Scrapped submarines costing £30m a year in 'extortionate storage costs'

Decommissioned nuclear submarines at Rosyth Dockyard in Dunfermline. Photo dated June 21, 2017.
Decommissioned nuclear submarines at Rosyth Dockyard in Dunfermline. Photo dated June 21, 2017. Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

Storing decommissioned submarines is costing Britain £30million a year, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report says.

The “glacial pace” and a “15-year delay” to the process of decommissioning Britain’s scrapped nuclear submarines “has led to extortionate storage and maintenance costs”, say MPs.

The new PAC report has strongly criticised the MoD for failing to dispose of 20 submarines dating back to 1980. Much of the blame lies with poor contractor performance and a lack of money, the report says.

The date for the first submarine to be dismantled, Swiftsure, has been put back three years to 2026 and the report warns that the MoD will run out of space for both storing and maintaining submarines if it fails to re-start submarine defueling, which has been suspended since 2004, in 2024.

Committee Chair, Meg Hillier, said: “Yet again, the Government has failed to see the bigger picture. In an attempt to save money in the short term by delaying the defueling and dismantling of retired nuclear submarines, the MoD is now spending £30 million a year of taxpayers’ money on storage and maintenance.

“The MoD has spent £500 million since 1980 on such storage and maintenance. This is simply unacceptable.

“Whilst some progress has been made recently with submarine disposals, the MoD cannot afford to fall any further behind."

The Telegraph reported in Aprilthat seven of Britain’s decommissioned nuclear submarines have been in storage for longer than they were in service because the MoD had failed to dispose of them.

The UK now has twice as many submarines mothballed than operational.

The report criticised the decision by the MoD to defer infrastructure work at Devonport to save £19 million in the short-term, which then delayed the defueling project by two years. The MoD is not yet able to confirm how much it will cost to complete the project.

However, the report did highlight the opportunity to develop much needed engineering skills in the nuclear sector and called on the MoD and Babcock, the prime contractor, to work with universities to increase the size of the skilled workforce across the country.