 31 OCTOBER 2000

UK NUCLEAR SUBMARINE REACTOR "HOURS FROM MELTDOWN":
DESIGN FLAW VINDICATES CRITICS OF NZ ENQUIRY WHITEWASH

The following report, from last Saturday’s UK Guardian newspaper, shows that critics of the 1992 report of the Special Committee on Nuclear Propulsion were justified in voicing concerns about the safety of UK nuclear-powered submarines. The Committee, appointed by the National Government to try to overturn the clause in the 1987 Nuclear Free Act prohibiting nuclear powered warships from NZ ports, ridiculed objectors’ submissions as “myths”.

Ex-British Navy Commander Rob Green says: “It dismissed evidence, which I provided, of coolant pipe leaks in UK nuclear submarines which were so serious even in 1991 that the Navy’s own watchdog committee had banned them from foreign port visits.” On a 1992 speaking tour, he showed public meetings throughout the country a copy of Thames TV’s documentary about this, called Polaris in Deep Water.

Cdr Green, who with his wife Dr Kate Dewes coordinates the Peace Foundation’s Disarmament & Security Centre in Christchurch, adds: “Suspicion is now being directed at the US Navy, as the submarine reactor is basically a US design. Have the Americans had a similar problem? If so, what have they done about it – and why haven’t they told the British?” Green also warns that British Defence Ministry assurances that the four UK Trident nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines are unaffected should not be trusted: “They would say that wouldn’t they? Because otherwise it's deep water again for the so-called independent UK nuclear deterrent.”

For more details, contact Rob Green at telephone/fax: 03-348-1353.

* * * * *
Nuclear Sub was Hours from Meltdown
HMS Tireless: How a 'minor defect' could have caused disaster

Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, Saturday October 28, 2000

Only now, more than five months after the Ministry of Defence assured Gibraltarians that it was only a "minor defect", are the full extent and dramatic consequences coming to light. HMS Tireless, which has been moored off the Rock since May, was close to a disaster, its nuclear reactor "at the very point of failure", sources have told the Guardian.

The crack, far more serious than first thought, is understood to be at a critical junction of pipes in the pressurised water reactor's cooling system which cannot be isolated. The navy now recognises it is not simply a question of wear and tear: it is a potentially catastrophic design fault. Asked whether it could have foreseen what it is now suspected is a "generic" problem, navy sources sidestep the question. They respond by repeating the mantra that safety is of "first importance".

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