Warship Technology: Jul/Aug 2019
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the UK published a report on submarine defueling and dismantling on 15 June 2019 that was highly critical of the Ministry of Defence.
Publication of the report followed hard on the heels of another report on the subject published by the National Audit Office (NAO) in April 2019 that issued a stinging appraisal of efforts to dispose of the UK Royal Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines (see Warship Technology May 2019).
The PAC report found that the Ministry of Defence’s failure to dispose of retired nuclear submarines “is unacceptable and unnecessary” and said further delays to submarine disposal are possible as the first submarine dismantling will be three years late.
The PAC report also highlighted the fact that by the mid-2020s, the Ministry of Defence is likely to find itself without any further storage space for decommissioned nuclear submarines.
The PAC said progress disposing of retired submarines “has been a serious disappointment” and the project to do “has moved at a glacial pace.”
The PAC said a 15-year delay had led to extortionate storage and maintenance costs which are now costing the taxpayer £30 million per year and that, as more submarines are retired from service, the Ministry of Defence seems increasingly likely to find itself without any further storage space by the mid-2020s.
“The Ministry of Defence is rapidly approaching crisis point and simply cannot afford any further delays, particularly as much of the money currently being spent on the project is not going directly towards either defueling or dismantling,” the report said.
“It is clear that the commitment to dismantle its first submarine – Swiftsure – by 2023 will not be met and will likely be completed three years after the target date.
“The scale of the task faced by appears even more challenging given the defence affordability ‘black hole’ which totals at least £7 billion.”