The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament will this Saturday stage a demonstration in Plymouth opposing plans which could see dozens of obsolete nuclear submarines cut-up and stored within the city. The demonstration, called by CND nationally and supported by Plymouth TUC and local campaigners will highlight the risks of sawing-up Britain’s toxic Cold War legacy of 27 nuclear submarines within a city of 250,000 people, only 400 metres from the nearest primary school.
The Devonport naval base, in inner-city Plymouth is seen as the frontrunner to undertake much of the Ministry of Defence’s ‘Submarine Dismantling Project’. The project is likely to involve slicing the 750 tonne reactor compartment – more than twice the height of a double-decker bus – from each of Britain’s existing 27 nuclear-powered subs and storing it for several decades until a long-term disposal site can be constructed. Serious safety concerns have been raised over the risks of contamination from the work were it to be carried out on a city-centre site which has already seen four radioactive leaks in the last 18 months.
Professor Dave Webb, Vice Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, who will address Saturday’s rally, said “We’ll be demonstrating alongside many in the local community to make it absolutely clear that a city-centre location is no place to cut-up and store nuclear submarines. The health risks posed by a project that could continue for 60 years or more are potentially enormous. This will be risky work never undertaken before in the UK, dismantling submarines which were built up to 50 years ago. There can be no guarantee that accidents will not occur. Decommissioning is always a big problem with any nuclear facility. The submarines certainly need to be dismantled – however this should not be in the middle of a city. Instead of blighting Plymouth with the reputation of being Britain’s only city-centre nuclear dump, the government should invest in a green regeneration strategy for the city, providing long-term sustainable jobs.”
He continued, “There are already 27 submarines included in this project, eight of them already rusting away whilst afloat at Devonport. The Government should not be adding to a problem it has no safe way to solve with further subs. Replacing Trident, at a cost of £76bn will do nothing to ensure Britain’s security – in fact it will put us all at greater risk by encouraging other countries to possess nuclear weapons. With the UK facing the deepest recession since the war, scrapping Trident would free up huge resources to protect more socially-useful investment. Spending only a tiny fraction of this on assisting rather than dashing Plymouth’s regeneration efforts could be transformative.”
Campaigners will be using the slogan ‘Stop the nuclear dump – for a healthy green city’ to highlight the choice facing Plymouth. A contingent of workers from the Vestas wind-turbine factory on the Isle of Wight will join the front of the demonstration to highlight the potential for skilled dockyard engineers to form the nucleus of a green energy industry in the city.
The economic impact of Plymouth being seen as Britain’s only city-centre nuclear dump could be profound, driving away tourists and business investment. In a statement to the local press last weekend Plymouth City Council leader Vivien Pengelly strongly criticised the MoD plan, saying “it would be totally counter to Plymouth’s Growth Strategy and would adversely impact upon on the economic regeneration of the City.”
Date: Saturday 31st October
Assemble: 12 noon, Plymouth City Centre, Guildhall, Armada Way.
Intermediate stop: 2pm, Devonport Park.
Rally: 3pm, Devonport nuclear dockyard main entrance, Camel’s Gate
The demonstration is called by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and supported by Plymouth Trade Union Council, Plymouth Unison, Plymouth Stop the War Coalition and the Plymouth Nuclear-Free Coalition.
For a comprehensive briefing on Devonport’s nuclear role and the issue of redundant nuclear submarines see CND’s latest report “Devonport: No to Trident, No to a nuclear dump”
For further information and interviews please contact Ben Soffa, CND’s Press Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.
Quote from Plymouth City Council leader Vivien Pengelly, Western Morning News, October 24, 2009.
The MoD project is intended to deal with almost 4,500 tonnes of radioactive waste, as according to a Parliamentary answer, each submarine contains approximately 83 tonnes of intermediate-level waste and 81 tonnes of low-level waste when it is retired,