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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 09:09 GMT
Nuclear submarine runs aground
Trafalgar class generic - Royal Navy
The submarine was on exercise off the Scots coast
A nuclear submarine has hit the seabed off the coast of Scotland while taking part in a military exercise.

Two members of HMS Trafalgar's crew were slightly injured in the incident, which happened at 0758GMT on Wednesday, on the Isle of Skye's north-west coast.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said there was no danger to the public as a result of the accident and that the Devon-based vessel's reactor was undamaged.

She said an investigation had been launched and that the submarine was being escorted back to the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, where any damage will be fully assessed.

HMS Trafalgar being launched
HMS Trafalgar was commissioned in 1983

"There is no damage to the pressure hull and a core integrity assessment of the nuclear reactor has been conducted," said the spokeswoman.

"There is no risk to the public or crew."

The spokeswoman added: "An investigation into this incident is underway. Until the findings of that investigation are known it is unhelpful to speculate on the circumstances."

Commodore John Borley, the director of the Clyde naval base at Faslane, said the submarine received a "glancing blow" on the seabed.

"She surfaced immediately. All the emergency procedures were followed by the crew," he told BBC Radio Scotland.

"There is absolutely no environmental impact from this incident, no damage to the reactor systems and the submarine is on the surface making its way back to Faslane as we speak."

Training exercise

He said that the MoD had taken some time to release information to the media because it wanted the families of the 130 crew members to know that they were safe and well.

And he insisted there had been no need to inform the coastguard about the situation.

HMS Trafalgar, which was taking part in a joint maritime training exercise, surfaced immediately after the incident.

Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy called for a full inquiry
One of the crewmen suffered a broken nose and the other strained his back.

It is thought the submarine, commissioned in 1983 and based at Devonport in Devon, might have hit a rock in the incident.

Local MP and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said he was "relieved" no damage to the nuclear reactor had taken place, and no lives had been lost.

But, he added: "When a nuclear submarine is involved in an incident of this nature, with the potential for disastrous consequences, it is essential that a full investigation is undertaken, the conclusions of which must be made public."

Mr Kennedy said he had discussed the matter with Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who had promised to keep abreast of developments.

Carol Naughton, chairwoman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "We are calling for an independent assessment of this accident.

Cooling system

"We are sceptical of immediate reassurances from the Royal Navy following the case of HMS Tireless which went to port in Gibraltar two years ago and subsequently was discovered to have had a reactor fault."

All 12 of the navy's nuclear submarines were taken out of service in May 2000 when cracks were discovered in HMS Tireless's cooling system.

The move was triggered by a detailed inspection of HMS Tireless, which docked in Gibraltar with a leak in the pipework running into its nuclear reactor.

Faslane base sign
The sub is being escorted to Faslane

In July this year the Royal Navy warship HMS Nottingham ran into rocks off Australia's east coast.

The 300m Type 42 destroyer nearly sank when she tore a 160ft gash in her hull on the submerged but well-charted Wolf Rock, near Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea.

Water flooded five compartments of the ship, and a Royal Navy inquiry found there had been lapses in procedures on the bridge of the Nottingham.

And in November 2000 the MoD confirmed that a nuclear submarine suffered "superficial damage" after hitting the seabed.

The incident happened off the west coast of Scotland during exercises.

The Royal Navy said HMS Triumph made "a glancing contact with soft sand and shells" when submerged.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"There was no risk to the public"
Charles Kennedy, who is MP for the area
"There's a great deal of relief locally"
Commodore John Borley
"There is absolutely no environmental impact from this incident"

Click here to go to Devon
See also:

22 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jul 02 | Scotland
08 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
02 Nov 01 | England
08 Oct 01 | UK
30 Nov 00 | Scotland
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