Publication: Cape Times Issued: Date: 2002-07-18 Reporter: Lindiz van Zilla Editor:

Nuclear-powered Sub docks in Face of Earthlife Protests


Publication  Cape Times
Date 2002-07-18
Reporter Lindiz van Zilla


The123 five-day visit by the British Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine HMS Splendid was approved at the last minute, despite protests from an environmental group.

The HMS Splendid docked in Simon's Town naval dockyard yesterday after the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) granted a licence for the goodwill visit.

NNR spokesman Phillip Nkhwashu said : "The licence was granted late last week."

Liz McDaid of Earthlife Africa, and environmental NGO, which lists monitoring the nuclear industry as one of its tasks, said : "The NNR did call for objections and Earthlife Africa did object strenuously."

According to the National Nucear Regulator Act of 1999, nuclear-powered ships must apply for a licence before anchoring in a South African port.

Last year the world's largest aircraft carrier the USS Enterprise was involved in protracted wrangling with NNR officials and the departments of defence and environmental affairs and tourism after it sought permission to visit Cape Town.

The issue eventually dissolved after the September 11 attack on New York as the USS Enterprise remained on high alert in the Persian Gulf.

Yesterday McDaid said the standard arguments were raised in opposition to the visit by HMS Splendid, in that nuclear-fuelled ships posed a "huge danger".

Navy spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Lisa Hendricks said approval for the goodwill visit was granted after close consultation with the NNR.

Hendricks said that, when the submarine leaves port on July 22, she might engage in navy exercises with the SAS Assegaai, a Daphne Class submarine.

Airforce Wing Commander Tony Harper said the HMS Splendid was driven by a nuclear reactor which powered the steam turbines.

Harper added that the submarine was carrying no nuclear warheads as the British government had decided that only Trident class submarines should be so armed.

The submarine, which will not be open to the public, appeared to be in a state of disrepair when she docked yesterday, with slabs of what appeared to be tiling falling off the vessel in large patches.

But Harper dispelled any notion of an ailing submarine adding that he HMS Splendid was in a "very good condition", having clocked up more than 140 000 nautical miles to date.

"The tiles you see are rubberised coating which absorbs sonar energy and also reduces noise signature under water to cover the submarine against detection," Harper said. "When submerged the submarine travels at a speed of 30 knots and that obviously leads tothe tiles coming off." The Splendid was launched in 1979 and saw action in the Falklands War in 1982.

Harper and Hendricks insisted that apart from "routing maintenance" the HMS Splendid was not "in for any repairs".

The HMS Splendid has a displacement of 4 400 tons surfaces and 4 900 tons dived and carries a complement of 116 crew if whom 13 are officers.

With acknowledgements to Lindiz van Zilla and Cape Times.