UK accident nuclear sub heading home

2010-10-24 21:28

London - Britain's newest nuclear submarine headed back to base on Sunday after running aground off a Scottish island.

In an embarrassing blunder, HMS Astute became stuck on a shingle bank off the Isle of Skye during sea trials on Friday, just days after the government announced deep cuts to the Royal Navy.

The vessel - billed as the kingdom's most powerful hunter-killer submarine - was freed at high tide before being towed out to deeper waters for damage checks.

It was returning to its base at Faslane on the Scottish west coast and was due to arrive on Monday.

"Surveys of Astute have now been completed and she will proceed to Faslane under her own power," said a Ministry of Defence spokesman.

She is being escorted by tugs and the mine hunter HMS Shoreham.

"This was a non-nuclear incident and there was no nuclear risk," the spokesperson said.

Nuclear system not damaged

"We can confirm that no part of Astute's nuclear propulsion system was damaged or was in danger of being damaged. The reactor is completely safe.

"No personnel were injured in the incident or were in danger of injury throughout the process. There was no environmental impact.

"A full service inquiry will be held as soon as is practicable after she arrives back in Faslane."

The sub is described as "the largest, most advanced and most formidable vessel of its kind ever operated by the Royal Navy" on the force's website.

Weighing 7 800 tons and almost 100m long, it is equipped with special noise reduction technology enabling it to "operate covertly and remain undetected in almost all circumstances," the MoD said.

The accident comes just days after the government announced sweeping cuts to Britain's armed forces including the scrapping of the Royal Navy's flagship aircraft carrier, the Ark Royal.