Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Troubled UK nuclear submarine set to return to service

Royal Navy nuclear submarine approaching GibraltarThe first of two British nuclear submarines barred from sailing for months after safety concerns about their reactors is set to return to service.

HMS Torbay and HMS Tireless were restricted to port because of possible risks posed by manufacturing flaws in their reactors, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram recently revealed.

Torbay is set to return to service this month while Tireless needs another year of work and testing, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said yesterday.

“HMS Torbay’s sea trials will finish shortly, and it’s hoped that the submarine will return to its fleet by the end of July,” he said.

The Royal Navy has five other hunter-killer Trafalgar Class submarines.

“We do not expect the rest of the boats to be affected,” the spokesman said, adding the problems uncovered were unique to the two. He did not elaborate and engine maker Rolls-Royce, which designed the reactors, declined to comment.

Second Incident

This marks the second incident involving Tireless, following a controversial coolant leak in 2000 which forced it to make an emergency port call in Gibraltar, where it stayed for almost a year. That sparked inspections of all the submarines, which they passed and Tireless returned to service. But improved diagnostic equipment revealed potential problems on Torbay last year and more recently on Tireless, the spokesman said.

Potential risks were found in their nuclear reactors, Armed Forces Minister Ingram said in written answers to parliament last week.

“(They) centred on the potential effect of a number of small manufacturing imperfections in their nuclear reactor plant,” he wrote.

“The latest information on material properties and component stress values showed an increased theoretical risk of failure.”

Trafalgar Class submarines were introduced in the 1980s and carry a crew of 130. The newest of them is expected to be in service past 2020. The first of them, HMS Trafalgar, ran aground off the coast of Scotland in 2002, injuring two crew members and forcing 15 months of repair work. In a rare incident, 11 of the crew were put ashore last year during sea trials after expressing concerns about the vessel’s safety.

Related Article:

17 June 2005 - Nuclear subs in the dock over safety fears


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