NFLA Scotland & NFLA All Ireland Forum joint media release
The UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) publishes today a detailed report on the Beaufort’s Dyke area of the Irish Sea, between Northern Ireland and Scotland, consolidating knowledge of it as a dumping area and its importance for testing nuclear powered submarines. (1)
The report has been developed for the NFLA by the independent marine radioactivity consultant Tim Deere-Jones on the request of the NFLA All Ireland Sustainable Energy Forum and the NFLA Scotland Forum. This follows a recent report and presentation to the NFLA All Ireland Forum of a ‘near-miss’ incident between the Belfast-Cairnryan passenger ferry and a Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine, which was recently reported on in an accident report of the Marine Accident Investigation Bureau. (2)
The area of the Beaufort’s Dyke, which lays between the Mull Peninsula of western Scotland and the coast of Northern Ireland, is one of the deepest sections of water in Europe. The report outlines that it had for many years been used as a dumping ground for both munitions arising from both world wars and radioactive waste dumped when such practices were previously permitted in Europe.
With this area of deep-water close to the Royal Navy base at Faslane, where Trident and other nuclear-powered submarines are stationed, it is also a very useful place for testing the submarines. This area though is a notable ‘chokepoint’ of the Irish Sea, with passenger ferries, oil and gas tankers and many commercial fishing trawlers travelling through this area on a regular basis.
Tim Deere-Jones has reviewed both historical and recent data to give an analysis of core issues of concern that remain with the Beaufort’s Dyke area of the Irish Sea.
His core conclusions include:
- The review concludes that the Beaufort’s Dyke deep water feature is an integral part of a very busy commercial waterway through the “choke point” of the North Channel of the Irish Sea.
- It is evident from the available evidence that the Beaufort’s Dyke area has been extensively utilised for the dumping of surplus military munitions comprising small arms, artillery and chemical weaponry derived from two world wars. It is also confirmed that nuclear waste has been dumped into the Dyke.
- It has become clear that some of this material was “short-dumped” and lies outside the Dyke itself. Reporting of dumping has been characterised by a considerable degree of uncertainty about the precise volume and type of munitions and radioactive waste dumped.
- British Geological Survey work has confirmed that explosions generated by degrading munitions are a relatively frequent occurrence and that at least one of those explosions was observed to have generated an explosive force equivalent to approximately 5.5 tonnes of TNT.
- It is evident that the Beaufort’s Dyke area is an integral part of both the UK nuclear submarine training exercise areas and, very likely, international naval war fighting exercise and routine defence patrol areas.
- This review concludes that there is a major risk of conflict between the use of the Beaufort’s Dyke as a munitions and nuclear waste dump and its use as a training area and tactical deployment area for submerged and periscope depth nuclear submarines.
- This review further concludes that there is also a major risk of conflict between the use of the Beaufort’s Dyke area as a nuclear submarine training and tactical deployment area and its heavy use by commercial surface vessels, including fishing vessels with active nets.
Given this briefing, NFLA are planning to contact several members of the UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly to ask questions to ascertain further information around the health and safety issues arising from this report. It will also send this report to the UK Ministry of Defence, the Scottish Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government for their own consideration.
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co-Chair, Councillor Karen McKevitt said:
“I welcome this NFLA report as providing coastal councillors like myself with a greater understand of the ongoing risks and environmental concerns with the Beaufort’s Dyke area of the Irish Sea. The report is most helpful in showing how difficult it has been to get the true facts on the amount of dangerous materials which has been dumped into this part of the Irish Sea, and of the real risks that remain in one of the busiest channels of the Irish Sea. Given a considerable number of near miss incidents involving nuclear powered submarines and commercial fishing and even passenger vessels, I would encourage the British-Irish Council to review both the safety of this area of deep-water and on how to ensure a reduction in such incidents. Coastal communities on both sides of the Irish Sea deserve such a review taking place.”
NFLA Scotland Convener, Councillor Feargal Dalton said:
“Whilst national security is imperative to protect and maintain, the increasing number of near miss incidents between nuclear powered submarines and commercial vessels is alarming. The most recent report of the Marine Accident Investigation Bureau of the near miss between a submarine and a passenger ferry was particularly concerning. I encourage MSPs, MLAs, MPs and TDs to use our report to ask pointed questions of our governments to improve the health and safety of this critical part of the Irish Sea.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes to Editors:
(1) NFLA Radioactive Waste Policy Briefing 84 on the Beaufort’s Dyke is attached with this media release and can be found on the NFLA website https://www.nuclearpolicy.info
(2) NFLA Policy Briefing 203 on the near miss incident between a passenger ferry and a nuclear submarine in the Irish Sea, July 2020