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MoD reveals nuclear sub incidents

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MoD reveals nuclear sub incidents

Postby U-5075 » Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:48 pm

MoD reveals nuclear sub incidents

There have been 14 collisions involving British nuclear submarines since 1988 and 237 fires on board the fleet of vessels, the government has revealed.

February's collision between HMS Vanguard and French sub Le Triomphant was the sole recorded collision with another naval vessel, the MoD said.

Of the fires, 213 were classified as small-scale, needing minimal resources to put out, while 21 were more serious.

The SNP, which requested the details, called them "extremely disturbing".

'One too many'

The information was published in a written statement by Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth.

HMS Vanguard's collision with its French counterpart in heavy seas in February was the most serious incident of its kind for two decades.

The two submarines were badly damaged in the collision, which occurred at low speed, but no-one was injured and the Royal Navy insisted that nuclear security was never compromised.

The other incidents consisted of groundings, collisions with fishing vessels and HMS Tireless's coming together with an iceberg while on arctic patrol in 2003.


In 40 years of maintaining the submarine fleet, the MoD said its nuclear security had never been endangered.

"Our submarines are built to be extremely robust and designed to withstand the hazards associated with operating under the oceans," a spokesman said.

"Whilst we would never be complacent about any incident, it should be noted that the vast majority of fires that have occurred were very minor and had no impact on people and submarine operations."

But the SNP said the "catalogue" of incidents raised "serious concerns" about the safety of the fleet.

"Last month's mid-Atlantic collision between HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant was serious enough," said the SNP's defence spokesman Angus Robertson.

"But this diary of near disasters is extremely disturbing. One collision is too many, especially when it involves a submarine carrying weapons of mass destruction."

The number on-board fires in the past 20 years was "equally grave", he added.

Trident debate

The MoD described the 213 "small-scale" fires as "localised" incidents, such as a minor electrical fault, "dealt with quickly and effectively using minimal onboard resources".

In contrast, the 21 "medium-scale" fires were caused by the failure of mechanical equipment, "requiring use of significant onboard resources".

Three further fires broke out while vessels were docked at a naval base.

The SNP opposes the £20bn replacement of the Trident missile system with a new seaborne nuclear capacity, approved by Labour ministers in 2006.

MPs warned last month the timetable for replacing two submarines, set to be decommissioned, by 2024 was very tight.

Successive governments since 1968 have been committed to a continuous nuclear deterrent at sea, requiring at least one nuclear-armed submarine to be on patrol at any one time.
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Postby U-5075 » Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:46 pm

Here's an article detailing one of the Brit nuclear sub incidents above. ... 40,00.html

Brits' nuclear sub accident surfaces
Cameron Stewart | April 08, 2009

Article from: The Australian
A BRITISH nuclear-powered submarine with 130 crew crashed into Australia's continental shelf off the coast of Perth in a potentially deadly accident that was covered up at the time.

The incident caused a 5200-tonne Royal Navy attack submarine, HMS Trenchant, armed with cruise missiles, to become "grounded" off Rottnest Island in July 1997, according to information just released in the British parliament.

The accident was one of 13 collisions involving Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarines since 1988 and was released last week by Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth.

"HMS Trenchant grounded off the coast of Australia in July 1997," was the only detail provided by Mr Ainsworth.

The submarine is not believed to have been carrying nuclear weapons, although it was armed with Tomahawk missiles and heavyweight torpedoes.

The incident, which was not reported publicly in Australia at the time, occurred when the British submarine crew misjudged the seabed as it approached the continental shelf off Perth.

One former Australian submariner who saw internal navy reports on the incident said: "They basically kept 200m depth and were on their way to Fremantle and were surprised when they ran into the continental shelf."

Another former submariner said the British crew had no idea what had happened until they heard a loud scraping noise.

"The submarine was travelling at depth when it rubbed a sloping patch of sea floor," he said. "The crew took some time to actually work out what was going on."

Such a serious incident would have been the subject of a classified investigation.

A Defence spokesman confirmed the incident yesterday, saying HMS Trenchant became "grounded at a shallow grazing angle" on the continental shelf, west of Rottnest Island, during a submarine exercise.

The submarine eventually managed to propel itself off the ocean floor and sailed into Gage Roads at Cockburn Sound, south of Perth, where divers inspected the hull.

The submarine was later cleared to continue its mission.

HMS Trenchant, which entered service in 1989, is one of the Royal Navy's most advanced nuclear fleet submarines. Carrying 130 crew, it is run by nuclear reactor-powering steam turbines and deploys for up to five months at a time around the world.

It was involved in one of the Royal Navy's worst accidents, in November 1990, when it snagged the nets of the fishing vessel Antares off Scotland, pulling the ship under with the loss of all four members of the crew.

The grounding incident involving HMS Trenchant off Rottnest Island was not far from the site of Australia's most serious submarine accident in February 2003, when an on-board flood crippled the Collins-class submarine HMAS Dechaineux.

On that occasion, a burst seawater hose caused more than 12,000 litres of water to flood into the submarine, bringing it within 20 seconds of sinking to the bottom of the Indian Ocean with its 55 crew.

The accident nearly drowned a submariner, Geordie Bunting, and forced commanders to permanently restrict the diving depth of its Collins-class fleet, undermining its operational effectiveness.

The loss of the Dechaineux would have been the worst submarine disaster since Russian submarine the Kursk sank in the Barents Sea in August 2000 with the loss of all 118 crew members.
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Postby U-5075 » Thu Apr 16, 2009 3:33 pm

Here's the list of the 14 collisions in 21 years, the most recent one and then the other 13 below.

Nuclear subs involved in 14 collisions in 21 years
SNP Westminster Leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP has expressed concern following an admission by the Ministry of Defence that UK nuclear submarines had been involved in 14 collisions since 1979. Parliamentary Questions also revealed that there had been 213 fires onboard nuclear submarines.

Commenting, Mr Robertson said:

"Last month’s mid-Atlantic collision between HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant was serious enough, but this diary of near disasters is extremely disturbing.

"One collision is one too many - especially when it involves a submarine carrying weapons of mass destruction. The possible consequences do not bear thinking about.

"Revelations that there have been more than 200 fires aboard nuclear submarines over the past twenty years are equally grave.

"Majority opinion in Scotland is opposed to the Trident weapons system based on the Clyde and this worrying catalogue of incidents raises serious concerns safety concerns.

"This comes on top of a procurement debacle which has seen the MoD unable to answer basic questions as to whether new missiles will fit in the replacement Trident submarines. The credibility of the nuclear deterrent is in tatters.

"Now, more than ever, the time is right to remove nuclear weapons from our waters."

The full text of Mr Robertson’s questions, and the MoD’s responses can be found below:

Nuclear Submarines

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what collisions involving a UK nuclear powered submarine and (a) another submarine, (b) another naval vessel, (c) a private vessel and (d) a merchant vessel have taken place since 1979; (2) what grounding incidents involving UK nuclear-powered submarines have taken place since 1979.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Royal Navy has no records of collisions between nuclear powered submarines and other submarines and naval vessels, other than the recent incident involving HMS Vanguard and the French submarine Le Triomphant.

The full list of incidents of collisions involving Royal Navy nuclear powered submarines for which the Royal Navy holds records is as follows:

HMS Superb grounding in the Red Sea in May 2008.

HMS Tireless struck an iceberg while on Arctic Patrol in May 2003.

HMS Trafalgar grounded on Fladda-chuain in November 2002.

HMS Triumph grounded in November 2000.

HMS Victorious grounded, while surfaced, on Skelmorlie Bank in November 2000.

HMS Trenchant grounded off the coast of Australia in July 1997.

HMS Repulse grounded in the North Channel in July 1996.

HMS Trafalgar grounded off the Isle of Sky in July 1996.

HMS Valliant grounded in the North Norwegian Sea in March 1991.

HMS Trenchant snagged the fishing vessel Antares in the Arran Trench in November 1990.

HMS Spartan grounded west of Scotland in October 1989.

HMS Sceptre snagged the fishing vessel Scotia in November 1989.

HMS Conqueror collided with the yacht Dalriada off the Northern Irish coast in July 1988.

All the vessels, apart from HMS Superb, which was decommissioned in October 2008, were repaired and returned to service.

Information is not held centrally for the period 1979-88 and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what fires have taken place on UK nuclear powered submarines since 1979.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The records of fire incidents onboard UK nuclear submarines are not held centrally prior to 1 January 1987. Since this date the Royal Navy records provide the following information: 213 small scale fires, that are categorised as a localised fire such as a minor electrical fault creating smoke dealt with quickly and effectively using minimal onboard resources.

21 medium scale fires that were generally categorised as a localised fire such as a failure of mechanical equipment creating smoke and flame requiring use of significant onboard resources. Three fires occurred while the submarines involved were in naval bases, requiring both ship and external resources.
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