RUNAWAY SUB IN NUKE SCARE AT SCOTS YARD : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

NEWS published 12.02am Monday, March 06, 2000


Scotland was seconds from its own Chernobyl, say protesters

A NUCLEAR sub-marine was within seconds of disaster after running out of control at a Scots dockyard. HMS Sceptre's engines powered up without warning during repair work and the 3500-ton sub lurched forward towards the dock wall.

Workers and anti-nuclear campaigners claim the incident could have sparked a Chernobyl-style meltdown.

One member of staff at Rosyth naval dockyard said: "If it had hit the dock and cracked the reactor, then that would have been goodnight Scotland."

The nuclear-powered vessel pulled a huge dockyard crane off its tracks, broke free of its moorings and caused thousands of pounds worth of damage before it was brought under control.

Last night, a full investigation was being carried out.

But bosses at the Fife yard insisted there had been no danger to the public.

The 300ft hunter-killer submarine was undergoing tests in its dock when it suddenly shot forward and turned almost 30 degrees in the water.

One man claimed it could have overturned and filled with water through its open hatches, drowning the handful of men working inside.

Staff said steam pipes used to power the sub were ripped open and the one-and-a-half inch thick wires which held it the vessel place snapped under the pressure.

The flying wires narrowly missed staff watching from the dockside.

One worker said: "I have no idea what caused the incident but something kicked in and the system has been over-ridden.

"This was as close to a major incident as you could get."

Last night, the Ministry of Defence said the accident happened during testing of the main engines and shaft, using steam power.

But they said the reactor was shut down at the time and claimed nuclear safety had not been compromised.

A spokesman said: "On ordering minimum revs ahead, on remote throttles, the main engines oversped, causing the submarine to break its moorings. At no time were personnel, either civilian or military, injured, and at no time was nuclear safety compromised.''

However, Tony Southall, secretary of CND Scotland, said: "The consequences of an accident so close to a capital city and other areas of population are unthinkable.

"When a leak occurs and particles escape you cannot see them.

"Nuclear radiation is a hidden killer and it could cover Fife or Edinburgh or blow back to Glasgow. The whole of central Scotland would be affected in the worst case."

Dr Richard Dixon, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, called for a complete ban on nuclear weapons in Scottish waters.

He added: "There needs to be a thorough investigation into this incident to find out exactly what happened."

Fife MSP Tricia Marwick, of the SNP, also demanded an inquiry and added: "This calls into question the whole refitting programme. They cannot put people's lives at risk."

HMS Sceptre arrived at the yard 18 months ago for a pounds 154million refit which is due to be completed this summer.

It is equipped with a nuclear reactor so it can patrol continuously at high speeds without surfacing.

However, its torpedoes and missiles were offloaded before the refit started.

The yard is run for the MoD by Babcock Rosyth Defence Ltd.

Yesterday, a spokesman for them denied the vessel had broken free from its moorings and said that at no time had there been any danger to the public.

And he stressed that the nuclear reactor had been shut down at the time of the accident.

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-- Carl Jenkins (, March 06, 2000

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