New Britain Billion Dollar
Nuclear Sub Leaking
Deadly Radiation
The Sunday Mail (Scotland)
From Gerry Lovell <>
One of Britain's new billion-pound Trident nuclear submarines has been hit by radiation leaks.
Now defence chiefs face an agonising choice over what to do about the faults. They will have to decide whether to take Faslane-based HMS Victorious out of service for over six months before carrying out vital repairs costing millions of pounds.
The other option is to keep her on deterrent patrols despite the risk of permanent damage.
Victorious has been in service for just over a year and was recently put on nuclear strike alert as Britain and the US went eyeball-to-eyeball with Saddam Hussein.
It is understood that the leaks are coming from a crack in the sub's reactor shield and the tank containing the reactor. The crack in the reactor shield is emitting lethal gamma radiation.
But there is no danger to sailors because no one is allowed in the reactor compartment while the sub is at sea. Any repairs would have to be carried out while Victorious was docked.
But they would have to wait at least six months to allow the radiation to decay before sending in maintenance workers.
Navy chiefs are worried that the Victorious fault may be generic and will be found on the two other Trident subs in service.
Nuclear engineering expert John Large said last night that any faults with a submarine's nuclear power circuit would mean a repair bill running into millions.
He added: "If they decide to keep the submarine going they will have to assess the level of risk. If you have these kind of leaks, you have to be absolutely sure of the safety implications.
"But my view is that the sub should not be at sea until this is put right.
"This is not a teething problem. It is much more fundamental than that.
"And they will have to gamble that this is not a problem affecting the other two submarines."
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman confirmed the leaks.
She added: "The defect was detected on December 16.
"There will be no increase in radiation as a result of this defect and there is no risk to the general public or the submarine's company. Repairs will be carried out very quickly."