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MOD propose increase to Faslane waste

The Ministry of Defence are proposing to increase the amount of radioactive waste they discharge from Faslane and Coulport. An article by Rob Edwards in the Sunday Herald explains how this is the result of a projected in increase in the number of nuclear submarines at the base.

This comes just a week after the announcement that  the MOD had kept secret for two years a radiation leak at the Trident prototype reactor in Dounreay. Following this incident the Scottish Government said they would introduce legislation to strengthen the powers of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA). 

Faslane is currently the base for all Trident nuclear-armed submarines. It is also home to the growing fleet of Astute class submarines. Three Trafalgar class submarines are due to move to the Clyde base by 2017. The Astute and Trafalgar class boats are nuclear-powered, but armed with conventional weapons. 

If there is a NO vote in September then there will be a significant increase in radioactive discharges as a result of the increasing number of nuclear subs at the base. However, if Scotland votes YES, then Trident will go by 2020 and all nuclear-powered subs will leave by 2026.  

Last year SEPA began a consultation into future discharges from Faslane and Coulport. In September 2013 Scottish CND made a submission to this consultation. The agency has not yet made a decision about new discharge limits and will discuss the matter with stakeholders, including the Scottish government.

Scottish CND coordinator, John Ainslie, said: "This is not the time for an informal gentleman's agreement. After being bullied by the MOD at Dounreay, SEPA should wait until the Scottish Parliament gives them full power. Then they should set enforceable limits for discharges from Faslane. If Scotland votes Yes - Trident and all nuclear submarines will go. The limits for nuclear discharges can then be reduced to zero.

 Scottish Green Party MSP Patrick Harvie called on SEPA to challenge the "environmental arrogance" of the MOD. He said: "We must give our regulator the teeth to get stuck in when necessary. I would urge SEPA and the Scottish government to forget the so-called gentleman's agreement and instead enforce a proper system of controls."

In a related development, Defence Minister Philip Hammond made a bungled attempt to correct a misleading statement that he gave to Parliament. On 6 March he said there had been no measurable change in radioactive discharges from the MOD reactor at Dounreay, following the leak in January 2012. Figures from SEPA showed that this was wrong. 

On 11 March Hammond published in Hansard a correction, saying that he meant to say "no measurable change in the alpha-emitting particulate discharge" from Dounreay. But this is still misleading because, as SEPA have made clear, the MOD site is not permitted to discharge any alpha radiation.

First Minister Alex Salmond said, "Even in the correction, there still seems to be a dedication to obfuscation and to concealing information". 



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