Socialist Worker

Every nuclear sub is a threat

Issue No. 1710

After Russian boat goes down

Every nuclear sub is a threat

OVER 100 Russian sailors were trapped in a sunken nuclear submarine as Socialist Worker went to press. The accident which sent the sub to the bottom of the Barents Sea underlines just how dangerous these nuclear powered, and often nuclear missile armed, vessels are.

They cruise the world with their missiles targeted on cities which they are designed to obliterate with millions of deaths. An accident could see a missile go off, or the sub's reactor explode, with deadly consequences. Yet Russia is not the only, or the biggest, power with these lethal undersea vessels.

The US has by far the biggest fleet. In 1963 the USS Thresher, hailed as "the most advanced attack submarine ever built", sank off Cape Cod in the US in similar circumstances to the Russian vessel this week. The entire crew of the US sub died.

Britain has its own fleet too, one whose record suggests that it is only a matter of time before some disaster occurs. Britain has 16 serving nuclear submarines, including the four Trident missile carrying vessels.

One is sitting in Devenport dockyard after a leak in the cooling system of its nuclear reactor. Another, the Tireless, is in Gibraltar after its reactor cooling system broke down. Local people are furious that the dangerous nuclear sub has been sitting there for three months now.

Ready for the British disaster

THE BRITISH military knows that a nuclear accident is likely with its subs. It has eight "Z berths" around the Scottish coast especially built to take submarines if they have a nuclear accident. The berths are at Bute, Arran, Skye, Broadford, Campbeltown, Loch Ewe, Shetland and Dalgety Bay.

Britain also has 13 old nuclear submarines. They have been taken out of services but no one knows how to dispose of them safely. So they and their lethal reactors sit rusting away in Devenport on the south coast and Rosyth in Scotland. It is time the whole lot is scrapped before disaster strikes.

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Sat 19 Aug 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1710
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