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Sub defueling and dismantling project slipping further & further behind schedule

Warship Technology: May 2019Sub defueling

A report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) in April 2019 issued a stinging appraisal of efforts to dispose of the submarines.


The NAO report said the Ministry of Defence now stores twice as many submarines as it operates, with seven having been in storage for longer than they were in service.


The Ministry of Defence first aimed to have a disposal process that would operate from 2011 but now estimates to roll-out its dismantling approach by 2026. It has spent an estimated £0.5 billion since 1980 on storing and maintaining its retired submarines.


Since 2004, it has not defueled any submarines and does not have a fully funded plan to re-start the work. Nine out of 20 out-of-service submarines contain nuclear fuel which needs to be removed using nuclear-regulator approved dock infrastructure and facilities that are not yet ready or likely to be for several years.


In 2004, the Office for Nuclear Regulation found facilities in Devonport did not meet the latest regulatory standards and the Department stopped defueling submarines. Following delays its latest planning estimate, subject to ongoing scrutiny and departmental approval, is to start defueling from 2023, an 11-year delay.