South Scotland

Chapelcross nuclear site: Submarine waste role assessed

Image caption Chapelcross is one of five sites which could store radioactive waste from redundant submarines

An MSP has warned a Scottish site could become a "nuclear graveyard" if it is chosen to store radioactive waste from redundant Royal Navy submarines

Chapelcross, near Annan, is one of five possible locations across the UK.

South of Scotland Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume said he hoped people would get involved in consultation and reject any plans to use Chapelcross.

The UK government has pledged that public opinion will be taken into account in deciding the final location.

Public meetings on the issue will get under way in the Dumfries and Galloway town this weekend.

The other sites being considered are Capenhurst in Cheshire, Sellafield in west Cumbria and Aldermaston and Burghfield, both in Berkshire.

Chapelcross
Image caption The landmark cooling towers at Chapelcross came down in 2007

Consultation will run until February around all the locations on the shortlist.

Ministers are planning that waste from nuclear-powered submarines which have left service would be stored at one of the sites until "some time after 2040" when the UK's deep level underground waste dump is available.

When the consultation was launched, Defence Minister Philip Dunne said : "We value the views of those who have something to say about the submarine dismantling project.

"All of them will be considered properly as part of our decision-making process.

"After consultation we will publish a report on our findings and after we have selected a site, we will explain why we reached that decision."

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Chapelcross site details (Source: UK government consultation)

  • The Chapelcross site is situated close to the village of Creca approximately 2km north of the town of Annan
  • Location is a rural area which was originally an RAF airfield, converted for use as a Magnox nuclear power station in 1955
  • The site is approximately 5km from the northern coast of the Solway Firth
  • Nuclear Licensed Site covers approximately 92 hectares
  • The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has confirmed that a store could be accommodated within the existing boundary of the Nuclear Licensed Site
  • Landmark cooling towers were demolished in 2007 and the reactors were defuelled in early 2013
  • Decommissioning of remaining non-reactor facilities is scheduled to start in 2023 and continue until the site enters the full care and maintenance phase in 2028
  • Final site clearance is scheduled to commence at the end of the care and maintenance phase in 2089 with all remaining structures on the site cleared by 2095

Dumfriesshire's Conservative MP David Mundell has urged the public to take part in the meetings at the Victoria Halls in Annan this Friday and Saturday or a further meeting in the town on 15 January.

"Obviously we need to be reassured on any safety concerns, but I also want more information on jobs and any positive economic impact," he said.

"This area has a proud nuclear history stretching back nearly 60 years and a workforce skilled in decommissioning, so this proposal is certainly worthy of consideration for any benefit it might bring to the area.

"However, I will be looking to local people to give the definitive verdict."

Image caption The final structures at Chapelcross are not expected to be removed until 2095

Mr Hume said he hoped the public would come to the conclusion they did not want the waste stored in southern Scotland.

He said communities around the possible sites would not be looking forward to the "very real prospect" of becoming a "nuclear dumping ground".

He said if Chapelcross was selected it ran the risk of becoming a "nuclear graveyard" with concerns for public safety and the impact on tourism and the environment.

"Those are very real concerns," he said.

"What's particularly worrying is the vague assurance that the waste would be relocated to the permanent deep level underground dump facility, but not before 2040."

The Scottish government has already stated its opposition to the move and south of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine echoed those concerns.

"I would be concerned that any plans for job creation could be jeopardised by the UK government's plans to store nuclear waste at the site - quite apart from the safety issues which are, of course, of the highest importance," she said.

"The Scottish government will be continuing to make the case that waste arising from the MoD submarine dismantling projects in Rosyth and Devonport should be stored elsewhere and the MoD consultation document identifies other potential storage locations, including MoD sites."

Dumfriesshire MSP, Labour's Elaine Murray, said she did not believe the Scottish site would be selected.

"I have no doubt that if Chapelcross was selected the local workforce would ensure the safe storage of the Reactor Pressure Vessels," she said.

"However, I would be surprised if it is ultimately chosen.

"It seems that it is on the shortlist primarily because all existing nuclear sites that meet the criteria are included."

She called for the Scottish government to invest in creating a centre for energy excellence at the site as the "best legacy" for it.

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