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3rd February 2002, marchers at the Devenport Dockyards as the first Trident submarines come there for refitting. Pic: Simon Chapman.

Substandard Safety

Dockyard gets go ahead to turn south west city into nuclear dustbin

by Roy Norris

AFTER AN eight-month "investigation", on the 6th November 2001 the Environment Agency announced that the Plymouth Devonport dockyard's owners - DML - can increase the amount of radioactive tritium it discharges into the nearby River Tamar by nearly 700 per cent. All this in a city of 270,000 people.

On top of that the dockyard is about to begin a programme of refitting Vanguard-class nuclear submarines, a process which will see radiation leaking into the river and the atmosphere for at least the next ten years. Already four scrapped nuclear submarines are stored afloat there - three of which have already had their spent fuel removed leaving the highly contaminated reactors intact and radioactive waste remaining on board. The Navy has also confirmed that all subsequent submarines could be decommissioned there; which will see 20 scrapped nuclear submarines lolling about in the area. Each one carries - not counting the spent fuel - around 160 tonnes of radioactive waste. This will effectively make Plymouth the MoD's national radioactive waste dump.

Recently declassified reports from the Nuclear Powered Warships Safety Committee written in 1965 state: "...the Committee could not recommend Devonport as an acceptable site for a refitting yard for nuclear submarines" because of its proximity to peoples' homes. More recently independent nuclear consultant, John Large, has said he sees 'no substantive change' in safety arrangements at the dockyard since 1965. And in fact there's a new variable - sure to put people at ease: the dock facility was sold into private hands in March 1997 to the only bidder, DML (Devonport Management Limited) at a bargain price.

The largest shareholder in DML is a US company - Brown and Root - who achieved notoriety in the early 1990's when it became subject to the largest lawsuit in US history after it was discovered that the concrete reactor casing in a nuclear power plant in Texas it was involved in constructing was full of air-holes. Brown and Root is owned by American multi-national Halliburton whose Chief Executive is Dick Cheney, US vice President.

Plymouth Dump Information Group, tel. O1752 337 482.