Experts warned the fault in the reactor of HMS Trenchant was so serious that the Trafalgar fleet may never sail again. The fracture is being treated as an “irreparable generic fault” that will prevent it from being able to carry out normal duties.
It means Britain may be forced to beg for international support in protecting our four Vanguard submarines, which carry Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent.
Britain deploys seven SSN nuclear-powered hunter-killers. Last week it was revealed that the four older Trafalgar-class submarines, Trenchant, Torbay, Triumph and Talent, were out of action due to repairs and maintenance.
However, sources have confirmed that the Trenchant was docked after engineers discovered a fracture at the heart of its nuclear reactor while at sea. The fracture is on a metal weld connecting a coolant pipe to the reactor pressure vessel. It is currently less than 100mm long, classing it as a critical fault, but if it grows it would be classified “catastrophic”. Because it sits within a tank of water to shield the radiation it is extremely difficult for engineers to get at.
A Navy source said yesterday: “The fracture has appeared in a pipe weld and our safety measures are very high. We will not sail until they are checked.”
The Defence Safety Nuclear Regulator will decide the fate of the vessels, but nuclear engineers warned the fault was likely to be “terminal” – and may also affect the other three vessels because they are so old. (ends)
Click here for the full story, on the Daily Express website.