from The National, 07 January 2015
A secret decision by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to end a safety ban preventing nuclear submarines from using two lochs on the west coast of Scotland has sparked alarm amongst local residents, politicians and campaigners.
The National can reveal that Trident-armed and nuclear-powered submarines have returned to Loch Goil, off Loch Long on the Firth of Clyde, and are now able to return to Loch Ewe, off Poolewe in Wester Ross. Visits to these naval “operational berths” have not been allowed since May 2013.
The ban was imposed by the MoD’s internal watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator, because a series of safety exercises had exposed flaws in emergency plans meant to protect the public from radiation fall-out in the event of an accident. Nuclear submarines are dubbed “floating Chernobyls” by critics, after the world’s worst nuclear accident in Ukraine in 1986.
But on Monday this week one of the UK’s four Vanguard-class submarines, which carry Trident nuclear weapons and are driven by nuclear reactors, was spotted sailing up Loch Long and into Loch Goil. According to eye-witnesses, it arrived under high security at 1pm, was turned around by tugs and submerged at 6pm.
The submarine resurfaced at 8am on Tuesday, and then left the loch 30 minutes later. It was photographed by a local resident, Katherine Alexander, who lives in a remote house on the east shore of Loch Goil close to the submarine berth and within the MoD’s officially-designated evacuation zone.