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Royal Navy orders investigation into nuclear submarine ‘repaired with glue’

The Guardian logo The Guardian 01/02/2023 Joe Middleton
Photograph: Chris Bacon/PA © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Chris Bacon/PA

The Royal Navy has ordered an urgent investigation amid claims that workers on one of Trident’s nuclear armed submarine’s fixed broken bolts in the vessel’s reactor chamber using glue.

The faulty repairs on the cooling pipes aboard the HMS Vanguard were found after one of the bolts fell off during an inspection, The Sun reported.

The bolt heads originally came off due to overtightening but rather than replacing the damaged shafts staff at the defence contractor Babcock implemented a quick fix and glued them back on.

Engineers at the contractor reported it as a procedural glitch after the problem was found, but did not mention the botched nature of the repair.

A Navy source told the newspaper: “It’s a disgrace. You can’t cut corners with nuclear. Standards are standards. Nuclear standards are never compromised.”

The glued bolts held insulation in place on the coolant pipes in the nuclear reactor and were found just as workers were set to fire it up to full power for the first time, the newspaper reported.

Investigators will trawl records of repairs to find out when the bodged work occurred and who was ultimately responsible.

The Ministry of Defence spokesperson said that a “defect” was found on the HMS Vanguard when in dry dock and that it was “promptly reported and fixed.

The spokesperson added the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, met with the chief executive of Babcock, David Lockwood, “to seek assurances about future work”.

Babcock is the MoD’s second-largest contractor and has multi-billion pound contracts to maintain the Royal Navy’s Astute and Vanguard sub fleets. A spokesperson for company said: “Any quality related issue is a huge disappointment, but our own robust inspection processes discovered the issue.

“There was no safety or operational impact from the work.”

The Guardian reported in December last year of safety fears as the submarines had been deployed at sea for record breaking periods of five months each.

The HMS Vanguard is one of four nuclear submarines that form part of the UK’s continuous at sea deterrent. The vessels are always out on patrol and are poised to strike in the unlikely event that Britain is hit with a nuclear attack.

An MoD spokesperson said: “As part of a planned inspection a defect was found from work done in the past when HMS Vanguard was in dry dock.

“It was promptly reported and fixed.”


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