HL Deb 18 April 1989 vol 506 c688

2.53 p.m.

Baroness Strange asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there is any chance of the British coastline being endangered by contamination from the Russian nuclear submarine which sank off the coast of Norway.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the Government are satisfied on the basis of our present information that no such risk exists. We are however keeping in touch with both the Norwegian and Soviet authorities.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his encouraging reply. Can he confirm that the reactor cooling systems of our British submarines are much more effective, and that the safety level of our British submarines is very high indeed?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, we are not entirely certain about the type of reactor involved in the accident to which my noble friend has referred. There were press reports to the effect that it was a liquid metal cooled reactor. As my noble friend will be aware, British reactors are of a different design. I am very pleased and proud to be able to say that we have had no significant accident with our nuclear submarines throughout the time they have been in service.

Lord Carter

My Lords, the Question refers to contamination of the coastline. There is obvious concern as regards the effect on fish stocks. Are there proposals and tests on this matter?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, there are two ranges of tests going on. The Norwegians are regularly testing the waters in the immediate vicinity of the incident and also the atmosphere. Likewise, we have routine and continuing tests of fish in our own waters. I am very happy to be able to say that no evidence of radioactivity has been found so far in either of those tests.