The nuclear reactor in HMS Vanguard is to be refuelled, the Defence Secretary has announced. The decision comes after low levels of radioactivity were detected in a prototype core that has been running at the Naval Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay in Scotland since 2002.
In an oral statement to the House of Commons, the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, has announced his decision to refuel the nuclear reactor in HMS Vanguard during its planned deep maintenance period which begins in 2015.
The purpose of the prototype core test is to help assess how the reactor cores within submarines will perform over time. It has therefore been run for significantly longer periods and at a significantly higher intensity than those cores of the same type in submarines to allow MOD to identify early any age- or use-related issues that may arise later in the lives of the operational reactor cores.
The refuelling of HMS Vanguard will enable her to operate successfully and safely in the future.
During his statement, Philip Hammond said:
"The safety of the UK’s naval nuclear reactor at the test establishment at Dounreay and on our submarines is of critical importance to us, as is the maintenance of continuous at-sea deterrence. That is why I have taken the decision to apply the precautionary principle, even though there is no evidence at this stage that the problem detected with the test reactor is likely to present in the operational reactors."
"The refuelling will be conducted within the currently planned dry dock maintenance period for Vanguard, which starts in late 2015 and will last for around 3-and-a-half years, and is therefore expected to have no impact on deterrent operations. The additional cost of refuelling Vanguard is estimated to be around £120 million over the next 6 years."