SAFETY fears have been raised after a hole was discovered in the hull of a nuclear submarine berthed in the Firth of Forth.Apparently, HMS Revenge has been quietly rusting away for a couple of decades, now, ever since she was decommissioned. US subs eventually go through a recycling program; I gather the Brits haven't developed one of their own.
The hole – about the size of a fist – was found during routine checks on the decommissioned sub HMS Revenge at Rosyth Dockyard.
The vessel is one of seven redundant nuclear subs stored at Rosyth by the Royal Navy since the early 1980s.
The breach, discovered during a routine inspection in February, was in one of six external ballast tanks of the Polaris submarine, and was immediately sealed by Navy engineers.
Although weapons and high-level radioactive fuel have long since been removed from the submarines, successive governments have failed to come up with a safe way of disposing of the radioactive reactor compartments, which remain at the centre of the subs.
A hole in a main ballast tank would be annoying, but not terribly dangerous if fixed quickly (as this one apparently was). The worst case scenario would be that the boat would lose some freeboard - but five MBTs would still provide plenty of reserve buoyancy, and being tied up next to the pier is about the best possible place for a casualty like this to occur.
OTOH, it's the sort of thing that sounds bad, especially to folks who don't like nuclear anythings anyway. And from what I hear, the MoD has more than enough other issues on its plate; the last thing they're likely to do is stump up more funding for preventive maintenance on decommissioned warships.
And, at least it's not as bad as an article I saw on the BBC website a while back. Apparently, HMS Alliance (a WWII boat that's the feature exhibit at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum) has rusted out badly enough that a flock of pigeons has moved in.