European Commission demands information on British nuclear submarine

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The Independent Online

The European Commission has told Britain it must provide information on plans to tackle any safety hazards that may arise from of repairs underway on a nuclear-powered Royal Navy submarine in Gibraltar.

The European Commission has told Britain it must provide information on plans to tackle any safety hazards that may arise from of repairs underway on a nuclear-powered Royal Navy submarine in Gibraltar.

Responding to requests from Spain, the European Union head office wrote to Britain on Friday demanding details of contingency plans to deal with radiation leaks or other potential dangers from repairs of HMS Tireless.

The presence of the stricken sub in Gibraltar has provoked concern and anger among Spaniards living nearby and added an irritant to the sour relations between London and Madrid over the British colony on Spain's southern tip.

In his letter to the British authorities the EU's Director General of the Environment James Currie asked about information British plans for dealing with radiological emergencies in Gibraltar and asked "whether these measures take into account possible impacts on Spanish territory."

Currie also asked if Britain planned shipments of water contaminated with radioactivity during the repairs.

A statement released by the Commission late Friday said Britain had not yet formally replied.

The submarine docked in Gibraltar in May after a crack was found in its cooling system. Britain later acknowledged the problem was more serious, saying the crack may stem from a design flaw, and recalled 12 similar subs for checks.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair sought to allay Spanish fears about the Tireless during a visit to Madrid last month, insisting the problems with the sub were fully identified and repairs should be completed by March.

However, Britain has refused to allow Spanish safety inspectors to have access to the Tireless' reactor although they have let them visit other parts of the ship. Spaniards and Gibraltarians have held protests demanding the submarine to be towed back to Britain.

Spain claims sovereignty over Gibraltar, but Britain refuses to discuss handing back the territory it obtained in a 1713 treaty.

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