Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nuclear submarine collision in Gibraltar... what if?

As you may have heard on the news yesterday, both Britain and France admitted that two of their nuclear powered submarines, HMS Vanguard, armed with Trident nuclear ballistic missiles and Le Triomphant, also armed with strategic nuclear missiles, collided while submerged in the Atlantic earlier this month.

As I took in the news yesterday, I wondered how long it would be, before this event would be connected to the polemics of nuclear submarine visits to Gibraltar and transitting the Bay of Gibraltar area. Well, I didn't have long to wait.

Today, a couple of esteemed colleagues, British expats who write on matters that surround them, (and whatever else takes their fancy... ) in Southern Spain, Andalusia and Gibraltar, over at Tilting at Windmills and JimenaPulse, both made the connection to the issue in blog posts.

I suppose, understandably, they pose the question, "Nuclear submarine collision in Gibraltar - what if?"

While the usual suspects in the area, such as the 'greens', some PSOE politicians and no doubt one or two of the communities' mayors, will get all a'fluster, in their usual way... they just love any opportunity to stir this one up... there really is very little real cause for concern.

The collision, undoubtedly embarassing to both Navies, was from a point of view of nuclear threat, minimal. For starters, these submarines' hulls are designed and built to withstand extremes of pressures. Even a collision at speed would be unlikely to rupture the actual hull. The fact that these submarines enter and leave or transit the whole of the Bay of Gibraltar area at slow navigating speeds, often even being aided by tugs, (at slow speeds) makes the possibility of hull ruptures, never mind damage to reactors, through a collision, completely negligible if not farcical.

As for the nuclear weapons themselves.... the chances of one of these going BANG!... due to a collision, again is nigh on impossible. These weapons have to go through a myriad of sequential steps, before they are properly armed or able to be triggered and ready for launch.... never mind accidentally going off. It's just not physically possible for this to happen accidentally.

I know what you are thinking.... after all... they did also say the Titanic was 'unsinkable' right? But... I think we really need to get real here. Alarming the local communities about risk to life and limb... or their health is ludicrous in this particularly context, in my humble opinion.

There are much more real threats to health to all the communities in the Bay of Gibraltar. I am referring of course, to the very well documented issues of pollution in the Campo de Gibraltar area. Huge, uncontrolled and unacceptable pollution caused by the CEPSA Refinery, Acerinox and other industrial plants along with the endless and again, totally unacceptable levels of benzene, often because of bunkering activities in Gibraltar itself, that are constantly experienced throughout the area!

The Plataforma por el Estudio Epidemiologico (which includes the ESG and Bay Bucket Brigade) have been campaigning on these issues for a very long time. In November 2002, a complaint was lodged with the EU and is still awaiting a substantive response!

These groups have been seriously questioning the legality of pollution and especially benzene levels present in the Campo and Bay areas for decades.

This, to my mind, is far more worthy a cause to complain about... even to raise the alarm about... as a matter of urgency, for the better health of the people and communities of the Bay of Gibraltar and Campo de Gibraltar areas! It's long overdue. For some... it's actually too late... I suspect, yours truly included!


Prospero said...

Thank you for mentioning my blog, JimenaPulse, Gibo.

Far from my wanting to raise any kind of alarm, you would have to admit, surely, that while unlikely, accidents do happen. Who would have thought that these two submarines would collide in that vast expanse of water, after all? You might be interested in what the BBC had to say on the subject: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7892294.stm - they weren't supposed to collide, but they did. Extrapolate that to "the hulls are designed and built to withstand extremes of pressure"...

As for the CEPSA refinery and Acerinox, I absolutely agree with you about them. Did you see the YouTube clip I put up on JimenaPulse (http://jimenapulse.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/an-epidemiological-study-when-and-how/)?

Muy buen blog el que llevas, colega, ya lo he puesto en mis favoritos.

Cybernest said...

Hooola Prospero

Good to have you visiting and many thanks for your comment!

Indeed... unlikely accidents DO happen... and you will have to give me a little slack... dare I say 'journalistic licence' in making my point.... which is, we have far worse to worry about healthwise, than nuclear subs colliding in our bay.

I have seen your clip. You may be interested to know, my concerns with the epidemiological study goes back a long way. Have a look at these links:



I am grateful to you for your interest in these issues... and indeed for your kind words.

Usted tambien lleva un blog impresionante que tambien esta agregado ya a mi lista 'My Blogs'! Encantado y me alegro conocerle!

Hasta otra... Saludos! :)

Ex- Rock Ape said...

Buenas dias !

A mention in your well written blog of the CEPSA refinery stirs the rancid memories that I have of buying a property in Campamento, San Roque in 1965.

This property, in a block of maisonettes, afforded from its upper floors a magnificent view of Gibraltar and during the unfortunately short period of time that I lived there this view more than made up for some of the lackadaisical attitudes of some ( not all) local trades people

My plans to retire from the British Army and take up full residence in Spain received a mortal blow when I returned on demobilisation leave to find the monstrosity of the refinery less than 400 metres away from the house's front door. As the prevailing South Westerlies ( El Poniente?) were in command of the weather the entire block stank if crude petroleum as the foul output from the multiple exhausts was pumped into the air, seemingly without let or hindrance.

All very much in the past now of course, but I see by your photo that there is still a huge amount of pollution being caused to that once verdant coastal strip.

The family in San Roque into which I married in the early 1960s., pass acid comments on this continuing blight on their lives calling it La Ultima Venganza del Caudillo. You'll need no translation to understand that, I'm sure.