Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Agency admits sub leak breakdown

HMS Trafalgar. Pic: Royal Navy
The coolant was being transferred from HMS Trafalgar to an effluent tank

The Environment Agency (EA) has admitted it should have told local people earlier about a leak from a nuclear submarine at a UK base.

Hundreds of litres of coolant spilled into the River Tamar from HMS Trafalgar while it was being worked on at Devonport on 7 November.

But Plymouth City Council, which is responsible for emergency planning, was only told on 11 November.

The Ministry of Defence has admitted a "breakdown in communications".

The EA said it had found no contamination of the river.

But the council said it was alarmed about not being told about the incident.

The EA, which was told about the leak on Friday, admitted it should have then informed the council.

Paul Naylor from the EA told BBC News: "We were told, as we have to be, on Friday morning.

"We were satisfied very quickly that there was no hazard to people or the environment so didn't notify wider.

We should have informed Plymouth City Council earlier
Ministry of Defence

"But obviously the fact that Plymouth City Council were not told, we need to think about our wider notification as well."

The council said that while the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was not legally obliged to tell the council about the leak, courtesy demanded it should be kept updated.

The MoD said in a statement: "We should have informed Plymouth City Council earlier.

"We have reassured the council and are now working with them to ensure that such a breakdown in communication does not happen again."

Some 280 litres of liquid escaped from HMS Trafalgar after a hose ruptured during the transfer of primary coolant to an effluent tank on a jetty.

The MoD said primary coolant was extremely pure water that was used to transfer heat from the submarine reactor core to the main steam generators that power the submarine.

The EA said that samples taken on Friday had shown no contamination of the river.

It was working with the Ministry of Defence to prevent a repeat.

HMS Trafalgar is one of seven Trafalgar Class nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines.

The vessel ran aground during a training exercise off the coast of Skye in November 2002.

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