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Caithness News Bulletins November 2003

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The Highland Council has welcomed the likely abandonment of plans to dismantle laid up Royal Navy nuclear submarines at the Nigg oil fabrication yard in East Ross.

KBR, operators of the Nigg yard, have announced that they have asked DML, one of four consertia bidding for the Ministry of Defence contract, to withdraw Nigg from their outline proposal.

DML proposed to use Nigg as a back-up facility to the Devonport Royal Dockyard in Plymouth for dismantling the submarines.

However, there is still concern that the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment site at Dounreay could be used as the national repository for the nuclear reactor compartments of the redundant submarines.

The council is to maintain its involvement in the MOD’s consultation process being managed by Lancaster University.

Councillor Richard Durham, Chairman of the Council’s Land and Environment Select Committee, said:  “This is welcome news.  The Council was never convinced that this kind of operation at Nigg would have derived any benefit for our communities.

“We must be vigilant, however, to ensure that the Vulcan site is also ruled out as an option for storing the nuclear reactor compartments.

Recently, Highland Councillors voted to oppose “in totality” plans to dismantle the Royal Navy’s laid-up nuclear powered submarines at Nigg, East Ross, and store the nuclear reactor compartments at the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Eastablishment site at Dounreay, Caithness.

They did so after hearing that the process was flawed because standard Cabinet Office guidelines on public consultation had been ignored as there was no consultation document to refer to.

They also expressed their concern that the MoD was relying too heavily on the private sector to find a solution to the management of the radioactive wastes from the redundant  submarines instead of providing clear guidance on the specification for the process of breaking up the hulks and storing the reactors and the criteria for preferred locations.