In 1995, the government took the decision to dispose of its nuclear liabilities, including nuclear submarines. It was agreed that these would be disposed of as soon as was ‘reasonably practicable’. However, since then no nuclear submarines have been dismantled: despite the fact that 20 submarines have been taken out of service since 1980. These decommissioned submarines have incurred £0.5 billion in maintenance and storage costs at the dockyards in Devonport and Rosyth.
In June, the National Audit Office reviewed the Ministry of Defence’s progress on submarine disposal and considered the main reason for the delays. The NAO reported that there have been major delays to the MoD’s defueling work which has not progressed since 2004 as facilities were not up to standard. The upgrade of these required facilities has now been delayed by 11 years and will cost £100 million more than expected. The MoD now expects to start defueling in 2023. The MoD’s dismantling project has also encountered major delays and is 15 years behind schedule: costs of this project have now increased from £0.8 billion to £2.4 billion.
These delays have led to the MoD incurring even further costs: it spends £30 million a year on maintenance and storage costs, as well as the £24 million it pays a year to Babock International Group plc, the contractor which owns the dockyards at Rosyth and Devonport.
On Wednesday 1 May, the Committee will be hearing from senior officials at the MoD, as well as a representative from Babcock to ask what progress the MoD has made against its disposal requirements and what the implications of the delays of this project will be. The Committee will also ask the MoD how it intends to prevent similar problems and delays in future.