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Caithness News Bulletins September 2003

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The Highland Council Convener Alison Magee said news of the proposal to use the oil fabrication yard at Nigg, East Ross, as a potential location for dismantling laid-up nuclear powered submarines had come out of the blue and was a surprise to her as the site was not licensed to accommodate this kind of work.

Notification of an interest in using the site on the Cromarty Firth has come from Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd, one of five nuclear industry contractors bidding for the Ministry of Defence contract to manage the interim storage and disposal of Royal Navy de-commissioned nuclear submarines.

Devonport are bidding for the contract against British Nuclear Fuels, SERCO Assurance, Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd and RWE Nukem Ltd; Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd and Babcock Support Services Ltd and Motherwell Bridge Nuclear Ltd.

No other bidder proposes using a Highland location.

Devonport’s proposal identifies Devonport Royal Dockyard as the primary facility for reactor compartment separation. The Nigg site is identified as a second potential site for separating the reactor compartments of some or all of the seven submarine hulks at Rosyth.

Devonport says a third site - yet to be confirmed - will be required for the storage of reactor compartments.

Councillor Magee said: "This proposal has come out of the blue and will clearly be a major issue for the Council and the community at large to discuss. My first observation is that Nigg is not licensed to accommodate this kind of specialist work and this would appear to be a significant shortcoming.

"In all of this we will insist of the widest possible consultation with the local community and major stakeholders, who must be furnished with clear and concise information on the process of breaking up these nuclear submarine hulks.

“While there may be the prospect of the oil yard being revived and jobs being created, we have also to bear in mind the reputation that the Highland enjoys in terms of its magnificent environment. We have attracted Scottish Natural Heritage and Forest Enterprise Scotland to Inverness and want to establish the Highlands as the UK's centre of excellence for land use and environmental issues."

The Convener said it was likely that any proposal to store the reactor compartments at Nigg would be totally opposed.