The Ministry of Defence has revealed a shortlist of potential sites to store waste from its redundant nuclear-powered submarines.
One of the sites, which includes the Atomic Weapons Establishment sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire; Sellafield in West Cumbria; Chapelcross in Dumfriesshire; and Capenhurst in Cheshire, will be chosen to store radioactive waste from decommissioned submarines until a planned permanent disposal facility is up and running in the 2040s.
Until then, the MoD is looking for sites to store the reactor components – categorised as radioactive waste – from 18 former Royal Navy nuclear submarines currently stored afloat in Devonport, Plymouth, and Rosyth, Fife.
The submarines, which include one Dreadnought class, five Valiant and Courageous class, four Resolution class, six Swiftsure class and two Trafalgar class vessels, are no longer in service but cannot be completely dismantled until the reactor components have been safely removed.
Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology, said: "This is another step towards a safe and sustainable solution for the disposal of radioactive waste from our submarine fleet.
"All of the potential sites have a proven track record in handling radioactive material in a safe and secure way. We are committed to an open and transparent process and over the next year we will be working closely with local communities near to the potential sites, as part of the consultation before a final decision is made."
As part of the MoD's Submarine Dismantling Project (SDP), a further nine submarines that are still in service – five Trafalgar class and four Vanguard class vessels – will also be dismantled, with the first dismantling at Rosyth and future dismantling taking place both there and at Devonport.
The MoD said it has identified five nuclear facilities across the UK, owned by either the MoD, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) or industry and already holding radioactive materials, as potential sites to store the waste from the submarines.
The Atomic Weapons Establishment sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield are owned by the MoD and run by AWE Plc; Sellafield and Chapelcross are owned by the NDA; and Capenhurst is run by Capenhurst Nuclear Services.
The location chosen will be used as an interim storage site for reactor components until after 2040, when the UK's Geological Disposal Facility, a deep geological disposal facility for the permanent disposal of spent fuel and nuclear waste, is planned to come into operation.
A public consultation will take place in late this year, and no decisions will be made until then.