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8 Dec 02. The U.K. National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that the MoD will have to pay an extra £200m to upgrade the Devonport dockyard.

A NAO study will show that the costs of the project have almost doubled to £933m in five years. A large part of the cost overrun was attributed to delays in design and construction in the early stages due to the complexity of having to deal jointly with the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

These delays incurred extra costs because the project was time-constrained: Devonport is the only facility capable of refitting and refuelling Trident submarines, and had to be ready to accept the first ship, HMS Vanguard, earlier this year. In a controversial decision in 1993, Devonport was selected as the sole base for all nuclear submarine refits. It reversed an early commitment that the Vanguard-class submarines, which carry the Trident nuclear deterrent, would be refuelled at Rosyth, near Edinburgh.

Comment: This announcement comes as no surprise to BATTLESPACE, which ahs monitored this contract for some time. The decision to go for Devonport was, in part, political with John Major requiring West County M.P. support for the Maastricht Treaty. However, two incidents, Chernobyl and an earthquake at Faslane during he design phase of the new Faslane Trident facility added huge costs to make the Devonport facility safe from nuclear explosions following earthquakes. The Faslane facility suffered huge cost overruns with extra piling and nuclear monitors on the huge ship-lift as well as a huge increase, £72m in consultant Wimpey’s bill.

Devonport has a structural problem in the fact that the docks are built on sand and not granite. The Rosyth facility, already excavated and now unused (a hole the size of Wembley Stadium was dug), is perfect to withstand any nuclear contagion, but the Docks at Devonport had to have their sand bases strengthened to prevent the base sliding into the sea after an earthquake or nuclear explosion.

Another problem overlooked in the early design stage was the problems of transferring nuclear materials in built up areas around Devonport.

Those observers who suggested that Rosyth was dropped for Scottish Nationalism concerns are very wide of the mark!

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