Government of Gibraltar
Press Office
No.6 Convent Place, Gibraltar                Tel: 70071     Fax: 74524

 

Press Release
No: 130/2000
Date: 14 September 2000

Statement by the Government of Gibraltar relating to the Ministry of Defence’s proposal to carry out repairs to HMS Tireless in Gibraltar.


 

The Gibraltar Government has stated that HMS Tireless should not be repaired in Gibraltar unless the Gibraltar Government, separately advised by an independent panel of experts, was satisfied that carrying out the repairs in Gibraltar pose no risk to public health or the environment. Separately the MOD should overcome public concerns and anxieties over this matter.

The Government of Gibraltar appointed a panel of experts comprising:-

Mr Peter Davidson a nuclear safety expert and engineer and an independent member of the Nuclear Safety Committee at Devenport, UK.

Mr John Large, a nuclear safety expert and engineer with considerable experience and track record of advising local Governments and environmental organisations and lobby groups.

Ove Arup – a leading UK firm of Consulting Engineers.

Mr Alan Martin, a nuclear safety and Radiation Protection expert.

In assessing whether the carrying out of repairs to HMS Tireless posed risk to the public or the environment, the Government brief to the panel of experts invited them to compare such risks to those which Gibraltar has habitually accepted during all historical nuclear vessel visits to Gibraltar for recreational or operational purposes.

The Gibraltar Government has now received the Report of its panel of experts. The panel of experts has confirmed that it has obtained a significant amount of MOD information and documents and is satisfied that this information is sufficient for its purposes. The panel is also satisfied with the quality of the MOD’s work and the underlying safety culture.

The panel of experts have unanimously concluded as follows:-

The long time since the reactor was shut down means that HMS Tireless is in a safer state than a boat visiting for recreational purposes, and will remain so throughout the repair period.

The repair operations will not introduce any significant new safety risks. The panel accept as reasonable the MOD’s assessment that the daily risk rate during the repairs is just 15% of the recreational visit daily risk rate. The panel accept that the daily risk rate posed by HMS Tireless will not exceed and will generally be significantly lower than that from a normal recreational visit.

The water to be removed from the primary circuit and other waste is of low radioactivity. The MOD has adopted good safety practice in their engineered and administrative arrangements for handling and storing it, until it leaves Gibraltar after the submarine’s departure. The panel is satisfied that this activity represents a very low safety risk.

As planned by the MOD the weld repair is very likely to be successful. The remaining uncertainties have no safety significance but may result in programme delay. (This refers to a small possibility identified by the Panel that the small crack which is the source of the leak may extend beyond the weld to the pipe itself. If this turns out to be the case the consequence is only delay and has no safety significance).

The Panel consider that the three procedures involved – welding, weld examination and pressure testing – will provide sufficient defence in depth against a defective weld surviving undetected through to the reactor start-up, and conclude that no significant additional safety risks will arise during reactor start-up and operation prior to the departure from Gibraltar of HMS Tireless.

The panel considers that the Gibraltar Public Safety Scheme (Gibpubsafe) provides sufficient contingency in terms of emergency planning arrangement for the period of the repairs. The Panel concluded that the proposed repairs do not require an alteration to the Scheme.

In these circumstances the Gibraltar Government is not opposed to the MOD’s proposal to carry out the repairs in Gibraltar. If the MOD decide to proceed with the repairs in Gibraltar, it remains responsible for the maintenance of the highest standards of safety to ensure the health and safety of the people of Gibraltar and of our neighbouring region and our environment. It is still incumbent on MOD to ensure that any reasonable public concern and anxiety that remains is assuaged.

The Government of Gibraltar considers the repair of HMS Tireless in Gibraltar to be an isolated and exceptional case that creates no precedent. The Gibraltar Government is strenuously opposed to the establishment of Gibraltar as a nuclear vessel repair facility.

The incident of HMS Tireless has raised issues about the adequacy of current legislation in the area of public health and safety and issues with a potential to adversely affect them. The Government is to undertake a review of such legislation.

The Government is already carrying out, with the help of a specialist UK contractor, regular monitoring of the atmospheric and aquatic environments. These will continue on a constant basis until HMS Tireless leaves Gibraltar.

The Government will publish the full report of its panel of experts during the next few days. Given their obvious interest in the matter, and pursuant to the Government’s policy of cross border co-operation, the Government will send copies of the report to Campo Mayors, to the Mancomunidad de Municipios and to the Junta de Andalucia.

 


Last Revised : 15 August 2000