From five shortlisted sites, and following a thorough public consultation process, Capenhurst Nuclear Services in Capenhurst in Cheshire has been selected as the MOD’s recommendation, with AWE Aldermaston in Berkshire chosen as a fall back.
Like all the sites shortlisted, operators Capenhurst Nuclear Services, already manage radioactive materials, and was found to meet the Submarine Dismantling Project’s (SDP) requirements best, including offering value for money.
The site at Capenhurst will be responsible for storing the Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs), classified as Intermediate Level radioactive Waste (ILW) from decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines. Reactor Pressure Vessels are thick steel containers that held nuclear fuel when the reactors operated. The site will store these on an interim basis until permanent disposal in a UK Geological Disposal Facility (GDF), led by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, some time after 2040.
There are two options at CNS, Capenhurst to store submarine RPVs; the option that MOD will be taking forward, is to use an existing facility, with a second on-site contingency option of constructing a new store also available.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne said:
When submarines in the Royal Navy fleet reach the end of their lives, we need to dispose of them in a way that is safe, secure and environmentally sound.
We have worked closely with the local communities around potential sites to listen carefully to their views, and the opinions and feedback we received has played an important part in formulating our final decision.
With Capenhurst as our recommended site, we know that the radioactive waste from our decommissioned submarines will be dealt with properly and responsibly.
The MOD has 19 former Royal Navy nuclear submarines currently stored afloat in Devonport and Rosyth, but the submarines can only be completely dismantled once the radioactive material and components have been safely removed. A further eight submarines that are currently still in service will also be dismantled under the Submarine Dismantling Project when they reach the end of their service lives, with the initial dismantling process supporting up to 60 skilled jobs.
All the shortlisted sites were considered fairly and equally, with the MOD looking at the factors including environmental and value for money, alongside the feedback gathered as part of the public consultation. When all this was taken into account, CNS, Capenhurst was found to meet the Project’s requirements best overall.