Radioactive leak hits river

November 12 2008

Radioactive liquid spilled into a river during maintenance work on a nuclear submarine, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed. The Royal Navy said up to 280 litres (62 gallons) of contaminated water spilled from a ruptured hose as it was used to pump out coolant from HMS Trafalgar at the Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth.

The incident happened shortly after midnight on Friday and the contaminated liquid spilled into the River Tamar. An MoD spokesman said: “During a standard operation to transfer primary coolant from HMS Trafalgar to an effluent tank on the jetty, a hose ruptured, resulting in a leak of the coolant. A maximum of 280 litres of coolant were discharged from the hose on to the submarine casing, jetty and into the river Tamar.

The area was quarantined, monitoring and sampling carried out and a clean-up operation completed. No one was harmed during the incident and the nuclear power plant was unaffected.” The spokesman said that the flow of liquid was stopped as soon as the leak was spotted and initial sampling had not detected, “any radioactive contamination in the local environment”.

An investigation is under way to find the cause of the leak and the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator have been informed. A spokesman for the Environment Agency said it was “certain there is no significant environmental impact” but has taken samples “for reassurance purposes”.

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