- 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
- Navy chiefs are worried that the Victorious
fault may be generic and will be found on the two other Trident subs in
- 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
- "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
- 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."